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How to Choose a Kitchen Sink Size

By Jennifer Ott

In addition to choosing the best materialmounting typenumber of bowls, and bowl depth for your kitchen sink, you also have a range of sink size options. An extra-wide kitchen sink will obviously give you more space for food prep and cleanup, and you might prefer it over the confines of a smaller sink, but bigger sinks typically cost more and can take up valuable real estate in a small kitchen.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. We’ve pulled together kitchens that feature various sink sizes, along with tips to help you figure out the perfect sink size for your cooking and cleaning needs.

1. Size Your Sink to Your Kitchen

It may seem obvious, but if your kitchen is on the smaller side, consider installing a smaller-width sink. An oversize, triple-bowl model would have overwhelmed this charming but compact loft kitchen. The more modest-size, yet still deep, the single-bowl apron-front sink is large enough to accommodate most kitchen tasks, but it isn’t a space hog. Countertop and base cabinet storage areas are likely to be at a premium in a smaller kitchen, so a smaller-width sink will improve overall function too.

2. Size Your Sink to the Window Above It

Homeowners often install a kitchen sink beneath a window, preferably a window with a nice view. But some homeowners overlook how these two elements work together. That’s not to say your sink and window need to match widths exactly, but it can look odd to have a super-wide sink set below a skinny window and vice versa.

3. Size Your Sink to Be a Focal Point

If you choose to go with an extra-wide sink, you’re going to have a difficult time disguising it. My advice is to take the opposite approach and make your wide sink a focal point. Repurpose an interesting salvaged sink or consider an unusual material, like copper.

4. Size Your Sink to Your Budget

This might also be obvious, but it’s all too easy to fall in love with a huge, gorgeous, apron-front sink only to find that it’s priced well above what your budget will allow.

Installing all top-of-the-line materials, fixtures and appliances in a kitchen doesn’t make sense for everyone, so it’s helpful to strategize on where you’re going to spend money and where you can save.

Personally, I’d rather splurge on my countertops or kitchen floor than the sink. After all, you can get a perfectly good 20-inch-wide stainless steel undermount sink for less than $200.

5. Size Your Sink Based on Your Needs

If you’re an avid cook who prefers hand-washing dishes to running the dishwasher, a large divided-bowl sink with an integrated drainboard is a great option. The wider sink allows multiple people to work at the sink without getting in each other’s way, and that built-in drainboard makes the business of draining and air drying dishes less of a wet mess.

A sink this size will require an extra-wide sink cabinet and will take up quite a bit of space, so it’s best for a generous-size kitchen.

If you need a hand with prepping meals or cleaning up, consider installing two single-bowl sinks instead of one extra-large sink. A configuration like this allows two cooks to work together, and because these sinks are set apart, traffic jams are less likely.

If you have space and budget for it, a three-sink setup is nice for a multi-cook household that does a lot of entertaining. The separate sinks allow several people to work in the kitchen simultaneously. None of the sinks needs to be exceptionally large. One main sink can handle bigger tasks and the others can be sized much smaller. Of course, this configuration has the potential to be costly due to the duplicate plumbing fixtures and installation fees.

6. Consider Fun-Size Sinks

I love these linear sinks. While it’d be difficult to wash dishes in one, they work just fine for fetching a glass of water or dumping out abandoned drinks when the party’s over. You can also fill one with ice and stash cold drinks in it, a nice alternative to keeping an unsightly cooler in the kitchen or having guests rummage through your refrigerator for a cold one. And it doesn’t take up much space on the countertop.

How to Choose the Right Bathroom Sink

Article by: Anne Ellard

“Eight,” I hear you say. “She can’t possibly be serious. Isn’t a sink just a sink?” But yes, I am serious — and my clients are often baffled when trying to choose from the available options. The truth is that choosing one can be a bit overwhelming, but only when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. First, you need to consider which room you are shopping for (master en suite, family bathroom, powder room), who will use the room and how much space you have. 

So before you head off to choose your new bathroom sink, grab a coffee, have a read and then go out armed with the information you need to help narrow down the best options for you and your space.

1. Top-mount sink. Probably the most commonly used sink, a top-mount, or drop-in, sink is designed to sit on top of the counter, as the name suggests.

Generally speaking, most of the sink sits below the counter, with just the rim of it sitting on top of, and visible above, the counter. The rim can be either very slim or a bit chunkier, like the one pictured, depending on the style you choose. 

Pros: Top-mount sinks are suitable for pretty much any countertop material, including wood and laminate, as the cutout is completely covered by the sink and therefore doesn’t risk being damaged by water. They are also less costly to install in a stone countertop, because they don’t require laborious polishing of the cutout edges, as with an undermount sink. 

Con: You can’t wipe water and spills straight from the counter into the sink. 

Good for: Elegant en suites and minimalist schemes.

2. Undermount sink. This sits underneath the counter. The rim of the sink is fixed to the underside of the countertop, as opposed to sitting on top of it. 

Pros: This creates a seamless, clean look, as less of the actual sink is visible. Another advantage is that water and spills can be wiped directly from the countertop into the sink without any obstruction, making it a great, easy-to-clean option for family bathrooms. 

Cons: Undermounting a sink will usually only be possible with a solid-surface countertop, such as stone, and isn’t suitable with a laminate, as it can’t be sealed as well against moisture. These sinks also tend to cost more than top-mount ones. 

Good for: Busy family bathrooms.

3. Wall-mounted sink. This is fixed directly to the wall without needing to sit in or on a countertop. It looks streamlined and gives a minimalist feeling to a room. 

Pros: A wall-mounted sink doesn’t have any cabinets below it, which saves on space and also leaves more visible floor area, making the room feel bigger. For a wall-mounted sink to work in your space, all the plumbing, including the waste, must be positioned inside the wall to have a clean look.

Cons: There is no storage space, and there is a lack of “landing” space due to the absence of a countertop. Consider your need for storage in your bathroom before opting for a wall-mounted sink and maybe reserve it for the powder room, where storage isn’t as important. 

Good for: Small spaces.

4. Pedestal sink. If your preference is a simple wall-mounted sink, but your waste pipe has to go through the floor and can’t be changed, then a pedestal sink is a great option.

Pros: The pedestal under the sink sits between the underside of the sink and the floor, concealing any pipework in between. A pedestal sink is also aesthetically pleasing and perfect if you want to give your bathroom a classical vibe.

Cons: Again, consider the fact that you won’t have any storage space under the sink or any counter space around it. This option can also be a bit tricky to clean around, as there is usually a gap between the wall and the back of the pedestal (as pictured here).

Good for: Period properties and traditional schemes.

5. Semirecessed sink. If your bathroom or en suite has limited space, but you would still like some vanity cabinets below your sink for storage, then a semirecessed option might be the solution you need.

