The sink is one of the most frequently used focal points in your kitchen, so the model you choose must be able to stand up to daily demands while still retaining its beauty. The design of your kitchen sink matters, but it’s the material the sink is made out of that has the greatest effect on how well it can meet your needs.
Most kitchen sinks are double-basin models consisting of two, side-by-side bowls. If you have a small kitchen, however, consider installing a single-basin sink to save space. Beyond this, kitchen sinks are found in three basic designs.
Top-mount sink – This style of sink is installed so that the top edge sits above the counter. A rim around the top of the sink holds the sink in place and creates a smooth, finished appearance. This is the most common sink style, partly because it’s the easiest to install.
Undermount sink – An undermount sink is set below the counter and has no top rim. The edge of the counter extends to the top of the sink basin, saving a bit of counter space. Because it requires support such as stands or braces underneath it, this design is more complicated to install than a top-mount sink.
Farmhouse (apron) sink – These models have a front section that replaces part of the counter and cabinetry. Traditionally used in farmhouses, they’re built for efficiency and are lower and deeper than standard sinks.
Once you’ve decided on the design that works best for you, take time to get to know the materials available. Each has pros and cons in terms of appearance, durability, ease of installation, and cost.
Stainless steel is the classic kitchen sink material, and the one most restaurants choose thanks to its durability and ease of cleaning. The gleam and clean lines of a stainless steel sink lends a contemporary feel to the kitchen and is a particularly good choice if you already have stainless steel appliances or counters.
This inexpensive material is easy to keep clean with just a sponge and gentle cleanser or a fine-grade scouring pad when necessary. While stainless steel can suffer dents and scratches, these are only aesthetic flaws that don’t impair the sink’s functionality. If you’re not set on keeping your sink pristine, stainless steel is sturdy enough to stand up to years of use.
Porcelain, sometimes called vitreous china, owes its popularity as a sink material largely to affordability and an unassuming appearance that fits into any decor scheme. Most porcelain sinks are designed with smooth, rounded corners, making them easier to clean. The material itself is somewhat less easy to clean than stainless steel, however. Porcelain tends to discolor with age, and once it does, it usually can’t be restored to its original color.
Porcelain is somewhat fragile and prone to chipping and cracking. DIY kits are available to repair minor chips, but for damage beyond that, you’ll most likely need to replace the whole sink. This fact makes a porcelain sink less than ideal for the kitchen, where it may be subjected to dropped pans, knives, and other heavy or sharp objects.
Enameled Cast Iron
These sinks are made of cast iron coated with a layer of enamel to give them a smooth finish. This is the same material traditional cast iron cookware is made from. The vintage look of a cast iron sink has a rustic appeal that makes it well suited to farmhouse and other country-style kitchens. Cast iron won’t dent or crack, but the enamel finish can chip if hit by a heavy object and chips can develop rust.
You’ll need to avoid scrubbing or using abrasive cleaners, which can wear away the enamel. Staining is also a risk so any food or drink likely to stain, such as wine or berry juice, should be wiped up quickly. Because these sinks are heavy, they typically need extra support. The additional labor required bumps up the cost of installation.
Solid Surface Material
Solid surface isn’t just for counter tops. Formerly known under the brand name Corian, solid surface is manufactured from a mixture of acrylic resin, powdered bauxite, and pigments. It’s one of the most versatile sink materials around. Solid surface sinks can be made in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and textures.
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If you love the look of natural stone, but the price is out of your budget, a solid surface sink provides a more affordable alternative. This material is also popular for creating straight edges and sleek shapes that give the sink an ultra-modern look. Solid surface is tough and unlikely to crack, and while it can sustain scratches under heavy use, these marks can be buffed out completely.
The focal point of many traditional country kitchens, a copper sink is an investment in long-term durability and beauty. New copper sinks offer a bright gleam, but as they age, they take on a deep, rich patina. Like stainless steel, they don’t crack, but can collect dents and dings. Heavier gauge copper sinks are less prone to this.
The character these sinks develop as they age gives them a warm, homey appeal. No two age the same, making them ideal for adding a unique touch to your kitchen. The natural antimicrobial properties of copper help keep your kitchen clean and healthy. Copper sinks clean up easily with mild soap. Acidic food and drink, such as orange juice and vinegar, can mar the patina, so you’ll need to wipe up spills quickly.
To create a fireclay sink, clay is molded into shape, allowed to dry, then coated with porcelain enamel. As a result, these sinks are similar in appearance to enameled cast iron models and are typically available only in white and shades of off-white.
They stand up well to heavy use, and resist scratches, stains, and chips. Neither acids nor bleach will harm them. They’re not impervious to damage, though, and need proper care to remain completely stain-free. Like enamel sinks, fireclay sinks are heavy and usually require additional support.
Composite stone sinks are made from ground stone held together with a resin binder. They’re most often made from granite or quartz. Granite composite is one of the most durable sink materials you can find, and is highly resistant to stains, chips, and heat damage. Quartz composite is somewhat less durable, but holds up well under normal use.
These sinks are available in a variety of colors and patterns, and offer a more uniform appearance than natural stone. Slightly more expensive than stainless steel, composite sinks can give you the look of stone at a much lower price.
Composite sinks made with fiberglass or polyester are also available and, while relatively inexpensive, they’re also softer than composite stone and vulnerable to damage.
If you’re in the market for a unique feature for your luxury kitchen, it’s hard to go wrong with a natural stone sink. Soapstone is currently one of the most popular options thanks to its exceptional resistance to stains and heat damage. It won’t etch, and any chips can be polished out.
Solid granite is a more traditional choice for high-end kitchen sinks, but it has some downsides. This material is more delicate than soapstone, and can pick up stains and scratches. Applying a granite sealer helps prevent this, and minor stains can be removed with a specially formulated granite cleaner.
Marble and limestone are also options, although both are susceptible to damage, and require proper sealing and gentle use.
Most stone sinks should be treated with mineral oil every four to six weeks to seal the surface, which preserves its color and protects it from stains. Not surprisingly, stone sinks are exceptionally heavy with some weighing several hundred pounds, so they require additional support.
If you’re looking for a tough, no-nonsense sink at a budget-friendly price, stainless steel, solid surface, and composite are excellent options. If getting just the right look is important to you, though, and you don’t mind paying a little more, consider enameled cast iron, copper or stone, depending on the qualities and appearance you prefer.