Sink In Kitchen Island – Pros, Cons & Everything You Need To Know
Should I have the sink, hob or nothing in the kitchen island? – This is one of the questions I get asked the most as a kitchen designer. Seriously, I feel like I have this conversation with every client. (At least the ones who have kitchen island designs)
And, with a lot of things kitchen design, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s completely personal and depends on your style preference and the way you want to cook and use your kitchen.
And, again, with everything kitchen design, there are always pros and cons to every choice.
So, this post is focusing on having a sink in a kitchen island. The pros, cons and everything you need to know and think about. So you’ll know if it’s the right choice for you and your kitchen design.
Let’s get into it!
Why Would You Want To Have The Sink In A Kitchen Island?
Having the sink in your kitchen island is a common choice in many kitchen island layouts. And this could be for several reasons.
Having the sink in the kitchen island can help to create the perfect working triangle or kitchen zone.
You may have come across these terms before and you can read more about them in my Best Kitchen Layouts post but basically, it’s all about optimising the functionality of your kitchen layout.
The working triangle is tieing together your sink, hob and fridge. Having them all within an easy pivot and step or two of each other, rather than in a long line or on other sides of the kitchen to one another. Having the sink in the kitchen island behind your hob is a great way to achieve this working triangle, which makes day to day use of the kitchen much more optimised and functional.
When You Don’t Have A Window In The Kitchen
Quite often kitchens are positioned in the centre of our homes and that can mean that there aren’t any external windows on the walls being used for kitchen cabinets. Windows provide a natural break and an ideal location for a kitchen sink as it means there is nothing overhead in the way when your washing up, and (sometimes) there’s a nice view to look out on while you’re stood doing the dishes.
However, when there is no window, having the sink in the kitchen island can still achieve those goals. There’s nothing overhead to get in the way, and you can look out into the room for a more social and pleasant washing-up experience.
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When You Don’t Have Enough Countertop Space Against The Wall
Probably the most popular kitchen island layout I come across is a straight single wall of cabinets with the island in front of them. You could also describe it as an open galley kitchen.
The mistake I see people make here is that they try to fit everything on that single run of cabinets against the wall in an attempt to keep the island clear. However, unless you have a very long run of worktop on the wall this will most likely lead to a poor layout.
Fitting a hob (or range cooker) as well as a sink on the same run requires a good amount of space. They will need to be set in from the ends of the run, for safety or regulations (you shouldn’t have a hob up against a tall cabinet, especially if it’s gas). And they will need separation from each other, again for safety but also to provide you with some useable countertop space for prep or for small appliances to live, such as your toaster, kettle and blender.
So when you don’t have enough space for both, moving the sink to the kitchen island makes a lot of sense from a layout point of view. It creates the separation needed and gives you lots of nice larger open areas of countertop space so nothing feels cramped. The alternative would be to place the hob on the island but this comes with its own set of cons, most notably what you do about an island cooker hood.
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Lastly, but by no means least. Having the sink in the island can really help with the aesthetics of your kitchen design.
A classic design principle (and one I can get a little obsessed with) is the idea of symmetry. While perfect symmetry might not be achievable in every kitchen, paying attention to the overall balance of your kitchen design is very important.
Going back to my very popular single run and island layout example. Having the sink in the island separate from the hob means that there is only one item in either of the worktops. This means that you can centre the hob in the run of cabinets against the wall and build out from either side of it to create a beautifully symmetrical design. With the hob (or range cooker) as a key focal point to the kitchen.
Similarly, with the sink in the island, this can be centred and the island can be built around it to create symmetry and balance.
Having both the sink and hob on the same run (or island) can feel cluttered and unbalanced sometimes, losing that focal point and wow factor to a kitchen.
Check out my video on the topic:
Things To Consider When Having The Sink In A Kitchen Island
Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons why you might want the sink in a kitchen island, there are a few practical things to consider.
If you decide to have the sink in the island keep in mind that you will need to get a water feed and waste pipe in place. This means chopping up the floor and plumbing these bits early in the renovation process.
Depending on your circumstances, this could be a bigger job then you anticipate. Speak with your builder sooner rather than later about how feasible this will be.
However, if you’re having a full kitchen renovation and you want to change the layout of your kitchen, now is the time to do it!
Be aware that sometimes the sink area can become a bit of a dumping ground for dirty cups and plates. We all do it (maybe not Marie Kondo).
