Kitchen sinks consist of one or multiple bowls with a faucet, drain with a strainer and convenient accessories like sprayers and soap dispensers. Besides serving as a heavily used fixture for washing hands, preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards, kitchen sinks are a prominent focal point in your kitchen. From gleaming stainless steel to colorful sinks made of durable composite materials, kitchen sinks now come in more shapes, sizes, depths and materials than ever before. This buying guide explains the materials, configuration and mounting options available, so you can feel confident you’re selecting the sink that provides the perfect balance of form and function in your kitchen.
Factors to Consider
Consider these important factors when selecting your sink:
Choosing the material for your sink is a decision that is both practical and aesthetic. As a prominent fixture in your kitchen, you’ll want a sink that complements your décor and fixtures. At the same time, your sink will experience a lot of heavy usage so you’ll want one with a sturdy surface that maintains its appearance over a long period of time. Below are descriptions of some of the most popular kitchen sink materials to consider.
Stainless Steel offers an excellent balance of cost, usability, durability and ease of cleaning. Higher quality stainless steel sinks are made of 18 to 16 gauge or thicker steel to help prevent dents and scratches and reduce noise. Look for vibration-damping foam insulation on the underside of the bowls to deaden water drumming. Brushed satin finishes tend to hide water spots and scratches.
Cast Iron sinks have a layer of enamel that provides a hard, durable surface with a smooth, glass-like finish that makes them easy to clean. This heavy material, guaranteed not to chip, crack or burn, requires two people to install. Enameled cast iron sinks come in a variety of exceptionally rich and deep colors to match any home décor. They are made with 80 percent recycled materials, and can last for generations.
Composite Granite sinks are made of a mixture of materials that provide a sturdy, low maintenance surface. Available in a range of composites, color and prices, they withstand hot cookware, although some materials are more durable than others. Composite sinks with high granite content are especially durable.
Solid Surface sinks are reinforced with a high strength composite backing and have no ridges to collect grime. Their non-porous surface offers a sleek appearance, and because the color goes all the way through the material, these rimless and seamless sinks can be buffed to easily remove scratches. Seamless installation of solid surface sinks with countertops requires special fabrication and installation.
Cast Acrylic sinks are made of plastic molded into the shape of the sink and reinforced with fiberglass. They are an inexpensive solution compared to other sink materials, providing a surface that’s resistant to stains and easy to clean and maintain. Scratches can be sanded and polished out.
Fireclay sinks are fired at an extremely high temperature to produce an exceptionally durable, hard and glossy, non-porous surface that won’t rust, fade or discolor. Resistant to chips, stains and scratches and available in an array of colors and sizes, these low maintenance sinks are highly resistant to bacteria associated with food preparation.
Copper offers a unique blend of beauty and functionality. Copper is a highly durable metal which does not rust or tarnish and requires little maintenance. It’s an extraordinary match for natural surfaces, like wood and stone with a surface that takes on an attractive aged patina over time. Copper sinks are handcrafted and each is unique. Copper sinks also make living environments safer with strong anti-microbial properties that kill bacteria and viruses, including E. coli.
Configuration options to consider for your sink include size; the number of bowls, how they are oriented, and the depth and the number of holes your sink requires for your fixtures and accessories.
The interior width of the sink’s cabinet determines the maximum dimensions for your sink. Most base cabinets are 36”–42” high and 25-1/4”-26” wide. A typical 33” by 22” sink will fill a 36” base cabinet.
If you use your sink primarily for washing hands, light rinsing and garbage disposal, you may need a large sink. If you cook frequently and use the sink for cleaning vegetables or washing dishes by hand, you may need a wider sink deep enough to accommodate odd sized pots and pans.
If you are replacing a sink, select a sink that fits the existing sink cutout. If the cabinet allows, you may be able to install a larger sink by expanding the cutout.
Number of Bowls
Deciding how many bowls you need is best determined by the size of your kitchen and your typical activities in it. Double-bowls of equal size can be an ideal solution if there are often multiple cooks in the kitchen. If one cook focuses on prep work, a 1-1/2 or 1-3/4 bowl design may be the best solution. For smaller kitchens, a large single bowl sink can fulfill most functions. While the most common sinks are double bowls of equal size, double and triple bowls offer their own unique advantages.