Pros: A semirecessed sink sits proudly at the front of cabinets and the countertop that it sits on, allowing you to have much shallower cabinets — maybe even as shallow as about 12 inches (300 millimeters), depending on the model you choose. This frees up valuable floor space. It also keeps a lot of the counter space free for cosmetics and other products. Much like a pedestal sink, this is a good option for young children and people with limited mobility, as you can get closer to the sink to reach the faucet without the obstruction of a countertop and cabinets.

Cons: The storage space underneath is limited. Also, because there isn’t any countertop around the front of the sink to catch water, splashes and spills onto the floor are more common, especially in a home with children. 

Good for: Mini-me’s and beauty queens.

6. Washplane sink. Washplane sinks, often spotted in sleek hotels and restaurant bathrooms, are the simplest of the options. They’re slim, streamlined and stylish. 

Pros: Washplane sinks take up very little space, so they are great in a room where space is limited, such as in a powder room. You can buy one made of ceramic, porcelain or glass off the shelf. Alternatively, a stonemason can make them in this style from granite, marble or engineered stone. They simply mount a small stainless steel trough under the sink to catch the water before it runs into the waste pipe in the wall behind.

Cons: Washplane sinks are best suited to the powder room, where the sink will be used just for hand washing. They don’t come with the option of having a plug, plus they are extremely shallow, so they’re not designed to hold water. 

Good for: Powder rooms.

7. Vessel sink. A vessel sink is one that generally sits completely on top of the countertop, although there are some models that sit partially below the counter. 

Pros: Unlike most other sinks that are exposed above the counter a little or not at all, vessel sinks demand attention and are a great way to create a statement in your bathroom. As the name suggests, a vessel sink is basically like a large bowl, so it is a great choice if you like a deep sink that can hold plenty of water. 

Cons: Due to the height of vessel sinks and the way they sit above the counter, careful planning of the counter height, and of the height of the cabinets below, is required to ensure that the sink doesn’t end up being too high and uncomfortable to use — this often leads to less storage space under the counter. Cleaning around the base and back of the sink can also be a bit tricky. 

Good for: En suite bathrooms.

8. All-in-one sink and countertop. Many off-the-shelf vanity cabinets that can be purchased from bathroom supply stores offer an all-in-one countertop with a sink that sits on top. With this style, the sink itself is actually molded as part of the countertop. It can be made from various materials, such as porcelain or acrylic. 

Pros: The main advantage is that it’s so easy to clean. There are no ridges or seams, so it’s very streamlined and a great choice for busy family bathrooms. These sinks are generally available in set standard sizes; however, some suppliers may offer the option to have one custom made to the size that suits your space best.

Con: These all-in-one tops are usually designed so the countertop gradually slopes down and inward to create a sink in the middle. This can lead to having less flat counter space to put things on than what you would have had if you had opted for a top-mount sink sitting on top of a countertop, for example. 

Good for: Time-poor renovators, and those who need to buy something straight off the shelf and don’t have time to wait for a custom-made sink.

Everything You Need to Know About Farmhouse Sinks

Article by: Anne Ellard

Being from Ireland and having included the beautiful Belfast farmhouse sink in many traditional country and farmhouse kitchen designs, I have a bit of a soft spot for farmhouse-style sinks. The farmhouse sink originated in a time when there was no running water. The idea behind the sink was that it was a place to hold large amounts of water, which was fetched by hand from nearby wells, lakes and rivers. 

The two original farmhouse-style sinks emerged in Ireland and Britain in the late 17th century. They were of similar design but had their own characteristics. The Belfast sink was deep and had an overflow so that excess water could easily drain away instead of flowing over the sides. The London sink — designed for an area where water was scarce and therefore more precious — was shallower. It had no overflow so that every last drop could be kept inside the sink. 

If you’re thinking about choosing a farmhouse-style sink for your kitchen, here’s what else you should know.

The traditional farmhouse sink is generally a lot deeper than modern stainless steel undermount or top-mount sinks. Its design enables the user to stand directly in front of the basin, with no cabinets or countertop in between. This feature made the farmhouse sink more comfortable to use at a time in the past when women would spend a large part of their day there — preparing food and washing dishes, clothes and even babies.

Though you could still wash a baby in today’s farmhouse sinks, you’d probably find them more useful for washing large pots, big baking sheets and oven trays, and even barbecue grills — items you would generally struggle to wash in a typical sink. 

And if one large bowl isn’t enough, you can find several double-bowl options too, like the one seen here.

Installation

Farmhouse sinks were originally designed to sit slightly to the front of the surrounding cabinets, so that any water flowing down the front of the sink would run to the floor instead of landing on and damaging the cabinets. This is how farmhouse sinks still are typically installed in a kitchen. 

They also are usually installed just under the level of the countertop so the counter can slightly overhang the sides of the sink, making it easy to wipe water from the counter straight into the sink.

Drainage

Having a space on the counter where you can drain your freshly washed dishes is a bonus. Here some shallow channels, know as drainer grooves, have been routed into the countertop. They increase in depth the closer they get to the sink, which aids the flow of drained water into the sink. These drainer grooves are a great way to have the practicality of a draining area without taking away from the look of the farmhouse sink.

Fixtures

Farmhouse sinks add a feeling of nostalgia to a kitchen and bring a sense of rustic character that enhances country- and traditional-style kitchens. Complete the look by pairing your white porcelain farmhouse sink with a beautiful traditional-style tap, many of which are available with matching white porcelain handles, as shown here. Typical farmhouse sinks do not have a hole for the faucet, so the tap needs to be positioned in the counter or in the wall behind.

Materials

White farmhouse sinks are most commonly made of fireclay or porcelain. 

Fireclay. Fireclay sinks are made of clay, which is heated to an extremely high temperature that makes the sink hard and durable. It also gives the sink its beautiful high shine. The durability of fireclay means that it is resistant to scratches and chips and is easy to clean. 

Porcelain. Porcelain sinks are a ceramic material, again heated to high temperatures, although not quite as high as fireclay. They look similar to fireclay sinks but are less expensive. Porcelain sinks are not quite as durable as fireclay and are more prone to chipping and discoloration.

Stainless steel. Farmhouse sinks are now available in a wider variety of materials, including stainless steel. Stainless steel is affordable, durable and easy to clean and maintain. Stainless steel adds a contemporary twist to a sink that is typically associated with traditional- and country-style kitchens.

Copper. Farmhouse sinks are sometimes made of copper. The copper can sometimes have a hammered finish and a colored patina applied when the sink is manufactured. Over time, natural copper develops a beautiful patina as it reacts with the different substances that come in contact with it.

Modern Style

There are redesigned versions of the farmhouse sink, such as the one pictured here. Unlike the original farmhouse sink, this one sits on top of the countertop and has a space for a tap hole incorporated into it, eliminating the need to have a countertop run around the back of it. The fact that this sink sits on top of the counter eliminates the risk of water’s finding its way down the sides of the sink. This makes for a more watertight, though less authentic, option.

