Welcome to our guide about the most popular kitchen sink types and their materials. Designing a kitchen from the ground up can make your head spin if you aren’t prepared to make the necessary decisions. This is precisely why it is absolutely essential to do your research before diving in.
While it can be overwhelming at first, it will undoubtedly pay off to know exactly what you’re looking for when you make your next trip to the home improvement store.
Among the most important is the choice of sink and faucet. There are many options to choose from, and several factors that will determine which type is right for you.
This article will detail the options for configuration, installation, and materials of kitchen sinks. This is not an exhaustive listing of all available sink types in the market but we’ll cover the most popular ones.
After this, you will be able to make an educated decision for the entire sink set up in your kitchen! Keep reading to learn more.
Configurations & Installation Types
First, and most importantly, you should decide on the type of sink which will fit your kitchen best. There are three main things to consider here that will help you make your decision:
- Think about the function the sink will serve for you personally. For example, if you cook for large groups of people often, and use more bulky pots, pans, and dishes, then you’ll likely want to choose a sink with a lot of depth. Or perhaps, you value counter space more, and don’t have much need for the additional sink space. It all depends on what will function best for you.
- How do you imagine the sink contributing to the style of your kitchen? Perhaps a more minimalist approach is what you would prefer, or maybe you want your sink to stand out as a focal point in your kitchen, like the apron sink in the image above. Each sink configuration can impact the style of your kitchen. Which one is best for you?
- Consider the flow of the entire space. Based on the function you want the sink to serve, think about how exactly it would be used. For example, if you plan to use the sink for washing or rinsing dishes often, think about where will those dishes be coming from, and where they will be going afterwards. This will help you decide upon all the subsequent details such as placement, basin count, etc. The decisions will all come more easily after choosing your sink configuration.
Below you will find a description of each main configuration type among kitchen sinks:
1) Top Mount (drop-in sink)
Image Source: IKEA
This is considered the most common type of sink configuration available. This is mostly because it is inexpensive to purchase, and easy to install in most types of countertops.
Otherwise known as “drop-in” or “self-rimming”, these are the standard for simple, economical kitchen sinks. Most popularly sold in durable stainless steel, this sink type is also commonly available in porcelain or cast-iron material.
Installation of Top Mount Sink:
Extremely simple. It typically takes approximately an hour to complete the entire installation process & it can be done without professional help. Due to the fact that the rim covers the hole in the countertop, the edges of the cutout don’t need to be finished. DIY installation involves tracing the sink on the countertop, cutting out the hole, then drilling in and caulking the sink into place.
If you’re looking for a cleaner appearance, this may be the sink for you. The undermount is installed under the countertop surface, so it doesn’t stick out around the edges like a top mount does. This makes for easy clean up, as you can wipe directly into the sink from the countertop.
Installation of Undermount Sink:
Until recently, this was available only with solid surface countertops, but it is also available for installation into laminate countertops now, which makes it a much more cost-efficient option. However, it requires a more difficult process for installation, and it is recommended to be completed by a professional.
3) Flush Mount
In this sink configuration, the sink and the countertop form one continuous unit. This means coordinating your sink around your countertop. It achieves a similar effect visually as the Undermount sink does, but the installation process differs greatly.
Installation of Flush Mount Sink:
Without a doubt, hire a professional to do this installation. While it is technically possible to DIY, the levelling process can be complicated, and if not installed with precision, would cause problems with both the sink and countertop.
4) Apron (Farmhouse)
The apron sink features an exposed front, and a large deep basin. Up until recently it was used mostly for country style kitchens, but it is now being used in modern kitchens as well.
Installation of Apron Sink:
Because it is often heavier than most other configurations, it must be mounted on only solid surface non-porous countertops like quartz. Installation should be done by a professional for this configuration.
5) Integrated Sink
Integrated sinks are made with the same material as the countertop, and create an even more seamless appearance than undermount or flush mount sinks. This configuration can only be done with countertop materials which are flexible enough to be molded into a sink basin. Also, integrated sinks are actually made by the countertop manufacturer.
