Bathroom sinks (or if you want to get fancy, lavatories) may not have to deal with nearly as much as their kitchen counterparts, but that doesn't make them any less important. Because they don't need to be workhorses, it's easy to choose a new bathroom sink based largely on looks. Design and appearance are important, but there are plenty of other considerations to take into account.
Before you start shopping...
A few questions to ask yourself before beginning your search:
- Are you replacing a sink? If so, will you be using the same countertop, the same cutout? What about the faucet? Changing nothing will clearly limit your options, but also makes the process easier. Measure carefully to ensure the new sink will fit right in (and accommodate the faucet, if being kept). Keep in mind that even if you're unable to make any modifications to the installation site, it may be possible to go from drop-in to undermount or vice-versa for a dramatic change without much actual modification.
- Do you need - or want - a vanity? Having a large countertop to set things down is nice, but may not work in every bathroom. If you have a vanity that's seen better days, consider removing it altogether and using a pedestal or wall-mounted sink for a fresh look. If you're keeping the vanity or getting a new one, make sure that the countertop can be modified without too much trouble in case you need to mess with it.
Drop-In / Top Mount / Self-Rimming
The most common bathroom sink type, drop-ins are the easiest type of sink to install (especially in stone countertops, where the cutout edges need not be polished as with undermounts). The bowl is dropped into a cutout in the counter, while the outer rim of the sink rests on the countertop (where it's sealed with silicone).
- Extra care must be taken when sealing a drop-in sink: the space between rim and counter can become a haven for excess water, grime, and eventually mold.
- The rims of these sinks can vary widely - some are large and chunky, others are hardly noticeable. Make sure to choose one that fits your bathroom's style.
Faucet Considerations: A drop-in sink can accommodate nearly any faucet, mounted either on the sink deck itself or in the counter. If you're after a deck-mounted faucet, pick that out before getting the sink to ensure compatibility. When mounting on the countertop, make sure the faucet you choose can reach a comfortable spot in the sink from its mounting point on the counter.
Pro Tip: Too many faucet holes? It happens. While it's fairly easy to remedy using either a deckplate or faucet hole covers, perfectionists and designers will likely hate the look. You'll always be best off selecting a faucet first, then matching the sink to its needs.
If you want something sleek and stylish, the undermount style might be for you. These sinks are mounted under the counter, making for a clean drop off from counter to sink (and easy countertop cleaning). This leaves the edge of the counter (around the cutout) exposed, so make sure that your counter material is waterproof before choosing an undermount sink (note that stone countertops must have their edges fully polished and sealed when an undermount sink is used).
- A major consideration with undermounts is the "reveal" of the sink: how much of the sink rim remains visible below the countertop due to the size of the cutout. Most manufacturers will specify the recommended reveal, but a professional installer can likely cater to your tastes. A negative reveal leaves no visible rim; a positive reveal can show up to 1/2" of the sink rim; a zero or flush reveal makes the sink rim flush with the counter edge (and takes the most expertise to install).
- Whatever the degree of reveal, great care must be taken to properly seal the gap between sink and counter with silicone. Lackluster installations can lead to water intrusion and mold growth, compromising the integrity of the countertop and the sink's connection to it.
- Because the counter cutout needs to be a very specific size, replacing an undermount sink can be a bit more difficult than with other types. When replacing one, be exacting in your measurements of the existing cutout, and carefully examine the manufacturer specifications for any replacement undermount you're looking at.
Faucet Considerations: Since there's no sink deck to use, undermounts require a faucet mounted on either the countertop or the wall. For counters, you'll again want to make sure the faucet you select will reach the proper point over the sink. If you like the look of a wall faucet, you'll need to address a few questions first: are there studs in the way? Can you place an access panel nearby for service and repair? Will the water supply be at risk of freezing due to being in an outside wall?
Inspired by vintage style, these freestanding sinks include a tall, slender base (negating the need for a vanity or countertop). Their design and small footprint makes them perfect for small bathrooms or powder rooms (half baths). Don't be too put off by the "vintage" or "traditional" monikers - there are plenty of pedestal sinks out there with thoroughly modern looks.
- The primary drawback with a pedestal sink is the lack of "landing space", or space around the sink for storing/placing toiletries. Drop-in and undermount sinks usually have plenty of counter space around them, but pedestal sinks have only a few inches at most around the basin (which may not even be usable for setting things down).
- Likewise, with no vanity underneath, storage space in the bathroom is dramatically reduced. Make sure that any space or storage needs you have in the bathroom are taken care of (through shelving, cabinets, etc.) before considering a pedestal.