Considerations

Seal. The measurements of fireclay and porcelain farmhouse sinks can vary slightly, and the surfaces can be a bit uneven. These are natural characteristics of these materials and shouldn’t be considered flaws. This means, however, that when the sink is fitted under a perfectly even countertop, there can be slight gaps where water can escape. 

After it is installed, ensure that your farmhouse sink is correctly sealed around the edges. Designing the countertop so it overhangs the edges of the sink sufficiently will help water flow straight into the sink bowl and keep it away from the edges.

Design. Though designing a farmhouse sink into a new kitchen layout is easy, it can prove more difficult to incorporate one into your existing kitchen layout. The size and nature of farmhouse sinks mean they require custom cabinets to be designed to suit them, as well as a different countertop design. Ask your cabinetmaker if he or she can alter your existing cabinets and countertop to fit.

Surface. Pristine white porcelain sinks look stunning; however, they are a bit unforgiving in that they show every bit of dirt and grime. Having said that, they are easy to keep clean. 

And the hard surface of fireclay or porcelain farmhouse sinks can be noisy when you’re washing dishes in them and is far less forgiving than stainless steel when breakable items are dropped in them, so take extra care when washing your wineglasses. 

Size. If you are concerned about wasting water, look for a farmhouse sink that has a smaller capacity. The depth of the traditional farmhouse sink is great for washing big items, but it means to fill it you’ll need a lot more water than for a typical sink. 

Designing Your Kitchen: Deep Thoughts for Your Sink

Article By: Jennifer Ott

I tend to think bigger is always better. Maybe it’s because I live in Texas. So when it comes to working in my own kitchen, I do love having a nice, wide sink. It offers plenty of space for food prep and cleanup, perfect for our two-cook household. But what about bowl depth? Sure, an extra-deep sink is good for hiding dirty dishes, but it can also do a number on your back, especially if you are of a shorter persuasion. 

Here are some tips for selecting the correct sink depth for you and how you use your kitchen. 

Kitchen sinks have been steadily growing in bowl depth. Most sinks used to be as shallow as 6 inches or less; the average today is 8 to 10 inches, and they can go as deep as 12 inches. If you repurpose a vintage sink, such as the one pictured here, it will likely be on the shallow side. 

When to Go Shallow

A shallow bowl depth — say, less than 8 inches — is going to be the most comfortable bowl depth for those who are 5-foot-4 or shorter or who are very tall (6-foot 2 or taller). A shallower bowl depth allows a shorter person to work in the sink without having to lean into it to wash items in the bottom. Taller folks can work in a shallower sink without having to crouch down or hunch over. 

 

Shallow sinks also take up less space in the sink cabinet below them. Not only does this free up storage space, but it also makes it easier to install and access the garbage disposal and the plumbing fittings. Shallow sinks also tend to cost a bit less than deeper versions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When to Go Deep

For those who, like me, seem to dirty every dish in the house when making a meal, a superdeep sink is ideal. You have plenty of space for prepping meals, and in a pinch you can hide your dirty dishes in there until you are able to wash them. This is a nice sink for bakers or others who are regularly washing large sheet pans and cutting boards, too. A sink depth of at least 10 inches will give you the room you need to wash larger dishes without splashing water all over the floor and surrounding countertops. 

Keep in mind that if you are going with an undermount sink, you will gain the additional depth of the countertop thickness. You can offset this, however, by using a raised sink grid, as shown here. 

Try One On for Size

When selecting your kitchen sink bowl depth, it’s all about finding one that is just right for your height and how you use your sink. If you can, check out kitchen showrooms that have a variety of sink sizes on display —mounted at the standard 36-inch countertop height — to see what sink depth feels most comfortable.

Install Your Kitchen Sink for How You Like to Cook and Clean

Article By: Jennifer Ott, Assoc. AIA + LEED AP

Once you’ve decided on the material for your next kitchen sink, you’ll want to decide what kind of installation to do. There are four basic categories of sink mounting types: 

  • Apron front sinks, also known as a farmhouse sinks, have a broad, exposed front edge and are usually quite wide and deep.
  • Undermount sinks get attached to the underside of the countertop for a clean look.
  • Drop-in sinks are installed on top of or over the countertop.
  • Integral sinks are made from the same material as the countertop, often fabricated as a seamless unit within the countertop.

Usually aesthetics and cost rule this decision. Drop-in sinks tend to be the most budget-friendly, primarily because you can easily install them yourself in an affordable laminate countertop. Undermount and apron front sinks often require professional installation and can only be mounted to a sturdy and non-porous countertop material, which can add considerable cost to the project. Integral sinks are generally the most expensive type, due to the cost of the material and fabrication. Read on for more information and examples of each to help you make your selection. 

 

Apron Front or Farmhouse Style

These charming sinks are right at home in traditionalor cottage-style kitchens with their exposed fronts and potential for decorative detailing. Apron front sinks are typically wider, deeper and heavier than the other sink types, so they require at least a 36-inch-wide sink cabinet. The sink cabinet must also be able to accommodate the apron front.

 

Of course, apron front sinks are no longer just for old-world or farmhouse-style kitchens. There are many stunning modern versions of the apron front sink available today, such as the brushed stainless steel beauty pictured here. Also, while these sinks have traditionally come with a single bowl, they now also come in divided, two-bowl versions.

These are certainly attractive sinks, but if you are considering installing one in your kitchen there are a few issues to keep in mind. I’ve heard a few complaints about how easy it is to accidentally break a dish or glass against the apron when aiming to place the item in the sink. 

Also, if you go for a stainless steel or copper version, be aware that the apron could get scratched up from contact with belt buckles or metal buttons on your jeans. And, unless it is installed as an undermount (with the countertop extending over the sink edge), there will be a seam between the sink and countertop, where moisture and gunk can collect. 

Undermount

This is my favorite mounting type for a sink. I like the clean look, not to mention the easy-to-clean design. You can undermount a sink to any sturdy, non-porous countertop, such as natural stone, concrete, quartz and solid surfacing. I have heard of successful applications to wood countertops, but extra care must be taken to protect the wood from water. There are also laminate countertop manufacturers that claim you can undermount a sink to their material. Discuss with your countertop retailer to see if this is an option for you. 

 

Depending on your particular undermount sink, you may have some options regarding the reveal — or how much or little of the top of the sink is visible just below the inside edge of the countertop. I tend to prefer a no-reveal, or zero-reveal, look — just a smooth, straight drop from the countertop into the sink. This makes the sink and surrounding countertop area super easy to clean, as there is no ledge for food particles to collect in. You can also specify a “negative reveal” where the countertop extends over the edge of the sink. 

I think a slight negative reveal —⅛ inch or less — is fine, but any more than that and you run the risk of breaking dishes on the overhanging lip of the countertop as you lift them out of the sink. I would also be wary about not being able to see and maintain the water-tight seal between the sink and countertop — it can be difficult to view with a negative reveal.