Installation of Integrated Sink:
DIY is not recommended. However, because the sink is developed by the same manufacturer as the countertop, you can rest easy knowing the installation will be smooth and fast.
6) Island or Prep Sink
Perfect in areas where counterspace must be prioritized, these sinks are smaller than the average configuration, and can also help with the flow of a space if used in addition to a more standard sized sink.
For example, someone can be cleaning dishes in the main sink, while another person is washing vegetables in the prep sink. Size of island sinks usually ranges from 9.5”-18” wide, with an average of about 15” wide. (Install depends on configuration).
Sink Interior Configurations
It’s also important to consider what you’d like your sink interior to be composed of. There are some very cool ways to make your sink perfectly functional for all your needs.
1) Single Basin / Bowl Sink
This leaves much more space for washing dishes, and allows for taking advantage of every square inch of sink space available, making it a great choice for small kitchen spaces or secondary sinks. Usually around 33” width (install depends on configuration).
2) Double Basin / Bowl Sink
Two basins allow you to focus on two tasks at once in the sink. For example, one basin is for soaking dishes, and the other is for rinsing. This is the most traditional, and is going out of style a bit as time goes on.
3) Drainboard Sink
Allowing you to dry dishes without a dish-rack is the main goal of a drainboard sink. There are some very neat ways to implement a drainboard sink into your kitchen, especially when it is integrated with your countertop.
Another important decision to make is the actual material the sink is made of. The material can make a vast difference in not only the style it contributes to the space, but also the function.
1) Stainless Steel
This lovely shining metal material is by far the most popular choice for sink material. This is partly because although it is more expensive than porcelain, it is less expensive than solid surface or granite sinks.
The middle-ground pricing makes it a great choice for a wide variety of project budgets. It is also easy to clean, and is easy to install as both top mount and undermount configurations.
In addition, stainless steel is very durable, and fits with most kitchen design styles. The cons of this material include making a lot of sound when washing dishes, it is less unique than many other materials, and it is susceptible to scratches and dents.
2) Cast Iron
Defined as any iron-carbon alloy with a carbon content over 2%, this material is becoming available in more options all the time. Some of the largest selling points for cast iron sinks are durability, scratch and heat resistance, and it is non-porous.
Downsides include complicated installation (because it is so heavy), and it is more expensive than many other sink material options.
Technically, composite material is defined as a material made of two seperate elements (usually granite stone dust and acrylic resins) under high-compression.
The end result combines the benefits of both the initial elements, for a better and stronger final material. The completed material will hold up and remain looking brand new through hard use for a long time, and is virtually impenetrable.
These beauties are definitely trendy within many kitchen design styles right now. The most important thing to understand is that copper changes in color very easily depending on many factors.
If you’re looking for something that will remain true to the original, and not appear rustic at all, copper is not the choice for you. However, if you can embrace the living finish copper has, and appreciate the beauty of it, then you will be very happy with a copper sink.
Containing a mixture of clay, glass, and metal, porcelain is an age-old material that has been utilized throughout generations for a multitude of kitchen and bath fixtures.
However, porcelain has quite a few downsides. Not only does it discolor greatly (and not in a pretty way) over time, but it can also chip very easily.
Usually porcelain comes to a slightly less expensive price-point than stainless steel. However, considering the downsides, it is hard to view the two as equals in value. Most times, you’ll be better off choosing a more durable material unless your heart is set on the timeless style of porcelain.
Fireclay is a material made from combining clay and glaze together at very high temperatures.
Pros include durability, non-porous surface, scratch and acid resistance, and it is fairly chip resistant as well.
Cons include high price-point, a lack of variety in color choices, and susceptible to staining.
These sinks are also very heavy. So, similarly to cast-iron sinks, professional installation with additional supports is recommended.
Made from polycarbonate plastics, this material is among the most interesting choices. Not only does the material’s molding process allow for a great variety in shapes and colors, but the final product is fantastically repairable.
This means that scratches and stains can be buffed out! It is also one of the best sink materials for muffling sound, because it is so soft compared to other sinks.
