Shopping for a New Kitchen Sink? The Right Materials and Features Matter

new kitchen sink, range hood fan

Kitchen sinks usually aren’t given much thought, but one that fits your needs as well as the overall style of your space is essential to a harmonious, well-functioning kitchen. If you are undertaking a kitchen remodeling project, giving careful thought to what you want from your new kitchen sink would be wise.

Among the factors you will want to consider are budget, sink material, installation type, faucet features, and disposers. The right combination of choices will depend on your individual situation and how you envision using the sink. (Depending on the normal level of traffic in your kitchen, it might make sense to also add a pantry or bar sink in other areas of the kitchen to prevent long lines from forming at the main sink.)

Wondering what the dimensions of your new kitchen sink should be? In general, a deeper sink is preferable to a shallow one. Determine the maximum cut-out size permitted by the cabinets and countertop where the sink is to be installed, and then get the deepest bowl possible.

When it comes to how your sink is set within your countertop, most people aren’t aware that lots of sinks are offered in several bowl configurations and
installation alternatives. Among the options are under-counter, self-rimming or drop-in, apron-front and tile-edge sinks (flush with tile countertops and sealed in with grout), just to name a few. You can also add more functionality to the prep zone with custom accessories like integral drainboards.

The factor that will have the biggest impact on the look of your new kitchen sink, as well as how you care for and clean it, is the material you choose. Here is a look at some of the main options:

  • Stainless steel. The most common material for kitchen sinks is stainless steel, which comes in a range of thicknesses or gauges. Lower is better here, and 18-gauge stainless is an optimal thickness in that it provides strength and rigidity for large bowls while allowing tight-radius corners that maximize the flat work area in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Cast iron. Durable and dependable, cast iron sinks are heavy-duty structures which sometimes require extra cabinet support. Cast iron sinks are available in a wide variety of colors and are typically porcelain-coated.
  • Fine fire clay is a ceramic fired at a lower temperature than the ceramics used for tiles and toilets.  The technique permits sharper design details and more angular profiles than possible with vitreous china or cast iron. All surfaces exposed to water are coated with a colored ceramic glaze that is fused to the sink body when fired.
  • Solid-surface or “integral” sinks are created using the same material as countertops for a sleek, seamless, one-piece appearance where spills can be wiped right into the sink.  Solid-surface sinks are stain-, chip- and crack-resistant, and the non-porous surface makes it impossible for mold or bacteria to take up residence and grow.

Another central consideration when planning a kitchen sink upgrade is obviously the faucet – without it, your sink would just be a basin! And just as it’s better for the basin to be deep, it’s preferable for the faucet to be high in order to accommodate large pots and pans. Convenient integrated sprayers are also the norm, allowing you to control water patterns and even put the spray on pause with the touch of a button.

What’s more, you can select a faucet equipped with a water filtration system to instantly reduce exposure to harmful bacteria, metals and chemicals while minimizing odors and improving the taste of the water. However, the caveat about filtration systems is that you must commit to changing the filter regularly or have a system smart enough to alert you to do so. Otherwise, you’ll be creating a rave for bacteria.

How much money should you drop on a faucet? Like with so many other things, “you get what you pay for” applies here, too. There’s a big difference between a $79 faucet purchased at the local home center and a professional-style, drip-free model that makes food prep and cleanup much easier. Yes, part of that difference is the price, but consider the fact that the faucet is the most prominent feature on your countertop besides the countertop itself. And since it’s such a focal point, it’s better to go with a brushed finish, which will hide unsightly smudgy fingerprints better than a polished one.

Finally, you should decide whether you want your sink to perform double duties by incorporating disposer functionality. Today’s high-tech food waste disposers have the smarts to amp up the power to pulverize tough food waste, handle higher volumes, and do their job much more quietly than their predecessors did. Their virtual liquefying of waste is also safer for and easier on your septic or sewage system.

The humble kitchen sink is one of those home features that is taken for granted when it works well, blending seamlessly into your cooking and cleanup routines. But that doesn’t just happen on its own. By thinking through what you need from your new kitchen sink, you’ll ensure that this part of your kitchen renovation will be a success.

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