Having the sink in the island may turn your wonderful kitchen island into a bit of a mess magnet. Which can really dull that wow factor a kitchen island can provide.
So, be honest with yourself. If you know you’re going to struggle to keep the sink area free from clutter and you really want that kitchen island wow factor, then maybe the sink in the island isn’t the best option for you.
If you’re having the sink in the island keep an eye on the layout and functionality of the kitchen island, especially around your sink.
I highly recommend placing the dishwasher next to the sink, in the island. That way you won’t be dripping water everywhere when you’re loading the dishwasher after giving the plates a quick rinse.
Similarly, I recommend placing the bin next to the sink and dishwasher so you can scrape plates easily and avoid dripping gravy everywhere before placing them in the dishwasher or washing them up in the sink.
Also, make sure your island has enough space for the type of sink you want, a drainage area and space on either side of these so things don’t drop off the edge of the worktop.
The same goes for the walkway space between the island and cabinet run along the wall. You want at least 1m of walkway space between them. A little more is great, but certainly not very much less. Also, too much can be a bad thing. Anything over 1.5m can feel like wasted space and add that extra step every time you turn around. You can read more about this in my guide to Kitchen Island Sizes.
Sink And Tap
Considering the type of sink and tap you install in your island can have a big impact on the overall design and feel of your kitchen.
A Belfast (or Butler) sink can be a great feature and focal point to your island. However, because of that they aren’t very discreet and don’t give a modern flush finish.
An undermount sink will be far more discreet and contemporary. However, you will need to have a solid worktop such as quartz, granite or timber to install one.
A lay-on sink, especially one with a built-in drainage section, can be quite the design eye-sore on an island. Spoiling the clean look of an island worktop.
Similarly, the type of tap plays an important role. Because it’s the only thing sticking up from the island, your eye will naturally be drawn to it. Having a tall pull-out spray tap will likely distract from the rest of the kitchen.
Opting for something a little more compact or stylish can really help keep things discreet or add a nice intentional focal feature to the island.
There’s no real right or wrong here, it’s more of a personal choice, but being aware is important.
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Advantages Of Having A Sink In A Kitchen Island
- Creates a great ‘working triangle’ and can provide a more functional layout
- More sociable and provides a nicer view when doing the dishes (especially if you don’t have a window)
- Can help to achieve a more symmetrical and overall aesthetically pleasing layout
- Helps to create larger more practical sections of open worktop space – Ideal for prep or small kitchen appliances
- Don’t need to worry about kitchen island extraction – Freedom to place pendant lights overhead.
Disadvantages Of Having A Sink In A Kitchen Island
- Need to get plumbing into the centre of the room – can be difficult/costly
- The sink tends to be a ‘mess magnet’ – spoils the wow factor of a kitchen island
- The type of sink and tap may distract from the aesthetics of the kitchen island
- Requires a larger island size to fit a sink and still be practical – Not practical for small islands
How Big Should A Kitchen Island Be With A Sink?
Ideally, around 1.8m wide. This will allow for a 60cm dishwasher, 60cm sink cabinet and a 60cm storage cabinet (I’d recommend a bin cabinet if you don’t have one under your sink). Three 600mm cabinets making up the 1.8m. Nice and symmetrical.
This gives enough worktop space on either side of the sink for dirty dishes to stack up one side and clean dishes to drain and dry the other. Anything much smaller won’t give you adequate space on either side of your sink. Things will feel very cluttered and dishes can easily get knocked off the worktop.
I’d also recommend that the island is deeper than a single 600mm cabinet depth. Ideally at least 900mm deep. This gives some space behind the sink for any splashes to land on the worktop rather than the floor.
Saying all of this, these are ideal minimum dimensions. If you have more room, great, expand these sizes to suit. However, if you don’t have room for an island this size, you still might be able to make it work for you. Just think carefully about what is going into the island and how you intend to use it. And remember, sometimes it’s just not meant to be.
A poorly designed island will drive you mad!
There you have it! The pros, cons and everything you need to know to decide whether having the sink in a kitchen island is the right choice for you.
Everybody’s kitchen is slightly different, and the way we use them and our workflow within them are also unique to us. While there are definitely good design principles to try and follow, ultimately the right layout is the one that works best for you.
So, are you team sink, hob or nothing at all?
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 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.