Buyer's Guide to Kitchen Sinks
How-to improve the only working area used to prepare meals and clean up after them
This etched-Stainless sink draws on traditional design cues, and has an elegant Cordage pattern around the rim
The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but the sink handles most of the daily chores. That's because it's the only working area used to both prepare meals and clean up after them. Although quality sinks can last 15 years or more, they do wear out. Finishes start to dull or chip, and annoying leaks appear mysteriously around the rim and drain. And if you're planning a kitchen remodel, it makes sense to replace your sink and faucet.
Manufacturers offer sinks in a variety of materials and styles, from gleaming stainless steel and durable porcelain on cast iron to several newer materials. Sinks are also one of the lowest-priced components of a kitchen remodel. Although some high-end models carry four-digit price tags, there is a wealth of well-made sinks on the market starting at around $200.
We'll cover buying a quality kitchen sink that won't break your budget and tell you what to look for in a pro installation. We'll also discuss some developments in the faucets section, including the latest styles, colors and features, and the companies that offer them.
Sink Size Vs. Kitchen Size?
With so many kitchen sink styles — single bowls to multiple bowls of different sizes, shapes and depths — you need to consider the size of the room and how you'll use the sink. Large multibasin models, which are popular right now, will overpower a small kitchen.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association, an industry trade group, suggests a standard 22X24-in. single-bowl model for kitchens less than 150 sq. ft. (the bowl itself measures about 16X21 in.). For larger kitchens, you can consider the added convenience of double and triple bowls that allow you to stack the dishes in one bowl while you rinse off vegetables in the other. Multibowl models start at about $200, and you'll pay 5 to 10 percent more for sinks with bowls of different depths.
Many designers specify one main sink and a smaller bar sink for large kitchens. Don't go for a second sink unless there are two or more cooks in the house who prepare meals at the same time. Even then, you'll have to determine if the plumbing upgrade and the $400 or so for the sink and faucet are worth it.
Whatever size and bowl configuration you choose, you'll also need to select the type of mounting you want. This is both an esthetic and a practical decision as described above.
You'll also need to specify the number of holes in the sink deck. This number will range from one to five, depending on the faucet and the number of accessories like spray hoses and soap dispensers you add.
Still another consideration is color. A colorful sink can be a nice accent, but remember you'll typically pay 15 to 40 percent more for anything other than white.
Finally, don't be surprised that your new sink doesn't include a drain strainer; it costs extra. A good one in stainless steel runs $10 to $15. Match the strainer to the sink; those designed for stainless sinks aren't long enough for cast-iron sinks.
You'll be living with your new sink for a long time, so choose carefully. A well-made sink will last as long as you need it and maintain its good looks as well.
Self-rimming sinks (see more on page 3, "Mounting Choices")
Faucets: Combining Style and Function
In most cases, you'll want to replace the faucet along with the sink. If you spend at least $125 and stick with a well-known manufacturer, you're assured of quality. You'll also get nearly lead-free water delivery. A recent change in federal law now restricts the lead your sink can contribute to no more than 11 parts per billion. So what should you be thinking about? Style, finish and features.
What's hot: Single-handled models with pull-out spouts are getting the most attention. They come in different finishes, and are convenient for cleaning produce as well as the sink. Spouts with stainless-steel hoses kink less than others, and start at about $325. Faucets with water filters built into the spout, like Moen's Pure-Touch (below, $450) and Price Pfister's Pfilter Pfaucet, are hot, too. Pot fillers — cold-water taps on long swing-out arms installed near your range or cooktop — are also growing in popularity. They cost about $150, plus the cost of running the new water line.
As for finishes, chrome remains the most popular. It's durable, easy to clean and versatile. Lifetime finishes such as Moen's Lifeshine and Delta's Brilliance have also made polished-brass finishes much easier to live with. These finishes stand up to abrasive cleaners and eliminate spotting. Satin-nickel finishes are another increasingly popular option. "They're warm and soft, and blend in with just about everything," says Oklahoma City designer Faye Norton.
Features: Once you decide on a style and finish, look for the following: 1. Washerless operation: This term lumps together ball, cartridge and ceramic-disk valves. Ceramic-disk valves are likely to last longest, particularly if your water is hard or has lots of sediment. But all three should be trouble-free for years and are relatively easy to repair if necessary.
2. A long spout: If your sink has three bowls, opt for a 12- to 14-in.-long spout.
A spout that swivels at least 180 degrees, especially when buying a multibowl sink. You'll need that flexibility to reach the different bowls.
Separate steel rim (see more on page 3, "Mounting Choices")
The plumbing for a new sink is fairly straightforward — there's not a lot of choice involved. But how and where the sink is attached to the countertop is a decision you'll need to make before you order your new basin.
Self-rimming sinks (see image 2) are easiest to install; most take about an hour. Lighter sinks, such as stainless-steel or composite models, are secured to the counter with clips and screws. Heavy cast-iron sinks are held in place by their weight.
A few stainless-steel and enamel-on-steel sinks are held in place by a separate steel rim (see image 3). However, you wind up with two seams where muck can accumulate.
Undermount sinks (see image 4) are popular because they're sleek looking, make wiping off the counters into the sink a breeze and allow you to combine bowls of different shapes and sizes. However, undermounts often take at least twice the time to install as self-rimming models. They also require solid materials, such as granite or solid surfacing, since the counter material is exposed.
Undermount sink (see more on page 3, "Mounting Choices")
Where to Find It:
American Standard Inc.
1 Centennial Ave., Dept. TH998
Piscataway, NJ 08855
800/223-0068 Blanco America
110 Mount Holly By-Pass
Lumberton, NJ 08048
800/451-5782 Delta Faucet Co.
55 E. 111th St., Dept. TH998
Indianapolis, IN 46280
800/345-3358 Eljer Plumbingware
14801 Quorum Dr., Dept. TH998
Dallas, TX 75240
800/636-7402 Elkay Manufacturing Co.
2222 Camden Court, Dept. TH998
Oak Brook, IL 60523
630/574-8484 Franke Inc.
3050 Campus Dr., Suite 500, Dept. TH998
Hatfield, PA 19440
800/626-5771 Gerber Plumbing Fixtures
4600 W. Touhy Ave., Dept. TH998
Chicago, IL 60646
847/675-6570 Hansgrohe Inc.
1465 Ventura Dr., Dept. TH998
Cumming, GA 30040
444 Highland Dr.
Kohler, WI, 53044
888/452-5547 Kohler Co.
444 Highland Dr., Dept. TH998
Kohler, WI 53044
800/456-4537 KWC Faucets Inc.
1555 Oakbrook Dr., Dept. TH998
Norcross, GA 30093
770/248-1600 Moen Inc.
25300 Al Moen Dr., Dept. TH998
N. Olmsted, OH 44070
800/ 289-6636 Peerless Faucet Co.
55 E. 111th St., Dept. TH998
Indianapolis, IN 46280
800/438-6673 Price Pfister Inc.
13500 Paxton St., Dept. TH998
Pacoima, CA 91333