Kitchen Sink Ultimate Guide: Everything You Need To Know
When you’re getting a new kitchen, the kitchen sink is probably last on your list. It’s certainly not the most glamorous item you’ll be buying. However, it plays such an important role in the overall look, feel and function of your new kitchen.
Taking the time to learn about all the different options for your new kitchen sink is a worthwhile endeavour. It means you can pick the best one for your style, budget and needs.
In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know to make the right choice. I’ll cover the different styles of sinks available, the sizes/configurations they come in and the types of materials they are made from.
So after reading through, you’ll know exactly what style of sink you like, in the size perfect for your kitchen, in the material that best suits your needs.
The Different Styles Of Kitchen Sink
When it comes to picking a kitchen sink, there are a few styles to choose from. In kitchens, the style of sink is often dependent on the installation method. For instance, an undermount sink is a style of sink, but it’s also how it is installed. So when you think of style, think of installation as much as you think of the look.
The type of worktop that you have will dictate whether or not certain sink styles are possible to install in your kitchen.
Here are the four most common types of kitchen sink:
Undermount sinks are a common and functional option. For these sinks, the edge (or lip) is installed underneath the worktop to create a cut-in look.
These sinks work with any solid surface worktop; that is, a worktop that has the same material running all the way through it. These include quartz, granite, Corian or timber.
However, undermount sinks won’t work with standard laminate worktops. Laminate worktops are only laminate on top and are often made of chipboard or other porous materials underneath this layer. The hole made for the undermount sink would expose this material and risk water getting into the worktop.
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Another popular option, inset sinks, sometimes called sit on, top-mounted or drop-on sinks, sit on top of your worktop. This creates a little lip that goes over your worktop, rather than a smooth dip into your sink (as with undermount styles).
Easy to install and typically cheaper to buy, inset sinks will work with any type of worktop you choose. Perfect if you’re on a budget!
The sleek, modern design of a flush-mounted sink falls somewhere in between inset and undermount styles. A flush-mounted sink, as you may expect, sits flush on the worktop. The worktop needs to be routed out so that the lip of the sink sits within the worktop to create that flush finish.
As with undermount sinks, you will need to have a solid worktop to install a flush-mounted sink. So, unfortunately, standard laminate worktops aren’t suitable.
Belfast Sink – (Butler / Apron / Farmhouse)
A Belfast sink (sometimes called a Butler, Apron or Farmhouse) is a more traditional style of sink that sits on top of a base cabinet rather than in or on the worktop. The front edge of the sink usually sits out a little from the base cabinet doors, leaving the front edge exposed, and the worktop overhangs the sink on the back and sides.
Historically, there were some small differences between a Belfast and a Butler sink. Belfast sinks were fitted with an overflow, while Butler sinks didn’t have this feature as a way of encouraging saving and reusing water. However, these days they are practically the same thing and both usually come with overflows.
The Different Sizes and Configurations of Kitchen Sinks
Now that you know the different styles or installation methods of kitchen sinks, it’s time to look at the different sizes and configurations that are available.
Top Tip: The size of your sink doesn’t just depend on, or impact, worktop space. Bigger sinks require wider cabinets underneath them, which can limit your choice of design. If you want a bigger sink, you may need to redesign your layout to give you a bigger sink cabinet. So make sure to check the width of your sink cabinet before falling in love with a style of sink.
A single bowl sink is nice and simple, and probably the most popular choice with clients these days.
A good size single bowl sink is ideal for washing bigger pans and trays while not taking up too much worktop or cabinet space in your kitchen.
A 1.5 bowl sink is a great option for those who like to rinse off as they wash up. It’s also great if you want to add a waste disposal unit separate from the main bowl.
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Double bowl sinks are ideal for busy households that have lots of washing up to do and need space to prep or rinse at the same time. In reality, what often happens with these types of sinks is that one bowl is the dumping ground to hide dirty crockery and the other bowl is left empty for washing up.
Think about your needs and what suits your family best!
Round sinks have become far less popular these days as they are typically a bit smaller. This makes them a bit tricky for washing larger pots and trays (the chance of creating a waterfall down the front of your cabinet is high!).
