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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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This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc.
We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets.
A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included. This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.
We installed the oval porcelain sink (left) in a cultured marble countertop. Be sure to seal the countertop after sink installation to avoid permanent water spot stain problems.
Because of its durability and economy, stainless steel accounts for over 60% of kitchen sinks in both new homes and remodels. In new construction bathrooms, cultured marble is the leading material for lavatory sinks, while the more expensive vitreous china leads in remodels.
Both stainless steel and vitreous china are extremely durable, easy to clean, and impervious to rust, stains, and heat.
Cultured marble quality varies, based largely on the thickness and quality of the thin gel coat that provides the color and wear surface.Well-made cultured marble, however, treated with reasonable care, can provide years of satisfactory service.
With any sink, choose a bowl that is large enough for the intended use. A kitchen sink should be deep enough to handle large pots and have vertical sides and tight-radius corners to increase the usable space.
A relatively flat bottom allows dishes to sit without sliding toward the drain, and an offset drain also increases the usable space. Models with multiple bowls and built-in cutting boards, draining racks, and other accessories can simplify both food prep at the sink and cleanup. A raised or gooseneck-type faucet allows large pots to be easily rinsed or filled (Figure 6-48just below).
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
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.
Most kitchen and bath sinks are self-rimming and sit on top of the counter surface.
However, demand has been growing for flush-set and under mount sinks, which cost more to buy and install, but have the benefits of a more streamlined appearance and easy cleaning (Figure 6-49).
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).
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
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.
The copper sink and faucet shown at left is installed outdoors at the entrance to a public toilet found at El Charco del Ingenio, a botanical reserve located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
This copper sink is attractive and easily accessed, but the practice of extending an outdoor hose bib horizontally some distance out from the wall to provide a faucet over the sink is asking for leaks in the copper piping.
To operate this faucet without bending the copper pipe requires some delicacy.
See Table 6-9 above for more details about the performance and care of cultured marble.
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.
The hard, glossy finish on a cast iron sink is made by fusing a porcelain enamel glaze to a heavy cast-iron substrate under high heat. This creates a solid fixture with a tough, lustrous finish that is impervious to stains, chemicals, odors, and heat, and cleans easily with a sponge.
The heavy mass of the cast-iron base dampens any disposal sounds, but the same rigid mass will readily crack a dropped dish. The porcelain finish is durable but not indestructible.
Harsh, abrasive cleansers and abrasive pads will dull the surface and a hard enough blow with a sharp object can chip the coating exposing the iron beneath to rust.
The rust stains on this enameled cast iron sink are not the fault of the sink but rather of an unattended leak that has dripped for a long time.
The main advantage of solid-surface sinks is that they can be installed seamlessly to the underside of a solid-surface counters. This provides a very streamlined appearance, easy cleanup, and no joints to collect dirt.
Solid surfacing also offers great design flexibility, as most fabricators can build nearly any configuration desired. Most solid surface sinks have a matte finish, which is easier to maintain than a semi gloss or high-gloss.
While relatively easy to scratch or scorch, this type of damage is superficial and is easy to sand away with fine sandpaper or a ScotchBrite™ pad.
The under-counter sink illustrated at left is installed in a cultured marble countertop in an office building bathroom in Queretaro, Mexico.
A basic stainless-steel sink is one of least expensive options, and one of the most durable.
Stainless steel used for sinks is unaffected by heat and most chemicals and the surface will not absorb stains, odors, or oils.
And stainless steel surfaces are relatively easy to clean and can be scrubbed with abrasive cleansers and pads when needed.
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.
The sink shown at left is constructed of poured, formed and stained concrete.
Also called porcelain, vitreous china is a heavy ceramic product also used to make toilets. It is highly scratch-resistant and less affected by abrasive cleansers than enameled cast iron or cast-polymer materials (solid surfacing, stone composites).
Porcelain or vitreous china is widely used in vanity sinks, but because the china substrate will chip more easily than other materials, it is not commonly used in kitchens.
Some high end ornamental china sinks are available for kitchens, but may be too fragile for a kitchen work center.
The porcelain sink and sink base shown in our photo, installed by the editor [DF] in a New York home is inexpensive and widely available from building suppliers in the U.S. The porcelain base supports the sink and hides the sink trap - making a drip proof trap installation a job for experienced, nimble finters.
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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