 

 

 

Drop-in

This is a popular sink style for those on a tight budget, for those installing a sink within a porous countertop body material (such as wood or laminate) or those looking to repurpose a vintage sink or get a vintage look.

This type of sink is installed over the countertop, into a cutout, and then sealed around the edge where the sink lip meets the countertop. The obvious downside to a drop-in sink is that the raised lip makes it more difficult to wipe food particles directly into the sink, as you can with an undermount sink.

 

 

 

 

 

Where undermount sinks have a clean, minimalist feel, drop-in sinks are very charming and work well in rustic or farmhouse-style kitchens. Similar to apron front sinks, drop-in sinks can be a real eye-catching decorative element in a kitchen.

 

Integral

If you’d rather your kitchen sink blend in, and you are installing stone, metal, solid surface or quartz countertops, think about having an integral sink fabricated. Your countertop fabricator simply forms a sink using the countertop material. The look is very clean and seamless — perfect for a contemporary kitchen. 

 

Here’s a close-up of an integral sink. These sinks have no nooks and crannies for food particles to collect in, making cleanup a breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An integral sink is one of the more expensive mounting types because these sinks are usually custom designed and manufactured. You are paying for the raw material as well as fabrication and installation, which can be costly. But for those with the budget for it, it’s certainly an appealing option.

 

Kitchen FAQs: Selecting Your Sink Material

Article By: Jennifer Ott, Assoc. AIA + LEED AP

Anyone who has built or renovated a kitchen knows what it can feel like to make so many decisions in a very short amount of time. Educating yourself about your options beforehand can help cut down on some of that stress. Here, we take a look at sinks — specifically the choices you have when it comes to materials.

Cost, functionality and aesthetics should all weigh in when you select your sink material. For instance, you can get a well-priced stainless steel sink, but be aware of how easily it can scratch and show water marks. White fireclay or cast iron sinks are beautiful, but may require some elbow grease to stay bright and white. Integral quartz sinks are becoming increasingly popular, but they can be expensive and aren’t necessarily bulletproof. 

Not sure what’s right for your kitchen? Read on to learn more about these popular material options for today’s kitchen sinks. 

Stainless Steel

By far the most popular material for kitchen sinks, stainless steel sinks are heat and stain resistant and are available in a variety of types, styles and sizes. I recommend going for a brushed or satin finish rather than a mirror finish — water marks and scratches will be less noticeable. Also, look for sinks that have sound-absorbing pads on the bottom. Consumer Reports recently tested stainless steel sinks and found that these pads, rather than sound-absorbing spray or a thicker gauge of steel, performed best in reducing the noise commonly associated with stainless steel sinks.

Prices for stainless steel sinks run the gamut, but you can get a decent quality stainless steel sink for not a lot of money, making it my pick for those on a tight budget.

Cost: $100 to $800 is typical, but prices can go higher depending on gauge, size and mounting type. 

Composite Granite

Composite granite sinks are my go-to sink, both for my clients and my own kitchen. They are good-looking, durable and don’t show water marks or scratches the way stainless steel sinks do. They come in a variety of neutral hues, but I prefer the darker grays, browns and black because they camouflage food filth the best. This is my own sink pictured here, and I must confess, I don’t clean it nearly as often as I probably should because it never looks dirty. Although these sinks are durable, they can crack if mishandled — I’ve heard stories of sinks being damaged during shipping. Always inspect your composite sink thoroughly before installation to make sure it suffered no trauma during transit.

Cost: $300 to $600 

Fireclay

Manufactured from clay fired at an extremely high temperature, fireclay sinks are highly resistant to scratches, staining and chipping. Cleanup is easy — just dish soap on a sponge, or use a mild abrasive cleanser for tougher marks. These are the sinks I recommend for anyone who wants a white kitchen sink.

Cost: $400 to $1,000

 

Cast iron

Clad in a tough enamel finish, this is another highly durable sink I recommend for white sink fans. It comes in other colors, too, but I’d suggest avoiding faddish colors for items that you want to keep around for a long time, such as your kitchen sink. Keep in mind that cast iron sinks are heavy, so make sure your cabinets are structurally sound and you provide adequate support for the sink.

Cost: $300 to $900 

Natural Stone

If you are putting in natural stone countertops, such as beautiful soapstone, think about installing a sink to match. Some stones are susceptible to stains, though, so get a sample of the stone you are considering and test it out to make sure you are happy with how it stands up to staining. Soapstone is fairly stain resistant, but it is a softer stone, so you either need to be careful with it or be OK with it developing a patina over time.

Cost: Varies depending on the stone but typically starts around $1,000

 

Quartz

If you’re going with a quartz countertop, you have the option of installing a matching quartz sink. One thing to keep in mind with quartz however, is that the darker, more solid-colored quartzes tend to show scratches and dings much more than lighter colors that have more aggregate or patterning to them.

Cost: $800 to $1,200

Solid Surface 

Like natural stone and quartz, solid surface sinks can be integrated into the countertop for a smooth, streamlined appearance that’s super easy to clean. Again, it’s best to get a sample of the material you are considering and put it to the test to make sure you are OK with its durability, as some solid surfacing shows scratches.

Cost: Solid surface countertops start at around $50 a square foot; there is typically an additional fabrication and installation charge for an integral sink. 

Copper

In the market for something different? Copper sinks are big on charm and also happen to be rust-resistant and antimicrobial, making them a great choice for the kitchen. Just be sure to select a high-quality copper sink that is at least 99 percent pure copper — a small amount of zinc may be added for strength. Avoid harsh chemicals with these beauties and instead clean up with a mild soap and water, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Cost: $500 to $1,200 but can go up depending on gauge and any hand-crafted detailing.

Surface Value

Consumers play it safe and practical when choosing kitchen countertops

If you had to sum up current kitchen countertop trends in a few phrases, you might use the following: durability, generational preferences, clean and simple and ice cream sundaes. When taken together, they reflect prevailing consumer attitudes about kitchen remodels (and perhaps home improvement projects in general). Sure, they’re renovating for themselves but hey, let’s not get too crazy.

Practical Matters

This sentiment may explain why many of the trends may seem familiar and why performance remains a key concern in purchasing decisions, even as aesthetics have assumed more of a leadership role. “The recession had changed people’s attitudes about experimentation,” said Kelly Morisseau, a Walnut Creek, CA-based designer and author of popular industry blog Kitchen Sync. “I see quartz countertops going as strong as ever but less demand for materials like concrete and stainless steel.” In Ambler, PA – David Stimmel – of Stimmel Design Group, still uses concrete countertops in much of his work but agrees engineered stone is king, its popularity no doubt buoyed by its ease of maintenance and durability.

