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Sink types, choices, recommendations for kitchens & baths: this article discusses the properties, pros, and cons of different types of sinks and sink materials, including self-rimming sinks, flushmount sinks, and undermount sinks. We discuss the choices of enameled steel sinks, solid surfacing and composite sinks, cultured marble sinks, vitreous china (porcelain) sinks, acrylic sinks and basins, stainless steel sink properties, and enameled cast iron sinks.
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Many “builders’ grade” lavatory sinks are undersized for basic grooming tasks, such as tooth brushing and face washing without splashing water across the vanity top.
If the client plans to wash hair, water plants, or perform other household chores at the lavatory, an oversized bowl is recommended. A sink with the faucet offset to one side, with a pivoting spout, provides still more usable space.
With the sink set level with or beneath the counter, food debris can be easily swept into the sink and grime does not collect at the joint of the sink rim and counter.
The main material choices for kitchen and bathroom sinks are outlined below (Table 6-9).
A relative newcomer, acrylic sinks are made of the same materials as acrylic tubs or showers. Made from heat-molded 1/8 -inch thick acrylic plastic sheets, the fixtures are molded into a wide variety of shapes, then reinforced on the back side with fiberglass and resin. The surface is nonporous and very stain-resistant, but it is relatively soft and easy to scratch. It is also vulnerable to petroleum based chemicals and heat, for example from a hot skillet. Burns are not repairable.
On the plus side, acrylic has good noise dampening characteristics and can tolerate bleach when needed for a difficult stain. The color goes all the way through the material, so it is possible to sand or buff out small scratches with auto polishing compound or special acrylic polish. For larger scratches, use 400- to 600-grit sandpaper and buff with baking soda.
Similar to solid surfacing, composite sinks are a cast polymer using crushed quartz or granite as the filler. High-quality composites have similar characteristics to engineered stone counters, and in some cases are seamlessly cast from the same material (Figure 6-50).
In general, they provide excellent resistance against stains, scratches, chips, and fading. They also tolerate heat well. For example, the sinks made from Moenstone (Moen) and Kindred Granite (FHP Kindred) can tolerate temperatures up to 530°F for short periods.
Finishes range from matte to a satin semigloss. Cleaning instructions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most recommend mild nonabrasive cleansers and nylon scrub pads for everyday cleaning and ScotchBrite™ pads and abrasive cleansers as needed. Scratches or stubborn stains can be sanded out as with solid surfacing, although matching a glossy finish may be difficult (one solution is to sand the whole sink).
Metal scouring pads or cast-iron cookware can leave rust stains on composite sinks. Concentrated bleaches, paint strippers, or products containing formic acid (drain cleaner) can discolor the surface. An application of Gel-Glos™ (T.R. Industries) or Invisible Shield® (Unelko Corp.) is recommended by some manufacturers to maintain the sheen and ease of cleaning.
This uses the same process as enameled cast iron, but with a substrate of stamped 14-gauge steel. These sinks weigh half or less than a comparable cast-iron model, making them easier on the installer.
But the lighter, less rigid substrate does not dampen noise as well and is more likely to chip if a heavy object is dropped. One alternative is a hybrid from American Standard called Americast, introduced in the late 1980s, which uses enameled steel on the inside and a cast-polymer composite on the outside to create a sturdy tub with half the weight of cast iron.
Avoid the cheapest sinks, which use lightweight steel (20 to 23 gauge), as they can flex or dent; also avoid low-nickel alloys, such as 18-8, which can tarnish. Lightweight steel sinks also tend to be noisy with a waste disposer. Good quality sinks are typically 18-gauge or thicker and use high-quality alloys, such as 18-10.
Also avoid steel sinks with a polished finish, which is difficult to maintain. A brushed (matte) finish hides scratches from normal use and cleaning. And although good quality stainless is tough to damage, it is not indestructible. It can develop rust stains from steel wool residue or prolonged contact with cast iron cookware. Also, prolonged contact with concentrated bleach solutions, strong acids, or salty materials can cause pitting. Still, for function and economy, steel is hard to beat.
Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers(AHAM) www.aham.org
National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) www.nkba.org
Ceramic Tile Institute of America www.ctioa.org
Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) www.hvi.org
Marble Institute of America www.marble-institute.com Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) www.porcelainenamel.com
Tile Council of America (TCA) www.tileusa.com
-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.
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