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Kitchen Sink Buying Guide

If the heart of your home is your kitchen, then what is the heart of your kitchen? You kitchen sink of course! Choosing the heart of your kitchen should be done with planning and a lot of thought. If you choose too quickly, you may regret it later.

Before you spend hours browsing through hundreds of kitchen sinks to find that perfect one, ask yourself some questions first:

How will my family use our new kitchen sink?

  1. Will we use it to wash dishes? How often?
  2. Will we use it to soak dirty dishes?
  3. Will we use it to wash large cutting boards and pans like cookie sheets and roaster pans that don’t fit in the dishwasher?
  4. Will we use it to rinse fruits and vegetables?
  5. Will we use a garbage disposal with our sink?
  6. Will we use it to bathe our babies?
  7. Will we use it to bathe our dogs (or other pets)?
  8. How else might we use it?

Now that you’ve got a good idea about how your family will use your new kitchen sink, you can start narrowing down the selection.

What size kitchen sink will we need?

When choosing the size of your new kitchen sink, two schools of thought come into play. You can think about practicality: do we really need a sink that big? Or you can throw practicality out the window and make a big bold statement in your kitchen with a large, attention grabbing sink.

Most people want something that fits both schools of thought. They don’t want to go totally overboard, but still want their kitchen to look amazing.

Are you thinking about resale value? It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of home buyers are attracted to a beautiful kitchen with a large kitchen sink. In saying that, a larger sink is typically priced higher than a smaller sink.

First, decide if you want a small, medium, or large sink; then narrow it down to the exact width. If it’s hard for you to imagine the width, get a yard stick or tape measure and measure your existing sink and decide if you like the size or want something bigger or smaller. Of course, you’ll need to also plan this with your kitchen designer.

The most common and popular widths are 24”, 30”, 33”, and 36”. Sinks are available in other widths as well, but keep in mind that you will have a larger selection of sinks to choose from if you go with a common width. The common widths are going to be easier to have installed as well.

Do we want a single bowl or double bowl kitchen sink?

Think back to the first question: how will my family use our new kitchen sink? If the only dishes you’ll be washing in it are the large cutting boards and pans that don’t fit in the dishwasher or a double basin sink, you may opt for a single basin. If you do wash dishes every so often and you’re used to the double basin but like the look of the large single basin, you can always buy a tub to soak or rinse dishes in and set it in the sink or on the counter.

Many sinks have matching colanders that sit on the top of the sink so you can rinse fruits and veggies while you are using the rest of the sink for another purpose.

If you wish to use a garbage disposal while you are rinsing dishes or using the sink for something else, then a double basin sink might be the only choice for you.

If you want to be able to give your babies and pets baths in the sink, then a single basin sink might be a good choice.

If you just can’t imagine life without a double basin sink, then install a double basin sink. But if you also want the benefits of having a single basin, explore how using things like colanders that sit on top of the sink and tubs for soaking can help you accomplish all the tasks you used to use your double basin for.

How much time am I willing to spend on maintenance?

Kitchen sinks come in different materials with varying degrees of maintenance required to keep them looking beautiful. So, how much time are you realistically willing to spend to keep it looking great? Are you willing to wipe it dry after every use? Are you willing to apply a sealant every few months? Once a year? Do you want no maintenance whatsoever?

Maybe it depends… for the right sink, you might be willing to do a little extra maintenance. Think about how much effort you are willing to put into your sink before moving on to the next step.

What material should I choose for my new kitchen sink?

fireclay kitchen sinks

Fireclay: These sinks are made from kiln-fired clay. First, the sinks are shaped and formed and set out to dry. Once the sinks are dried, a porcelain enamel is applied. Then, the sinks are placed in a kiln and are super-heated to about 2000 degrees for around 20 hours. The enamel fuses with the clay becoming extremely durable fireclay.

Cleaning: Clean your fireclay sink with mild soap and warm water or a gentle general purpose cleaner. Wipe the entire surface dry with a clean, soft cloth. Do not use abrasive cleaners, solvents or metallic wire sponges. To avoid potential stains or damage to the finish, avoid soaking dishes for abnormally long periods of time and refrain from leaving coffee grounds or tea bags in the sink. The use of a protective grid in the bottom of the sink is recommended to avoid scuffing from heavy-duty cookware. If scuffing does occur, it can be easily buffed out with Gel Gloss and a clean, soft, dry cloth. 

Pros: Easy to clean, can withstand heavy use, and won’t scratch, chip, fade, or rust. Non-porous finish.

Cons: Fireclay is harder than most of your dishes, so accidentally dropping them in the sink can chip them, but usually not the sink. Fireclay is an organic material, therefore the dimensions aren’t exact – they can vary by an 1/8 of an inch. It’s best to wait until you have the sink on-site before making any permanent cuts or changes to your cabinetry.

stainless steel kitchen sinks

Stainless Steel: These sinks are the most popular choice for kitchens. Look for a sink with at least an 18-gauge rating or lower. The gauge refers to the thickness of the steel. Ironically, the lower the number, the thicker the steel. The thicker the steel, the less likely it is to dent and vibrate during use.