But all is not engineered stone. White marbles, such as Carrara and Calcutta Gold, continue to have their admirers, and thanks to a flood of lower-cost varieties from overseas, granite has not completely gone away, noted Chad Seiders, executive director of Artisan Group. A softer, warmer alternative, solid surfacing has also regained its footing, especially among those with a taste for the sleek, contemporary and even monolithic. “It’s a better-performing material in that you can do more with it,” said Thomas Perich, North American marketing manager for surfaces at DuPont, citing advantages such as a lack of seams and ability to create coved backsplashes, integral sinks and thick edges. “You just have a lot of flexibility.”

Safety in Colors

As to color, the selections are vast and many, yet consumer preferences still tend toward the conservative. “A lot of clients want to go for the bold colors, but in the end, they never really do,” Stimmel said. Most play it safe with earth tones, such as creams and caramels, or what Morisseau calls “ice cream sundae colors.” Summer Kath, senior director of business development and strategic partnership at Cambria USA, also sees interest in grays, browns, black and, of course, white. Not surprisingly, a recent best seller for Cosentino North America, noted Lorenzo Marquez, the company’s VP of marketing, resembles white marble. 

In fact, Martinez said, “We’re finding that homeowners and designers are seeking options that offer the aesthetic of, say, a marble or granite,” a trend borne out by the latest quartz offerings from Consentino and Cambria. Nature-inspired, the designs are rich in veining and dramatic in movement – a look favored by the older Boomer set whose kitchens are more traditional, said Morisseau. The younger, contemporary inclined are apt to choose calmer options with smaller particulate or, if they live in cosmopolitan areas, solids, which are emerging in Europe, said Perich. 

Mixing and Edging

Where self-expression lets loose is in the mixing of materials and colors – although that, too, can depend on geography – and the varying of countertop thickness, which can range from ½ inch to 1½ inch to 3 inches. Most industry experts agree simple edges and mitered corners are in, but some still field requests for ornate, classic treatments. Also being specified are chiseled edges on engineered and natural stone, as well as wood tops with “a naked or bark edge” that appears as if just sliced from a tree, Stimmel said. Perich has also noticed that in Europe and, to a lesser degree, on these shores, contemporary kitchens are moving toward ultra-thin countertops with virtually no edge.

Developments to watch for? Maybe. Much depends on factors beyond the realm of kitchens and baths – politics, economics, culture – and their impact on consumers’ mood. There will always be curiosity and demand for the next big thing, but if the present is any indication, form and function still go hand in hand. 

Bathroom Remodeling Guide: Dos and Don’ts

Seven Upgrades That’ll Make You Happy & Seven You May Regret

An expertly remodeled master bathroom will provide years of pleasure and comfort. But do an amateur job and you’ll be reminded of that fact every day. It’s a tricky space, unfortunately, with lots of moving parts crammed into a tight footprint, not to mention the volumes of water ready to exploit any and all leaks. Setting a budget and planning ahead are two ways to keep your project on track and also take care to choose the best sink, countertop, and toilet for your space. The following list of dos and don’ts will help you master the remodel, whether you do the work yourself or hire it out.

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Project Manager Randy Wilson

Seven Good Ideas

When you’re investing in a home remodeling project, you want to make sure that the results not only please you but add value to your home and save you money on energy and water as well. These seven steps will help you take advantage of the latest design trends, technologies and products.

#1). Budget for the Unexpected

Hidden water damage is a common problem in bathrooms, whether from a leaky shower pan or running toilet. “If the floor feels spongy, that’s a sign of serious water damage,” says John Petrie, owner of Mother Hubbards Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburgh, PA. Other issues are truly hidden, for example a vent stack inside a wall that you thought you were going to knock down. 

An experienced contractor will do exploratory work early in the project to sniff out as many issues as possible. “In the case of the vent stack, we’ll investigate above the bathroom to see the pipe coming up through the house,” says Petrie. But contractors can’t see through walls, so don’t expect them to catch every possible pitfall. That’s why it’s important to build a 10 to 15 percent cushion into your budget. If nothing goes wrong, you’ll have a nice little windfall. 

#2). Hide the Toilet

A master bath that’s stylish and functional can also be discreet. That’s why it’s nice to hide this fixture away, either in its own “room-within-the-room” or behind a half wall. A piece of furniture – an armoire or dresser, say – can create the necessary barrier without the expense of a framed wall.

#3). Do Choose Appropriate Surfaces

Your master bathroom’s surfaces do more than just contribute to the overall aesthetic. They also take lots of abuse. Porcelain tile is a favorite among designers, for use on the floors and walls alike. “You can find some versions in the $5 per square foot range that look like natural stone,” says Petrie. He recommends larger tile sizes to minimize grout lines, easing the upkeep. That might mean 18-by-18-inch tile on the floors and 12-by-12-inch on some or all of the walls, perhaps transitioning to 6-by-6 tiles on the diagonal with a glass mosaic transition strip.

Porcelain is also a popular option for bathroom sinks, though it proved prone to chipping in our tests. Enamel-on steel sinks were especially durable and stain-resistant, as were stainless steel sinks, which are becoming more popular for use in bathrooms. Solid-surface sinks are another durable option that allows the sink to be integrated with the vanity countertop and, if you like, the adjoining cove or backsplash.

When it comes to the countertop, granite and quartz have migrated from the kitchen into the bathroom, where they deliver the same durability and visual interest. Laminate and solid surface are still popular as well, and can be cost-effective options, though both scratch easily.

#4). Splurge on the Shower Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer Clay Bernard

The empire of the Roman tub is officially over. “People started to realize that they could count on one hand how many times they actually used the tub,” says Petrie. “We’re now using that space to create larger showers, often with his and her showerheads, body sprays, and even steam generators.”

To create this sensual experience, you’ll need a shower stall that measures at least 4-by-6-feet, larger than the 3-by-3-feet box that used to be standard. If you can take the stall up to 5-by-7-feet, you may also be able to do away with the door, since the showerhead(s) can be direct in a way that the spray doesn’t reach beyond the shower area (an L-shaped design is helpful). This will eliminate a sizable expense, especially if you were planning on a frameless door, which can be pricey. One caveat: Don’t eliminate the bathtub if there aren’t any other bathrooms in the house with a tub. 

#5). Consider Water Efficiency

Showerheads, toilets, and faucets have all become more water-efficient in recent years, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary WaterSense program, which labels products that are 20 precent more efficient than federal standards. Our tests have found many WaterSense winners, including low-flow showerheads that deliver a satisfying pulse while meeting the flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. “You can even have a rain showerhead these days that’s low-flow,” says Petrie.

As for toilets, several WaterSense-qualified models that use just 1.28 gallons per flush make the recommended list of our latest toilet ratings. That could save you at least 4,000 gallons and some $90 per year in water bills if you’re replacing a toilet that dates from 1995 or earlier. Choosing a faucet with an aerator can reduce the water flow in your bathroom sink by 30 percent or more.