Single Bowl sinks offer plenty of space for large-diameter dishes and oversized pots. Single-bowl designs take up less space than other bowls. They can be as wide as 33”.
Double Bowl sinks provide room for separate tasks such as washing and rinsing dishes, food preparation and clean up. They can be as wide as 48”.
Triple Bowl sinks feature a small third bowl for use as a prep sink. They can be as wide as 60”.
The most efficient sink configuration is often determined by the relationship between the sink, dishwasher and disposer.
The ideal dishwasher location depends on whether you’re right-handed or left-handed. The key is to be able to hold dirty dishes with one hand while rinsing with the other then placing them easily in the dishwasher.
For double sinks, having the garbage disposer installed on the same side as the dishwasher increases efficiency.
How you use your sink determines the bowl depth that meets your requirements for function and comfort.
Average bowl depth is 8 to 10 inches.
If you cook with large pots and pans, 10-inch depth allows for easier soaking and scrubbing and reduces water splash.
Your height should be a consideration as well. Having your sink at the right depth helps you avoid fatigue and backaches. Rules of thumb for bowl depth and comfort when the countertop is 36” high are:
Sinks typically have between one and five holes, or tappings, on the deck behind the bowls for accessories like faucets, soap dispensers, spray hoses, hot filtered water and more.
The sink you choose should be able to accommodate the number and configuration of items you want.
The standard configuration for most sinks is four holes but you can purchase a sink with five or six holes, depending on the manufacturer.
If the sink you want has more holes than are needed, decorative covers are available to conceal them.
Refer to the examples below for how the holes can be configured for your sink fixtures and accessories.
How your countertop is constructed and the material your sink is made of play a large role in how your sink is installed.
Drop-In – Drop-in sinks, also known as topmount sinks, drop into a pre-cut hole in the countertop with the edge of the sink resting on the counter. This is typically the installation method for stainless steel sinks and can be used with virtually any countertop material. Drop-in sinks that use the same size cutout can be replaced without disturbing the countertop or relocating plumbing. They may be self-rimming or rimmed.
Self-rimming sinks are easy to install and work with almost any countertop. Heavy sinks, like those of cast iron are held in place by their weight while lighter sinks are fastened with clips and screws.
Rimmed sinks install in a similar manner but are more recessed into the countertop and the joint is covered by a metal rim.
Undermount – These sinks install under the counter and are ideal for use with solid surface and granite. They have a sophisticated look and, because they have no rim between the countertop and sink, clean up is easy—just brush crumbs and spills into the sink. Undermounting is not recommended for laminate countertops because the edge above the sink is exposed.
Integral– Integral sinks are built into the counter and constructed of the same material. They are flush-mounted, meaning the surface is even with the countertop. Integral sinks are very easy to clean and a popular solution when the entire countertop is being renovated.
Tile-In – Tile-in sinks have flat edges and square corners so they can mount evenly with a tiled surface with no visible separation between sink and countertop. This seamless installation makes countertop cleaning easy—brush any dirt or crumbs into the sink.
Secondary Sinks provide added convenience in large kitchens or kitchens where there is more than one cook. Round bowls are ideal for prep sinks on a cooking island or as a high-capacity secondary sink for entertaining.
Bar sinks add convenience for basement remodels or rooms away from the kitchen used for entertaining.
Apron sinks, also known as farmhouse sinks, feature a wide base and deep basin for easier cleaning of large pots and pans. Mostly found in country-style kitchens, these sinks feature an exposed front that drops down in front of the sink instead of stopping at the edge of the counter.
Corner sinks are a popular solution for a U- or L-shaped counter. Placing the sink in the corner increases efficiency by having the sink be equidistant from work areas.
Features to Consider
Sinks with rear or offset drain positions feature pipes at the back of the unit, creating more cabinet space underneath for your trash can, cleaning supplies or other items you need to store.
The depth of the sink bowls can affect available space for installation of accessories like a garbage disposer. When space beneath the cabinet is an issue for the disposer and plumbing, special needs can be accommodated by having a bowl with a shallow depth on one side.
If you find yourself short of counter space, look for sinks with custom-fitted cutting boards. Some units are also specially designed to accommodate colanders and drain baskets, making it easier to drain food without tipping the container and spilling contents into the sink.