Cleaning: Rinse your stainless steel sink with hot water after every use to prevent the residue from soaps and cleaners from building up in your sink. To prevent water spots, wipe dry with a clean paper towel or cloth after every use. Every so often (once a week or so) clean and polish your sink using a soft abrasive cleaner such as Bar Keeper’s Friend. You can also go natural and use club soda or baking soda and vinegar.

Pros: Resistant to stains, rust, chipping, cracking, and peeling. Hot pans won’t hurt stainless steel. Provides a consistent match to your stainless steel appliances.

Cons: Prone to scratching and water spotting. Can be noisy if silverware and dishes are dropped into it.

cast iron kitchen sinks

Cast Iron: Cast iron is made up of two layers. The foundation is a heavy and durable shaped iron. It is then coated with a thick porcelain enamel to form the top layer. Then the sink is fired at a very high temperature to give it a smooth and glossy finish.

Cleaning: Do not use strong or abrasive cleaners, which can wear away the enamel coating and ruin the sink. Rinse and wipe dry after each use with a soft cloth or paper towel to prevent water spots.

Pros: Won’t crack or dent. Cast iron sinks have a non-porous surface, which won’t stain as long as it is maintained and cleaned properly. Comes in various colors.

Cons: Prone to chipping and scratching if not careful. Chips will reveal the dark iron underneath and open it up to rust. Cast iron is an organic material, therefore the dimensions aren’t exact – they can vary by an 1/8 of an inch. It’s best to wait until you have the sink on-site before making any permanent cuts or changes to your cabinetry. Heavy pans can sometimes leave marks on lighter color sinks.

copper kitchen sinks

Copper: 99% pure copper is naturally anti-bacterial and stain resistant, making it a fantastic kitchen sink choice for a busy family. The finish is what is considered a “living finish”. It will start out looking kind of like a brand new penny – kind of pink and shiny. After several days or weeks of use, it will start to darken (this is natural and expected). It will patina over time into a rich and beautiful antique finish.

Cleaning: No waxing, painting, lacquering, varnishing or other coating required – doing so will combat the natural antimicrobial properties of the copper. (If a manufacturer recommends any type of coating, the sink is not 99% pure copper) However, if you aren’t concerned with the antimicrobial properties and wish to clean the sink regularly, then you can certainly apply a wax to keep the patina more even. Clean the sink on a routine basis with regular cleaning agents to remove dirt and filth. Do not use vinegar, as it is highly acidic.

Pros: Antimicrobial and won’t rust. Light scratches will change over time and blend in with the rest of the sink’s coloring.

Cons: Harsh chemicals and acidic fruits like tomatoes, lemons, and oranges can lighten the patina of the surface. Over time, those spots will start to blend in, but it’s best to rinse out the sink thoroughly to avoid light spots. Avoid leaving pans and utensils in the sink for long periods of time, as they will darken the patina in spots. Copper sinks are often hand-hammered out of an organic material, therefore the dimensions aren’t exact – they can vary by an 1/8 of an inch. It’s best to wait until you have the sink on-site before making any permanent cuts or changes to your cabinetry or countertops.

stone kitchen sinks

Stone: No two stone sinks are alike. Each one is made from natural stone and has its own unique veins, swirls and colors. They can be made from a variety of stone types including granite, limestone, marble, and travertine. Stone sinks are either carved out of a solid piece or made by joining individual stone slabs together.

Cleaning: Rinse your sink after every use. Every so often, clean it with a mild soap and dry it with a soft cloth or paper towel. Apply a sealant as needed – typically every one to two years depending on how much you use it. Find a sealant specially made for your type of stone. Do not use abrasive or acidic cleaners as it will damage your sink – so no vinegar or citrus based cleaners. If you have hard water, it’s best to keep your sink sealed and wipe it dry after every use.

Pros: Extremely durable

Cons: By far the heaviest sinks out there, they require substantial support. Require re-sealing every year or two depending on how much use it gets.

 Which Installation Type Do I Want?

Once you’ve decided which material is right for your new kitchen sink, it’s time to decide which installation style you prefer. Your two main options are under-mount or top-mount. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Under-Mount: The countertop overlaps the top edges of the sink so they are hidden.

Pros: It’s easy to clean your countertop; just wipe right over the edge and into the sink.

Cons: Requires an extra under-mount installation kit.

Top-Mount: The top edges of the sink sit above the countertop.

Pros: The countertop cutout doesn’t have to be perfect because the sink will cover it up. (Except with a farmhouse sink, as you will still be able to see the edges of the countertop)

Cons: It takes a little extra cleaning around the joints between your sink and countertop.

Only you can know which kitchen sink is right for you and your family, but thinking about the questions above can help guide you to the right decision.

Your kitchen sink is one of the few things in your kitchen that isn’t easily swapped out for a better model. Choose carefully and get the perfect one for you and your family.