#6). Make Room on the Vanity

Since grooming is the main task at the vanity, it’s important to have plenty of surface area to put things down. While the his-and-her double sink configuration has been popular in the past, it often makes sense to have a single sink and more counter space. “Couples I work with usually realize that the second source of water is less important than the additional countertop,”says Carolyn Cheetham, president of Design Works by Cheetham in Alberta, Canada. Besides maximizing the counter space, opting for a single sink vanity saves you the expense of the second sink and faucet. And eliminating a set of plumbing expands the available space inside the vanity. 

#7). Provide Adequate Ventilation and Light

Moisture not only breeds mold and mildew, it can take a toll on finishes and painted surfaces. A bathroom fan is the best defense. Guidelines from the National Kitchen and Bath Association call for a ducted system that’s at least 50 cubic feet per minute, though you may need twice as much ventilation if the space is larger than 100 square feet or if you plan to install a steam shower. Consider a humidity-sensing unit that will automatically turn on and off depending on the amount of moisture in the air.

As for lighting, the goal is to bring different layers of illumination into the room. A ceiling fixture is suitable for general lighting, but it will cast shadows on your face when you’re seated at the vanity. That’s why you’ll also want sconces or other vertical fixtures mounted on either side of the vanity. Some medicine cabinets are available with vertical lighting strips.

The shower and toilet should also have a dedicated task light, such as a recessed canister light. Consider fixtures that use LED bulbs. Many provided bright, even illumination in our lightbulb tests with the promise of 50,000 hours, though they do cost more. Remember to put the fixtures on dimmer switches so that light levels can be adjusted depending on the mood and task at hand. 

Seven Costly Mistakes

Avoiding these seven common goofs could save you thousands of dollars on the project, especially if you’re planning an upscale remodel. You’re also likely to enhance the comfort, style, and efficiency of the finished project.

#1). Don’t Rush the Process

Now that you’re committed to the idea of a new bathroom, you probably want it done tomorrow. But poor planning is the leading cause of cost overruns on these projects. “Nothing is more expensive than doing things twice,” says Elizabeth Goltz, owner of Design by Orion in Kansas City. Depending on the size and scope of your bath project, you should spend several weeks to a few months on the planning process. If you don’t have a Pinterest account yet, consider one. This website lets you keep a digital ideas file of inspiring images you find on the Internet, say for tile styles, favorite fixtures, and clever designs. 

As you plan the space, try to come up with a design that keeps the major plumbing lines in place. Moving the toilet from one wall to another will mean relocating a 3-inch drain line in a home, which can cost thousands. “If you can keep the toilet, shower, and sink where they are, you’ll save significantly on the project,” says Petrie. 

#2). Don’t Skimp on Skilled Labor

The do-it-yourself approach can be an effective way to trim costs, but it’s best to focus on the front and back ends of the project, say, ripping out the old tub during demolition and handling the finish painting. Leave the more complicated installations to professionals, ensuring they’re highly skilled. “A good tile setter can make a low-cost tile look expensive,” says Goltz. “On the flipside, you could spend a fortune on tile, and a bad tile layer will make it look cheap.”

Given how many trades are required for a typical bathroom remodel – plumbers, electricians, tile setters, cabinet installers, and more – it pays to find a top-notch general contractor to manage operations. Meet with at least three contractors, preferably those you find through word of mouth. Make sure the person you settle on has an up-to-date license and insurance, including workers’ compensation. And scrutinize the contract; it should list every product down to the model number and finish. And don’t automatically go with the lowest bid.

#3). Don’t Cut Corners on Key Materials

Another common mistake is cheaping out on those items that get the most use. Lifetime warranties that cover leaks and stains have become more common on all but the cheapest faucets. PVD (physical vapor deposition) finishes resisted our best attempts at scratching them, but drain cleaners can stain them slightly. Chrome was also pretty durable in our tests, but can be scratched if you rub it with a heavy duty scouring pad.

Tile is another material that you can touch and feel each day. While you can find quality options for $5 per square foot, super cut-rate tiles may have slight size inconsistencies. The results will be crooked lines that make a bathroom look shoddy.

So where can you save? Light fixtures tend to perform the same across most price points – it’s the high design that costs more. You might also find that opting for a basic finish on faucets and fixtures saves you hundreds of dollars without compromising quality. And you definitely don’t need to blow your budget on a luxury toilet, like Kohler’s $6,390 Numi, with its motion-activated lid and built-in bidet. Those are cool features, but toilets costing as little as $300 delivered the best flush in our tests. 

#4). Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

You may be the picture of good health today, but you can’t predict the future. What you can do, however, is ensure that your bathroom will serve you and your loved ones regardless of your abilities by following the basics of Universal Design (i.e. aging in place). “It is absolutely coming onto people’s radar, even younger clients,” says Alan Zielinkski, president of NKBA.

And you don’t have to worry about ending up with an institutional look. Many universal design features are now part of mainstream bathroom design. For example, the larger shower stall that’s in favor today offers easy access and universal use, provided it has a zero-threshold and a built-in seating platform. “The bench is also a nice place for an able-bodied women to sit and shave her legs,” says Cheetham. Regarding toilets, so-called comfort-height models that are easier to get on and off of are now just as common as standard-height models. Even grab bars have enjoyed a design upgrade; many now match towel bars and other accessories. And they’re not just for the elderly. Grab bars make it easier for pregnant women or young children to get in and out of the bathtub.

Even if you don’t incorporate every element of universal design into the bathroom now, it’s worth putting in the structural framework, such as blocking in the walls for future support bars. Make sure your contractor makes a drawing of the wall so that you can find the blocking if, and when, the time comes.

#5). Don’t Forget to Factor in Water Use

Bathroom fixtures have become more water-efficient, especially if you choose WaterSense-qualified models. But the trend toward tricked-out showers, often with his-and-her “shower towers” that might include multiple showerheads and body sprays, will likely result in your water and energy use going up. It also means your bathroom’s existing drain and plumbing lines might require an upgrade. “You may need to resize your water lines from half-inch to three-quarters,” says Petrie, an upgrade that can add hundreds, if not thousands, to your project.

Thirsty fixtures may require you to upgrade your water heater as well, say, from a unit that holds 50 gallons a day to one that holds 80 gallons. That could cost you another $1000 or so – figure on roughly $2000 if you choose one of the energy-efficient hybrid water heaters that Consumer Reports’ test have found to be good long-term investments.

#6). Don’t Buy Products Online Without Seeing Them in Person Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring

Going online is great for researching products and design ideas. But materials and finishes aren’t always as they appear on your computer screen. That blue-gray quartz vanity top might be more blue than gray in real life, or the light fixtures that look understated online could overwhelm your actual space. That’s why we always recommend visiting a showroom or design center before you buy. While you’re there you may even get the showroom to meet or even beat the online price. 

#7). Don’t Forget About Storage

Running from the shower to grab a towel from the hallway linen closet gets old – and cold – fast. A closet inside the bathroom is ideal, though an armoire or even just a simple chest can hangle the essentials. And a medicine cabinet is still the best place for you various health-care and first-aid essentials. 