However, it is still not as durable long-term as most materials. It also doesn’t stand up well to petroleum-based solutions like paint.
What Is the Best Material for a Kitchen Sink?
About 70% of kitchen sinks are made with stainless steel. It offers a shiny, polished look and can withstand stains and extreme heat. However, stainless steel is also more likely to show scratches and water spots.
Composite kitchen sinks are the second-most common option. They are typically made with quartz or granite material and are resistant to staining and scratches.
A quality cast iron sink with a porcelain enamel finish is a little easier to maintain compared to other options if you avoid chipping the enamel. Chipped enamel can expose the cast iron to water, which promotes rusting.
What Are the Most Popular Kitchen Sink Types?
Drop-in (top mount) sinks are the most popular type of kitchen sink. A drop-in sink is designed to be dropped into a cutout in a countertop or cabinet. The sink has a rim that helps secure it into place, which also creates a lip between the counter and the sink.
The double-basin sink is also incredibly popular in kitchens. It features side-by-side basins, allowing you to use one side for washing and the other for drying.
Drop-in Sinks Vs Undermount Sinks
Drop-in sinks are easier to install compared to undermount sinks, as the rim of the sink sits in a hole in the counter. Drop-in sinks are also typically more affordable and available in a wider range of styles, as they are the most common choice.
Drop-in sinks are less convenient compared to undermount sinks when wiping down counters. The lip around the sink keeps you from being able to easily sweep debris and water from the counter into the sink. Debris may also build up around the lip.
Undermount sinks are installed under the counter. Instead of a rim, the counter drops directly into the sink basin. It offers a sleeker look and allows you to wipe food debris straight into the sink. However, installation is not always straightforward.
Undermount sinks often need a support system to hold the sink in place, as it does not have a lip to help secure it.
What Is the Easiest Sink to Keep Clean?
An undermount composite kitchen sink should be the easiest to keep clean and maintain. The composite granite or quartz surface is scratch and stain-resistant. Water spots are also less likely to be a problem.
Choosing the undermount type also makes the sink easier to keep clean, as you do not need to worry about debris accumulating around the edge of the sink.
An undermount Fireclay kitchen sink is also easy to clean. Fireclay sinks are made by molding ceramic at high temperatures. The sink is then covered in a porcelain enamel finish using a process that fuses the materials. It is easy to wipe down and relatively scratch-resistant.
What Type of Kitchen Sink Is Most Durable?
Cast iron is one of the most durable choices. A cast iron sink can last a lifetime and is unlikely to break if dropped during installation. The main concern is the maintenance of the enamel finish, which may eventually show scratches and chips.
Fireclay sinks are also durable and more scratch resistant compared to cast iron sinks. The porcelain on the Fireclay sink is fused to the clay, which makes it stronger.
Stainless steel is structurally durable but scratches easily. Composite granite or quartz sinks provide more resistance to scratches. However, they can break when dropped or not installed properly.
What Is the Latest Trend in Kitchen Sinks?
Extending the functionality of the kitchen sink is one of the latest trends. A growing number of companies now offer sinks with accessories, such as drying racks and cutting boards.
More homeowners are also choosing to install single-basin sinks instead of the double sinks commonly found in kitchens. Several manufacturers also offer small prep sinks that can be installed next to a large basin.
Final Thoughts on Kitchen Sink Types and Materials
Whether you’re building your kitchen from the foundations up, or just replacing your sink, these tips will help guide you through the process of deciding which sink is right for you! After reading this, you’re officially ready for your trip to the plumbing showroom or home-improvement store.
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shirley emmons says
This was interesting,thank you ! My kitchen sink is 13 years old, cast iron and it is falling apart. I still can’t decide what type of new sink to buy ! The plumber suggested another cast iron but I don’t think so. Please suggest some thing.
Thank you !
Thanks for stopping by.
Two very good options are stainless steel (most popular material) and also composite sink (granite or quartz composite). The latter is a very durable option.
Tap & Sink Contemporary Living says
Informative article on the different types of kitchen sinks. Very useful read!