- Because pedestal sinks are wall mounted (only some of the weight rests on the base), blocking will be needed inside the wall to support the sink's weight. Don't forget to factor this into your plans - drywall will need to be removed and patched up, adding time and expense.
Faucet Considerations: Pedestal sinks use deck-mounted faucets, and most will come with either a single hole, 4" centerset or 8" widespread holes. Picking out the faucet before finalizing the sink will save you from the headache of a mismatch.
Pro Tip: It's not uncommon for existing drain piping to be too low to fit properly in the pedestal base, so you'll need a plumber or serious DIY skills to move things around if this is the case in your bathroom.
It used to be that wall-mounted sinks were mostly found in commercial settings, but recent years have seen their popularity in the home on the rise. Wall-mounting opens up the space below the sink, giving the room a larger feel and cleaner look.
- In order to mount to the wall, blocking will need to be installed between studs. Not only will the actual work add time to your project, but the patch will need time to dry before sanding and painting (which will also need to dry).
- With other sink styles, you can get away with having a regular ol' PVC P-trap underneath thanks to the vanity, cabinet or pedestal that keeps drain piping out of view. With wall-mounted sinks, you'll probably want to invest in a finish-matched P-trap - PVC is great, but it's not exactly pretty. Depending on the sink and the circumstances, you might also have the water supply exposed - meaning new valves and supply lines. We also offer convenient all-in-one kits for exposed plumbing.
- With all of that space available under the sink, it's no wonder that wall-mounted sinks are popular with those looking for ADA-compliant fixtures. They can be mounted at the ideal height, are easily used by those in wheelchairs and other mobility devices, and provide more space in the bathroom.
Console sinks are a type of wall-mount that are fashioned after the console tables so common in entryways. They feature legs (usually just two, since the bulk of the weight is supported behind the wall) and a larger landing space around the sink for this or that. If you need just a little more style and space in your bathroom, these are the sinks for you!
Faucet Considerations: You have two mounting options with wall sinks - the sink deck and the wall. If you want a deck-mounted faucet, try to pick it out before getting the sink so that the correct number and spacing of holes can be specified. Wall-mounted faucets have style, but can present installation challenges, as noted above. If studs are in the way of the ideal faucet location, you'll either have to relocate the faucet (easy, but could ruin "the look") or move the studs (more time and expense).
Vessel / Above-Counter
Highly popular in the early to mid 2000s, vessel sinks may have seen their heyday, but still have plenty of admirers. Essentially a bowl with a hole that's mounted atop the counter, they can be made of pretty much any material and are probably the easiest sink to install.
- There are actually two ways to install a vessel sink: the standard above-counter installation, where the base of the sink is mounted around the drain hole; and a recessed installation, where a larger hole is drilled so that the sink drops down into the counter - just how much is up to you. A recessed installation gives the sink a bit more stability than above-counter, and brings the sink rim down a few inches - not a bad idea considering how high some vessels can be above the counter (and how awkward and messy they can be to use).
- Because of their height and design, it's much easier to damage a vessel sink than other types. The rim of a vessel sink is particularly vulnerable to chips and breaks, making the style one to avoid in high-traffic bathrooms or those used by children.
- It's common for vessel sinks to lack an overflow, but if you like to fill up your sink, we offer several styles that include this flood-prevention feature. Should you choose a sink without an overflow, you'll need to install an "unstoppable" grid drain so the drain can't be accidentally stopped (potentially leading to an overflow and flooding).
Faucet Considerations: A vessel sink calls for a vessel faucet (or "tall spout" faucet). These faucets are tall enough to clear a vessel's rim and typically single-handle. Pay close attention to the height of both sink and faucet - you want to be sure the faucet will be at a comfortable height from the sink rim.
Ceramics (Porcelain / Vitreous China / Fireclay)
Ceramics are a traditional and still highly popular material for any sink, but are synonymous with the bathroom. Porcelain is the ultimate classic, and is often referred to as "vitreous china". Fireclay is very similar, but baked at higher temperatures (producing a higher resistance to heat, making it popular in the kitchen). These sinks typically cost a bit less than cast iron, but will still set you back more than other options. They are well worth it, however.
Both materials produce beautiful sinks that naturally resist stains, mildew and bacteria - and are easy to clean. They aren't invincible, however: these sinks can easily chip or crack if a heavier object is dropped into them, and overtightening drain flanges can lead to cracking or "crazing" (cracks in the glaze) - as can extremely hot liquids (which shouldn't be an issue in the bathroom). Harsh chemical cleaners need to be avoided with these sinks, due to the risk of etching the enameled surface (leading to stains and other problems).
Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron & Steel
Enameled cast iron is another historically popular material for sinks and tubs alike. The strongest - and most expensive - of options, a cast iron sink should last a lifetime. High heat bonds the porcelain enamel to the underlying iron, creating a sink of incredible strength and beauty.
Many of the same caveats apply to cast iron as the above ceramic sinks (owing to their shared enameled finish). However, when the enamel on a cast iron sink is compromised, the resulting problems can be much more serious: this exposes the iron to air and moisture, leading to rust and unsightly stains. With proper care, however, these are probably the best, toughest sinks you can buy - and they're often priced that way. A cast iron sink is a purchase you likely won't regret.
Enameled steel sinks use the same principle, but with a different underlying metal. The steel is not quite as strong or heavy as cast iron, bringing the price down substantially. While enameled steel is viewed as more of a "budget" option in the kitchen (where the workload is much heavier), it can be a steal for the bathroom!
Acrylic sinks are made of plastic, fiberglass and resin. Acrylic is a cost-effective and attractive material, available in any number of colors and designs. Being lightweight, these sinks can be easily installed with almost any counter material. Because acrylic sinks are composed of a single, solid material, moderate scratches can be sanded and polished out. Resistant to staining and rust. One thing to watch out for is heat: never leave a curling iron or other hot items on or near an acrylic sink - it will probably melt. Outside of that, they're pretty tough - a great choice for a kids bathroom!
A non-porous alternative to natural stone, solid surface is made of resin and minerals. Used for countertops, sinks and tubs, it can be made to resemble granite, marble and other materials for a more cost-effective design option.
As with acrylic sinks, scratches on a solid surface sink can be sanded and polished out. Their composition is uniform throughout, so not only can the sink be chipped without much concern, it can also be cleaned without much concern. Only metal scouring pads are off-limits due to the severe scratching they can cause. Most other light scratches can be easily buffed out. The only real drawback to solid surface is that damage to the sink (or solid surface counter) must be repaired by a professional - so be careful!
A staple in the kitchen, stainless steel can be found in more and more bathrooms these days. Probably the most durable material, it won't crack or chip (though it may dent) and can easily last a lifetime. Stainless has an uncanny ability to fit in with most any design scheme, but does require regular cleaning to retain its luster. Stainless steel readily shows water spots (especially if you have hard water) and can scratch, especially when the steel is polished or when abrasive materials or cleaners are used. Beware!
Stainless steel is rated by gauge, often between 16-gauge and 22-gauge. The lower the number, the thicker and higher quality the sink. 22-gauge is the "bare minimum" to look for (builder quality) and many people are happy even with 20-gauge sinks. For kitchen sinks you'll want 18-gauge or better, but in the bathroom you'll probably be just fine with builder quality. Thinner sinks can generate a bit of noise when water hits them, but this is easily taken care of by using sound absorbing pads on the sink's underside (which many sinks will ship with).
Copper & Brass
The most popular metal sinks (aside from stainless steel) are copper and brass. (We also offer pewter sinks!) These are heavy-duty sinks renowned for their natural beauty - especially copper, which can be regularly polished and sealed to retain a bright "copper-colored" look, or left to develop its unique patina which can take on many shades of copper, blue, and green. Studies have shown that bacteria will not survive more than a few hours on an unsealed, unpolished copper surface (and brass, to an extent), giving "natural" copper and unlacquered brass sinks an anti-microbial distinction their peers can't compete with. Proper cleaning and care is key for brass and copper alike.
Some of the less common materials make for some of the most attractive (and expensive) sinks. Tempered glass is most commonly found in vessel sinks. It's tough, and should hold up just fine in the typical adult bathroom. However, dropped objects can nick or even shatter the sink if they're heavy enough (or pointed, like scissors). You'll need to be religious in your cleaning - glass + water + soap + toothpaste = spots, spots, spots!
Stone sinks make for beautiful sinks that are durable, quiet and well worth the investment. Natural stone is heavy, so these sinks can't be mounted in just any vanity, and they will likely require extra support - keep this possible additional expense in mind. Stone sinks will need to be resealed regularly to prevent staining, and should be cleaned only with mild soap and water or a non-abrasive cleaner like Gel-Gloss (which also contains Carnauba Wax to help protect the stone's sealing with every cleaning). If you want the look of a stone sink without having to spend quite so much, composites are available that combine granite or quartz with acrylic resin, cutting down on cost (and weight). These won't have the variations or complexity of natural stone, nor will they age the same, but they're impressive substitutes that are available in an even wider range of shapes, colors and styles.
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