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring’s Showroom Bathroom Display

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

ConsumerReports.org Buying Guide: Sinks

Getting Started

Most people tend to fall in love with the look of a sink first, and then think about functionality. That’s the opposite of what they should be doing, according to kitchen designers.

Forget Brand Names

Months of testing showed that a kitchen or bathroom sink’s maker isn’t as important as its material. Similar materials performed similarly across brands, so the ConsumerReports.org based their evaluations of sinks entirely on materials.

Count the Holes

Most kitchen and bathroom sinks come with mounting holes drilled for faucets. If you’re buying a new faucet for an existing sink or vice versa, you’ll need to match the hardware to the number and spacing of the holes in the sink. You can install a base plate to cover an extra hole in the sink or countertop, but don’t try to drill additional holes in an existing sink or countertop.

Think About Installation and Repairs

Replacing a faucet and sink together is easier because the faucet can be mounted in the sink or counter before the sink is put in place. Most kitchen and bathroom faucets come with a lifetime warranty that covers leaks and stains. But if you have a problem, the manufacturer will give you just the replacement part, it will be up to you to install it. 

Kitchen Sinks 

You may not cook everyday, but is there ever a day when you don’t use your sink? We subjected more than 20 double-bowl sinks from major manufacturers to a barrage of hot pots, scouring pads, dropped weights, and stain. The results of the ConsumerReports.org sink tests are as follows: 

Stainless: Gauge doesn’t matter

More people buy stainless-steel kitchen sinks than any other type. We tested 18-to-23-gauge sinks; the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. We also listened to the noise made by running water and dropped weights. We found the gauge had little to do with performance and sinks with sound-absorbing pads, placed on the exterior’s bottom and side, were quieter than those with a spray coating. 

Enamel: Colorful and Easy to Clean

These sinks, sold in two versions (enamel on cast iron or lighter, less expensive enamel on steel), are available in many colors and are easy to clean. Our hot-pot test didn’t damage them, but when we dropped a 5-pound weight, similar to dropping a heavy pot, enamel-on-steel sinks chipped or cracked. Enamel on cast iron chipped when we dropped a sharp, light object, similar to a knife, on them. Damaged enamel can cause the metal underneath to rust. Acrylic sinks might look like enamel but they scratch more easily and heat can be damaging. Our hot pot melted the surface. 

Solid Surface: Sleek and Seamless

These sinks can be paired with counters made of the same material for a seamless look. In our tests high heat and dropping a sharp, light object, similar to a knife, damaged solid surfacing.

Count Inches

Double-bowl sinks let you soak a pot in one bowl while you rinse in the other. Just be sure that at least one of the bowls is wide enough to fit large pots or roasters. The easiest way to do this is to take a large pot with you to the store to check size. Sinks that are rectangular shaped are standard, but D-bowls have a curved back and offer more space, front to back. 

Think about Depth

Bowls are usually 6 to 12 inches deep. The deeper ones reduce splashes, but depending on your height, it may be uncomfortable to reach the bottom of a very deep sink. Remember that under-mounted sinks will be up to 1½ inches lower than a drop-in.

Types of Kitchen Sinks

While it may not be as fancy as the appliances or the cabinets, the kitchen sink is the focal point of the kitchen. In this case function is certainly as important as form because you’ll be using the sink all day for everything from hand washing to scouring pots and pans.

Moen Double BowlDouble Bowl

Double-bowl sinks have a partition that separates them into two sections. A rectangular shape is most common, but D-shaped sinks with a curved back are also available. They’re handy because they let you perform two tasks – say, soaking and rinsing – at the same time. But a single bowl may be more practical where space is tight. The narrower sections of a double-bowl sink may not accept large pots or roasters.

BLANCO Apron FrontFarmhouse

Also known as apron front, farmhouse sinks usually have a deep single bowl with the faucet installed in the countertop or wall. This stylish choice can provide a traditional or country-kitchen look, and stainless-steel versions can work well with modern designs. But they’re expensive and require a special cabinet. Water can drip on and damage the cabinet. 

Top Mount Moen Top Mount Double Bowl

Also called drop-in and self-rimming, these sinks are lowered into the counter, with the lip overlapping the countertop. On the plus side, they work with any countertop material and are relatively simple to install, so they’re a good choice for a tight budget. But a top-mount sink can detract from the look of a fancy countertop. Grime can build up around the lip of the sink.


trough sink (kohler).jpg

Trough

These are best for use as prep or bar sinks. They’re narrow and long, from 8 to 14 inches wide and up to 50 inches long. If you don’t mind sharing, the longer versions can be used by more than one person at a time. But trough sinks are expensive and more fun than functional. And because they’re narrow, they may require custom cabinetry.

Under Mount BLANCO Under-mount

Rather than being lowered onto the counter, under-mounted models are raised into place from below. Under-mount sinks provide a sleek look and easier cleanup. Because they sit slightly below the surface of the counter, you can wipe spills and crumbs from the countertop directly into the sink. Also, there’s no lip or crevice to catch dirt. But under-mounted sinks are more expensive to buy and install. The faucet may need to be installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. And because they are up to 1½ inches lower than top-mounts, they may require you to bend slightly more. And they shouldn’t be mounted on a countertop that isn’t waterproof, such as laminate or most woods. 

Bathroom Sinks

Move over, porcelain: Glass and even stainless steel are among the choice of materials that are changing the style and shape of bathroom sinks. 

Vessel sinks, a modern twist on the original bowl and pitcher, sit on top of a counter or cabinet. You’ll find them in glass, stainless steel, and other materials. 

Some of these new materials can cost about the same as standard porcelain, known as vitreous china, and several materials were better at resisting spills, and other mishaps. But most have at least one Achilles’ heel. You can also install the sink beneath the countertop for a sleek look that emphasizes the countertop itself. These under-mount sinks are also easy to clean since there’s no lip to catch debris. 

Glass: Tough Up to a Point

Drain cleaner, nail-polish remover, and other tough staining agents didn’t leave a mark on our tempered-glass sinks. Heat and scouring wasn’t a threat. But these sinks shattered into small shards when we dropped a pointed 2.5-ounce dart from a height of 20 inches.

Pick the Mount

Under-mount sinks make cleanup easier. They sit below the surrounding counter, so there’s no lip or crevices to catch dirt. But they cost slightly more, are harder to install, and usually require a waterproof countertop. So consider your countertop, then the mount.

Don’t Forget the Faucet

Consider the height of a vessel sink when buying a faucet. Make sure that any faucet extends well into the sink to avoid drips onto the counter. Don’t choose a large faucet for a small sink, which can cause splashing. We also suggest faucets with a physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish and a lifetime finish warranty. These finishes mimic copper, nickel, and other materials and have performed well in our faucet tests. 

Types of Bathroom Sinks

Replacing a bathroom sink can be a good way to freshen the room without spending a lot of money. Here are the types of bathroom sinks to consider. 


