How to Choose the Right Kitchen Sink

Kitchen sinks are by far the most used fixture in the kitchen. Consider how many times a day you use your kitchen sink compared to the number of times you use your stove or microwave.

Considering the evolution of the kitchen into the multi-functional hub of activity in the home, sinks have had to evolve as well. The result is a wide array of choices including everything from materials to bowl configuration. This means that a lot more thought needs to go into choosing the right kitchen sink, in terms of design and functionality, for your home.

First, you need to be aware of all the choices and options that are now available to you. Sinks have come a long way over the years and they are no longer considered just a wash basin.

Next, you need to have a good understanding of what your needs and preferences are and whether you’re simply replacing an existing sink or doing a complete kitchen remodel.

Combining these two areas of information will help you find matches that will provide a new sink you will be satisfied with.

Basic Factors to Consider
When considering the vast realm of sink choices, there are three basic factors you will need to become familiar with. They are:

  • The type of installation needed, or how will the sink be installed and affixed to the countertop?
  • What overall configuration/size you need, ex. single or multi-bowl.
  • What material you want the sink to be made out of.

Having a firm understanding of what you want from these basic features will help you narrow down the list of available choices and target your search. From there you can zero in on the range of options offered by the various manufacturers that fit into those three basic criteria.

Type of Installation
In regards to installation, there are three basic ways kitchen sinks can be installed in your home:

  • Self-rimming (drop-in)
  • Undermount
  • Flush mount

Self-rimming, or drop-in sinks as they are sometimes called, are the easiest to install. These type of sinks are easily positioned into a cutout in the countertop on top of a base cabinet, supported by the flanges of the sink that overlap the cutout.

The biggest disadvantage to this type of installation is the barrier between the countertop surface and the bowl that’s formed by the lip. When you try to sweep food and liquids into the sink, from the countertop, you end up catching the debris at the edge of the sink, where the countertop meets.

Undermount sinks are attached under the countertop. The sink either hangs from the underside of the countertop or it is supported from underneath the cabinet by the base cabinet structure.

Undermount sinks allow you to brush items from the countertop directly into the sink without any “catch points” which can capture food particles and moisture. These sinks require clips and other mechanical fastening devices to attach them to the countertop. Heavier kitchen sinks, made out of cast iron or stone require a well-designed mounting system in an undermount installation.

A solid surface sink combined with a solid surface countertop is another form of undermount sink although it may not appear as such. In this situation the sink is glued to the underside of the solid surface countertop. The joint between the two surfaces is then smoothed, making the seam between the two surfaces invisible.

Flush mount sinks are also called “tile edge” sinks. They are similar to a drop-in sink except they are used with a tiled countertop. The tile is installed so that it’s flush with the mounting flange of the sink providing a flush surface with the countertop. There’s usually a grout line between the edge of the sink and the tile.

Sink Bowl OptionsConfiguration and Size

A sink’s configuration refers to it’s design, including the number of bowls, whether the corners are square or rounded, number of faucet holes, etc. Size, of course, refers to the dimensions of the sink.

A smaller, single-bowl configuration may work better in a small galley kitchen, whereas a large kitchen may be able to accommodate a wide three-bowl, multi-depth chef sink. Another idea is to install a corner sink configuration that makes the most of a kitchen’s available area.

Choosing the size and configuration that best fits your space and lifestyle is important.

Sink Material
Kitchen sinks come in a variety of materials. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the common sink materials:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks are very appealing for their neutral, clean look, as well as their durability. They are available in brushed and polished finishes. The higher quality sinks are made from thicker steel, measured by gauge thickness. The higher the gauge, the thinner the steel (20 gauge is thinner than 16 gauge steel).

Stainless sinks have a bit more “give” than a harder material like cast iron and are more forgiving when dishes and glassware are dropped.

Cast Iron
Cast iron sinks have a long history of being durable. They are finished with porcelain enamel, a coating fired at high temperatures that provide hardness and durability. This doesn’t mean cast iron is indestructible, the enamel can still wear away or chip over time. Minor chips and scratches can be fixed. Cast iron sinks are heavy but durable, making undermount applications a bit more difficult than drop-ins. If you like the look of a glossy sink, cast iron is a good choice.

Fireclay sinks are a form of ceramic, similar to vitreous china but stronger and more durable. Fireclay is fired at a higher temperature than vitreous china which helps provide the added durability. These products can have either a glossy or matte finish depending on the brand you buy.

Typical colors are white and off-white, although there are some blue, black and grey products as well. Fireclay differs from cast iron because cast iron forms the primary structure of the sink, which is coated in a porcelain enamel. Fireclay in contrast, is a clay based structure with a topical glaze, that’s fused with the fireclay base.

Acrylic kitchen sinks are economical with a surface that is easy to maintain and very resistant to stains. Acrylic is a plastic that’s molded to form the shape of the sink. It is typically reinforced with fiberglass.

These are only a few of the more common sink materials on the market, there are several other, more custom, materials for kitchen sinks in a wide variety of textures and finishes.

Additional Aspects to Consider When Buying a Kitchen Sink
Beyond materials, installation type and configuration here are some additional things to consider when choosing a sink for your kitchen.

  • Sink size depends on kitchen size. The size of your kitchen usually dictates the size of the sink you should choose. Small galley kitchens will, most likely, be overwhelmed by a large sink. The general rule of thumb is to choose a single bowl sink for a small kitchen and a double or triple bowl sink for larger kitchens.
  • Larger sinks may require customization. Make sure the sink you choose will fit in the base cabinet it is meant to be installed in. Most stock and semi-custom base cabinetry is made in varying widths, either 36” or up to 48”.
  • Have your faucet and sink accessory configuration planned out beforehand. You will need to know the type of faucet setup you’re going to use , or already have in the event you’re replacing an old sink. You will also need to decide whether you plan to use additional features like water treatment accessories and/or a soap dispenser for the purpose of specifying the correct number of holes in the sink.
  • Decide how you will use the sink on a day to day basis to determine what configuration will work best for you. If you hand wash your dishes most of the time, you may want a double bowl, one for washing and the other for rinsing/draining. However, if you use a dishwasher most of the time, and only wash large pots and pans, you may want a large single bowl.

Take the time to become familiar with all the new features in kitchen sinks and you will have a better chance finding a sink you will not only be happy with but one that will make your kitchen a more efficient work space.

Blanco Stainless Steel Kitchen Sinks
Elkay Drop-in Kitchen Sinks
Whitehaus Fireclay Kitchen Sink
Moen Undermount Kitchen Sinks
Blanco Silgranit Double Bowl Kitchen Sink
Kohler Kitchen Sinks
Franke Kitchen Sinks
Swanstone Kitchen Sinks Undermount
Herbeau Farmhouse Kitchen Sinks