How to Choose a Kitchen Sink That Shines
Whatever the reason for replacing your existing sink, it’s a job that’s certainly within the capability of experienced DIYers, especially those who have undertaken some plumbing work previously. If you’ve never installed a sink before, it’s a good idea to read up on what’s involved before you decide whether to do the job yourself or hire a contractor. The book I recommend is Black & Decker’s Complete Guide to Plumbing (ISBN: 978-1591866367). The websites of home improvement centres and sink manufacturers are also good places to look for installation guides.
Allow two to three hours to remove an old sink and install a new same-sized sink and faucet. If you’ll be replacing any of the under-counter piping, add another hour or so. Obviously, before undertaking any work, ensure you have all the materials and tools you’ll need on hand.
If the countertop is damaged or old and outdated, now’s the time to consider replacing it. It’s also a good time to think about installing a garburator (insinkerator) or water purifier.
There are a variety of factors to consider when selecting your next kitchen sink—number of bowls, width and depth of the bowls, shape of the sink, how it’s mounted in the countertop, and the material from which it’s made. While appearance is an important factor, so is durability, scratch and stain resistance, and cost.
If you choose a sink with the same dimensions, including sink depth, as the one you’re replacing, you’ll be less likely to run into installation problems. You probably won’t need to enlarge the countertop or change the plumbing. If you do opt for a larger sink, or a different style, make sure you carefully measure the available space in the lower cabinet to ensure it will fit.
Top mount (Drop-in, over mount or self-rimming) sinks are the most ubiquitous style—they’re the standard sink installed in the lion’s share of laminate countertops across Canada. This is partly because they’re the easiest to install and the least expensive. One of the few issues with this sink is that the lip overlapping the countertop is prone to collecting grime.
An under mount sink is installed from below the countertop. You’ll find these sinks most often on solid surface countertops. They can be installed so the edge of the countertop is flush with the sink edge (zero reveal), set back from the sink edge (positive reveal) or extending slightly over the sink edge (negative reveal). An under mount sink makes for a sleek look and easy cleanup, as there’s no lip to catch debris. These sinks are usually more expensive than top mount sinks, and they’re more time consuming to install.
Similar to top mount sinks, flush mount sinks are installed from above, but set into a rebate, so the top of the sink is flush with the countertop. This makes it very easy to sweep water and debris off the countertop and into the sink. They can be more difficult for DIYers to install because of the need for a precisely routed rebate, and they typically cost more than other sink styles. Flush mount sinks designed to be used on tile countertops are referred to as “tile-in sinks.”
For a timeless, rustic look you can opt for an apron front (farmhouse) sink. Less common and more expensive than top or under mount sinks, they slide in and over a countertop with the front of the sink exposed. Installation almost always requires structural modification to the existing countertop and the cabinet below the sink. They’re most often made of porcelain or fireclay, but can also be had in copper, enameled cast iron, stainless steel and even concrete. There are short apron options that you can install with conventional cabinetry.
Kitchen sinks are made from more materials than just stainless steel. Along with the six most common materials listed below, you’ll find models in glass, solid granite, marble, concrete and soapstone.
The most commonly used sink material. Available in 16 (thicker) to 22 (thinner) gauge type 304 or type 316 (for a higher corrosion resistance) stainless steel. An undercoating (sprayed-on or padded) will deaden sound. A raised rim will help divert water away from the countertop. A brushed or matte finish tends to hide those inevitable scratches better than glossy or mirror sheens.
Pros: Less expensive than other materials. Long life expectancy. High heat and stain resistance. Easy to clean.
Cons: Thinner sinks are prone to denting and flexing and are noisier. Less scratch resistant than other materials.
Made of polycarbonate plastic, fibreglass and resin.
Pros: Less expensive than other materials. Available in a range of colours and sizes. Easy to clean. Medium life expectancy. Good stain resistance. Scratches can be sanded and polished out.
Cons: Not as heat resistant as other materials. Can be discoloured by petroleum-based liquids.
Made of solid porcelain or porcelain enamel applied over cast iron (more expensive) or steel (less expensive). These sinks typically have a glossy sheen.
Pros: Strong and tough. Easy to clean using non-abrasive cleaners. Available in a range of colours. Long life expectancy.
Cons: Heavy (may require under-mounting to support the weight). Susceptible to chipping/cracking from heavy pots. Prone to staining. Requires more care than stainless steel or composite.
Made from pulverized quartz and/or granite along with a binding agent. Popular brands include Moenstone (Moen), Nroroc (Kohler) and Silgranit (Blanco).
Pros: Heat, stain, abrasion, chip and crack resistant. Easy to clean. Long life expectancy. Available in a wide range of colours.
Cons: Moderately priced, though more expensive than steel. Heavier weight may require added support.
Made from high-fired clay and glaze. Typically, handmade so dimensions may vary.
Pros: Strong and tough. Long life expectancy. High resistance to staining and scratching. Easy to clean.
Cons: Expensive. Heavy (may require under-mounting to support the weight). Not compatible with garburators. Susceptible to chipping. Limited colours, shapes and dimensions to choose from.
Exceptional beauty and a natural deterrent to bacteria. Develops a distinctive cyan (bluish/green) patina over time. As with stainless steel sinks, available in different gauges.
Pros: Long life expectancy. High heat and stain resistance.
Cons: Expensive. Limited styles and bowl configurations. Needs more care than other sinks to maintain its appearance.
Solid Surface Sinks
A solid surface sink is made of synthetic materials—the same materials used to make synthetic countertops. Popular brands include Avonite, Corian and Formica. The sink is epoxied to the countertop and seams are sanded to a smooth, flawless finish, typically by a professional installer. Solid surface sinks have good stain, chip and crack resistance, but lower heat and scratch resistance than other materials. As with acrylic sinks, scratches can be sanded and polished out.
Sinks come in a wide range of sizes, with the most common being 20″ wide (front to back) and 30″ to 33″ long (left to right). While you won’t likely find a sink wider than 20″, some are available up to 50″ long. These tend to have a drainer board on either the left or right side.
Kitchen sinks typically have one or two bowls. Double bowl models are by far the most popular with one bowl for cleaning, the other for washing dishes or food. The bowls can be of the same size or offset (one bowl larger than the other). There can be one to four holes on the back rim of the sink to accommodate the faucet and any additional accessories you install. New faucets usually include a deck plate (escutcheon) that covers holes not used for a single-handle, center-set faucet.
Kitchen sinks are typically between 8″ and 10″ deep. The depth you choose is a matter of personal preference and your height. Ideally, you don’t want to be bending over too much when washing dishes at the sink.