Kohler Pedestal Sink.jpg

Kohler Pedestal SinkPedestal Sinks

Some homeowners prefer pedestal sinks for smaller bathrooms such as a half bath that may seem crowded if fitted with a vanity. Pedestal sinks come in many styles, from old-fashioned to sleek and modern. But while a pedestal sink may make a small bathroom seem more open, you lose storage space beneath the sink and counter space above. 

Top Mounts Top Mount Sink

Also called drop-in and self rimming, these sinks are lowered into the counter, with the lip overlapping the countertop. On the plus side, they work with any countertop material and are relatively simple to install, so they’re a good choice for a tight budget. But a top-mounted sink can detract from the look of a fancy countertop and grime can build up around the lip of the sink.

Under Mounts

Under Mount Sink

Rather than being lowered onto the counter, under-mounted models are raised into place from below. Faucets are installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. Under-mounted sinks provide a sleek look and easier cleanup. Because they sit slightly below the surface of the counter, you can wipe water from the countertop directly into the sink. Also, there’s no lip or crevice to catch dirt. But under-mounted sinks are more expensive to buy and install. The faucet may need to be installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. Because they’re lower than top-mounts, they may require you to bend slightly more. And they shouldn’t be mounted on a countertop that isn’t waterproof, such as laminate or most woods. 

Vessel Sinks

Vessel Sink

These above-mount models, the latest style option, rest proudly atop the counter. You’ll find them in glass, stainless steel, and other materials. Make sure that the faucet extends well over the sink to avoid drips onto the counter. The style is the big attraction. But vessel sinks may require new faucets and other changes that are likely to add cost. 

Sink Features

What a kitchen or bathroom sink is made of is the main factor that determines how well it stands up to everyday use. Some materials are sturdier than others, but most have some drawbacks. Here are materials to consider:

Enamel Over Cast Iron or Steel


enamel over cast iron sink.jpg

These materials come in many colors are are easy to clean. In our tests of kitchen sinks, neither enameled cast iron nor enameled steel suffered any damage in our hot-pot and scouring tests. But when we dropped a 5-pound weight, similar to dropping a heavy pot, on enameled-steel sinks they chipped or cracked. Enameled cast iron chipped when we dropped a sharp, light object similar to a knife.

Our tests of bathroom sinks found that enameled cast iron wasn’t as good as enameled steel at resisting stains and chipped when small objects were dropped on it. Damaged enamel can allow the metal underneath to rust.


stainless steel sink.jpg

Stainless Steel

This is the most popular material for kitchen sinks and it’s becoming more popular in the bathroom. It tops both our ratings of kitchen and bath sinks. Stainless steel comes in different thickness, or gauges. While thicker metal typically costs more, gauge made little difference in our tests. 

Solid Surfacing

A skillful fabricator can integrate a solid-surface kitchen or bathroom sink with a countertop made of the same material for a sleek, seamless effect. But if either is damaged you’ll have to consider replacing both. Solid surfacing resisted stains but heat was a problem. A hot pot and a hot curling iron marred the sinks. 


Karran Meridian Acrylic Sink.jpg

Acrylic

It may look like enamel, but it scratches more easily, and a hot pot melted the surface and a hot curling iron left a visible mark. 

Glass

Believe it or not, a tempered glass bathroom sink can take a beating. Drain cleaner, nail-polish remover, and other tough staining agents didn’t leave a mark on the glass sinks we tested. But the sinks shattered into small shards when we dropped a pointed 2.5-ounce dart from a height of 20 inches, similar to what could happen if a pair of scissors or nail clippers fell out of your medicine cabinet.

Vitreous China

This is a fancy name for old-fashioned porcelain. Vitreous china is still popular for bathroom sinks, even though some newer materials are tougher without being more expensive. Dropped objects are a particular problem with vitreous china. The surface chipped when we dropped a small, pointed dart on them.

Fireclay

This material offers a choice of colors. It withstood stains, scouring, and heat in both our kitchen and bath sink tests. But resisting chips and cracks from dropped objects was a challenge.

In our kitchen-sink tests, the fireclay cracked severely when we dropped a 5-pound weight on it, similar to dropping a pot. Our tests of bathroom sinks found that pointed darts, weighing only 2.5 ounces, chipped the fireclay.

You can spend as much or as little as you want on a sink. But keep in mind that the more you spend on the sink, the less you’ll have for other parts of your renovation. Match the style of sink to your space, needs, and budget!

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

Bathroom Refresh Q & A

From bland and basic to refreshed and beautiful, it’s probably easier than you think to transform your personal oasis – and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few money-saving tips, as well as a few creative ideas from Carter Oosterhouse.

Pictured: Moen Voss Collection – simple lines & clean tailored structure of Voss work with any decor.

Q: What can I do to make my small bathroom feel larger?

A: Clutter can make a small space feel even smaller. So focus on storage and de-cluttering by paring down on towels and using just one large floor rug. Select one piece of art instead of lots of small pieces. To add the illusion of space, buy a mirror meant to hang on a door (only about $15 at most discount stores) and hang it horizontally over the tub.

Q: What can I do to spruce up my bathroom without totally redoing it?

A: The easiest way to make an instant impact is by replacing the first thing people notice in a bathroom – that old shower curtain. Perk up your bathroom with a matching curtain and rug. Or add a houseplant or flower to the countertop. (Just be sure to pick one that can deal with low light.)

A tip from Carter Oosterhouse: Pay attention to the small stuff. Use knobs, textures and a soap tray to help dictate your style. 

Q: I need a new vanity. How can I get one on a budget?Design Specialist: Clay Bernard

A: Here’s where it pays to get creative. Take an old kitchen island or bedroom dresser and cut a hole to fit the sink. If the top is damaged, you can cover it with broken mosaic tiles. You can also update the countertop.

A top from Carter Oosterhouse: When you’re looking to install a new countertop, remember there’s more than granite and marble out there. Take a look at concrete or butcher block. 

Q: Do you have any creative storage ideas?

A: Repurpose a couple vintage mason jars and hang them on the wall to store odds and ends like Q-tips, make-up sponges and cotton balls. Adding a shelf above the door is a great way to make use of space for things you don’t need everyday like extra toilet paper, hand soap and towels. Or use a double towel bar or longer towel bar (24″ or more) or robe hooks to keep things neat and orderly. 

Q: How can I bring that luxury hotel feel into my bathroom?Moen Twist™

A: If you’re dreaming about that beautiful hotel you recently stayed in, try bringing some of that luxury home with a space-creating curved shower rod, or add an upscale touch with a decorative hotel shelf. You can also capture the experience with the new Moen Twist™shower head. It has four different spray settings that can be changed with the flick of your wrist, and features a Spot-Resist® finish that prevents fingerprints and water spots.

Q: How important is the right lighting?

A: The right lighting can make a small bathroom look bigger or a spacious one cozier. To prevent shadowing on your face, be sure to center the lighting over the mirror. If you have two sinks, center one light over each.