However, if you’re looking for a compact retro feel, then a round sink could be perfect for you.
Corner sinks can be helpful if you are tight on space and can’t fit a sink on a straight run of cabinets. They’re not that common, but they can be handy in a pinch.
A prep sink is a small secondary sink, usually on a kitchen island. It’s not used as your main sink, but rather as a quick access sink to wash fruit and veg or fill pans with water.
They are great if you have a large kitchen and do your main prep work away from your main sink area. Also handy if you’re washing up halfway through a meal but still need to clean those carrots!
This is slightly off-topic as a champagne sink isn’t exactly a sink, as you don’t normally have a tap with it. A champagne sink (or trough) comes in different shapes and sizes and is filled with ice to keep drinks (not just champagne) cool.
It is by no means an essential item (although some may argue otherwise!), but it is a little luxury that really adds some extravagance to your kitchen. A champagne sink is perfect if you love to host parties, too!
Sink Draining Sections
Inset and flush-mounted sinks often come with an option to have a draining section as part of the sink. On many sinks, this section is reversible (left or right side). However, on some designs, this is fixed to a particular side. It’s always best to double-check this before buying.
Undermount and Belfast sinks don’t have drainer sections built into them. In these cases, it’s common to have drainer grooves or a recessed drainer cut into the worktop itself next to the sink.
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The Different Materials Kitchen Sinks Are Made From
Now that you know all about the style and size of kitchen sinks available, it’s time to look at the different materials they are made from.
For many of us, stainless steel is the material we think of when we think of a kitchen sink. That’s to be expected, as this is still the most popular material for sinks in the UK. And for good reason – stainless steel is low maintenance, easy to care for and has a classic look. As long as you take care of it, your stainless steel kitchen sink should last for a long time.
If you’re looking for that staying power, however, make sure to invest in your sink. A budget stainless steel sink can dent, scratch, and be noisy when water hits it. Thicker stainless steel is a much better buy.
Check the gauge (thickness) of your stainless steel sink before you buy. The lower the number the thicker the steel is.
If you’re building a traditional or shaker-style kitchen, you’ll want to go for a ceramic kitchen sink. These sinks are durable, stylish, low-maintenance, heat-resistant and long-lasting. That’s quite a list of accolades!
As with stainless steel, make sure you and take care of your new ceramic sink. It’s rare but they can crack if you drop something very heavy on them. However, you’re more likely to smash any items you drop in the sink (glasses, mugs etc..) as ceramic sinks can be a little less forgiving than stainless steel.
Composite – (Silgranit / Fragranite / Quartz / Corian)
Pink, green, black, cream – no matter the colour you’re looking for, you’ll find a composite sink to suit your style! That’s just one of the benefits of this trendy material.
There are lots of styles and options for composite sinks, including scratch-resistant and environmentally-friendly choices. Definitely, one to add to your list, if you’re not sure what you’re looking for!
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Although copper sinks are far from as common as the materials mentioned above, it is a trend and material I’m seeing more and more.
There are two types of copper sinks: a brushed finish (pictured above) and a solid copper sink. A brushed finish has a copper layer brushed on the surface of a stainless steel sink. A solid copper sink, on the other hand, is real copper, often hammered into shape from a single metal sheet.
Solid copper sinks have what’s sometimes referred to as a ‘living finish’. This means that over time the sink can corrode and, if untreated, lose its finish and take on a patina. A bit like an old penny.
This patina effect and the natural wearing of copper is part of the charm in choosing a ‘living finish’ sink. So if you don’t like the idea of this and want a sink that will stay shiny and new for as long as possible, then maybe a solid copper sink isn’t the right choice.
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There you have it – and without a single ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ pun in sight!
In this post, I’ve covered the different styles of sinks available, the different sizes/configurations they come in and the different types of materials they are made from.
The kitchen sink might not be the most glamorous part of your kitchen, but that doesn’t mean it should be an afterthought. From corner to copper, single bowl to ceramic, there’s a style out there perfect for adding that je ne sais quoi to your new kitchen.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.