Which Type of Bathroom Sink Is Right For Your Home?
By Tim Koehler
Every bathroom needs a sink, but is a stand-alone sink or a vanity the best choice? Seems like a simple question until you look closer. Each type of sink has specific features. Understanding the pros and cons of each will help you chose a bathroom sink that will suit your needs.
Wall-hung sinks come in various sizes and configurations.
With corner sinks starting at just 12” x 12”,wall-hung sinks work well in tight spaces.
The sink can be installed at any height, so it can be adapted for a wheel chair, a small child, or a tall adult. Wall-hung sinks that are wide and deep are better suited for wheel chair accessibility.
Pedestal sinks, like wall hung sinks, require little room. Corner units start at just 17” x 17”.
Pedestal sinks come in two parts, a bowl and a base. The bowl and base may come packaged together as one unit, or some manufacturers offer interchangeable bowls and bases. Designs range from sleek and modern to ornate traditional.
A pedestal sink can set the design tone for the bathroom. The drawback is that pedestal sinks offer very little if any counter top space. A small shelf installed above the sink could provide space for toiletries.
If you change the type of sink you currently have, the rough plumbing may need to be relocated. Stand-alone sinks and pedestal sinks leave the plumbing exposed, so the plumbing should be positioned correctly and the plumbing work should be neat. You may opt to buy more expensive valves and a trap with a nice finish to dress up the exposed plumbing or you can hide them with plastic covers, but the plastic looks institutional.
Vanity tops, which sit on a vanity cabinet, allow for countertop space. Vanity cabinets offer storage and style. The cabinet is a great place to store cleaning products and various supplies.
Cabinets are manufactured in just about any style and finish imaginable. A unique vanity cabinet can make a statement and be the focal point of the bathroom.
Vanity tops come in a wide variety of materials, patterns, and finishes. The most popular tops are cultured (man-made) marble, solid surface (acrylic-think Corian), granite, and quartz (man-made stone composite). All are durable and each has pluses and minuses. Competition has forced manufacturers and fabricators to price aggressively; therefore solid surface, granite, and quartz are priced similarly.
Cultured Marble – Pros: Inexpensive, easy to clean, non-porous, and includes an integral bowl. Cons: Scratches easily and tends to yellow over time.
Solid Surface – Pros: Large color and pattern selection, durable. Solid Surface can be fabricated for an integral bowl, drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: the surface finish is matte and although non-porous, cleaning is more difficult. The material scratches, but can be buffed out easily.
Granite – Pros: Granite patterns are unique because they are a natural material designed by Mother Nature. Some patterns are consistent and some are bold. Few light colors are available. Granite is easy to clean, but should be sealed. Some fabricators offer a professional sealer that lasts for years. Granite can be fabricated for a drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: The surface is porous, can have pits, and will absorb some liquids potentially causing stains.
Quartz – Pros: Made from crushed quartz and resin, the surface is non-porous, hard to scratch, doesn’t need to be sealed, and comes in a variety of beautiful finishes, which being man-made, are more consistent than most granites. Quartz can be fabricated for a drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: None
Types of Sink Bowls:
An Integral Bowl – is a bowl made from the same material as the vanity top. These bowls are found in cultured marble and solid surface tops. An integral bowl creates a seamless appearance and is easy to clean.
A Drop-in Sink – is installed just the way it sounds; it is dropped into a cutout in a counter top. The sink has a lip or rim that rests on the counter top. A sealant is used between the sink rim and the counter top to prevent water from leaking under the sink. The drop-in is the least popular sink because of the rim, which makes cleaning more difficult and uses up counter top space.
- An Under-mount Sink – is installed under the counter top. This installation method requires a finished sink cutout. Brackets and a sealant are used to hold the sink to the bottom of the counter top resulting in a very clean look without a sink rim. Cleaning your vanity top is easy without a sink lip to catch the grime- just wipe the mess straight into the sink. Installing an under-mount sink is tricky, so the vanity top fabricator usually does the installation.
Vessel Sinks – have gained popularity in the past 10 years probably because they look unusual. You’ll find vessel sinks made from glass, porcelain, metal, clay, stone, and wood. Some are a handcrafted one-of-a-kind while others are mass-produced. The bowl sits on the countertop (using up countertop space), which requires a special faucet that is mounted on the wall behind the sink. The look can be very dramatic and stylish. Vessels along with the wall-mounted faucet can be expensive.
Whether you choose a stand-alone sink or a vanity top and sink, good design considers the relationship between the faucet and the sink. The ideal combination is a sink that is deep enough to keep the water from splashing out and a faucet with a spout that directs the water towards the front of sink. This combination allows room for your hands to get directly under the spout without banging your hands into the back of the sink bowl.
Consider lever type handles when choosing a faucet. Lever handles are much easier to use than a knob handle.
Stand-alone sink or vanity top? The decision is personal as each household has different needs. Are you looking for something functional, or do you want to wow your guests with your one-of-a-kind handmade vessel sink in your powder room? Since bathroom remodeling is a project rarely repeated, consider what your future needs might be. Will your family grow, or do you plan to stay in your house for a long time? Designing a bathroom that will be serviceable as your needs change will ensure that you’ll enjoy your bathroom for years to come.