Stainless Steel; a Popular and Economical Choice
Stainless steel sinks remain one of the most popular choices for kitchens.
Stainless steel is the most popular and typically the least expensive sink option. Look for sinks made from 18- to 20-gauge steel. The lower the gauge, the heavier and more durable the steel. The chrome and nickel content of the steel also affects quality. The ideal combination of nickel and chrome is 18% chromium and 8% nickel; the chrome adds strength and the nickel prevents corrosion.
- Complements commercial-style appliances.
- Can be molded as a continuous part of a stainless steel countertop.
- Won't chip.
- Easy cleanup.
- Will show scratches, though over time it will develop a natural patina.
- Thinner gauge steels have a tinny sound and dent more easily.
An Overview of Composite Sinks
Courtesy of Blanco
Composite sinks offer durability and a wide selection of colors.
A composite sink is typically made from quartz or granite compounds mixed with acrylic resins.
- It can be shaped into an integral countertop.
- Comes in many colors.
- You can set hot pots down on it.
- It's stain resistant.
- Sharp knives can leave marks.
Drop-in sinks have long been the standard in American kitchens.
Drop-in sinks get their name from the method of installing them: "Dropping" them into a cutout in the countertop. (Obviously, we recommend a more careful placement.) You may also hear them referred to as topmount sinks. Their edges lap the countertop, which is why they are also called self-rimming sinks.
This type of sink is the least expensive and most common option for your kitchen. Installing them is easier than other types of kitchen sinks, because they can simply be set into the counter and attached with caulk or another epoxy.
However, drop-in sinks can make cleaning difficult, as the sink's lip tends to trap food and dirt.
With the exception of stone, most sink materials-including stainless steel, composite, fireclay, cast iron, solid surface and acrylic-easily can be found in drop-in styles. Bar or prep sinks as well as primary kitchen sinks of all shapes, sizes and number of basins.
Know Your Size Options Before Your Choose
Courtesy of Julien
A double-bowl sink can help keep your work area organized.
Common sink configurations include:
- Single bowl
- Double bowl
- Triple bowl
- Main sink plus prep sink
A deep, wide single bowl can be best if you're tight on space or you want a sink where you can rinse plates and silverware before loading them into the dishwasher.
With a double-bowl sink where both bowls are the same size, you can use one side to wash dishes and the other to rinse them. Or you could have a double-bowl sink where one sink is larger than the other; use one for rinsing and the other as a prep sink for cleaning fruits and vegetables.
A triple-bowl sink gives you the wash-and-rinse function plus a smaller prep sink with disposal.
A separate prep sink on your island or by the stove can add convenience when you're cooking, entertaining, or preparing fruits and vegetables.
Sink accessories like this dish rack and cutting board can make food preparation easier.
Use these additional sink accessories to create a more functional workspace:
- Cutting boards that fit securely on the sink's sides and that have holes to empty scraps through
- Colanders that hang on the sides
- A garbage disposal
- Dish racks that fit into the basin
- Hot water dispensers
Note on garbage disposals: Choose a higher horsepower disposal to get rid of tough debris, like meat scraps. Also, the larger the dampening collar, the more quiet it will be.
Quality Faucet Materials
Courtesy of Price Pfister
A well-constructed faucet can help you avoid drips and leaks.
Your options for the faucet's main material pretty much come down to solid brass or plastic. Brass is by far the most recommended choice because of its toughness and ability to handle extreme temperatures.
Internally, your faucet will control the flow of water using either rubber washers, a plastic or ceramic cartridge, a plastic, brass, or stainless steel ball valve, or a ceramic disk. A ceramic disk is recommended for the same reasons as the solid brass.
Handles, Shapes and Accessories
Courtesy of Moen
A pulldown faucet is just one of many options available for faucets.
The general style of your faucet will vary by the shape of its handle or handles, the height and shape of the spout, its accessories, and the finish.
Kitchen faucets are available with either one or two handles. Single-handle faucets can be easier to operate while a two-handle faucet provides a distinct look that fits in with a variety of kitchen styles. When selecting handles, consider how easy the faucet will be to grip if your hands are wet or greasy and whether you can operate it with one hand and with a closed fist.
Faucets can be either short or tall, however; if you have a shallow sink, a high-arching gooseneck faucet might be the most functional option. You may also want to consider installing different faucets for different uses-an extra-tall one on the prep sink by the island cooktop so tall pots can be filled easily, or a pot filler mounted on a wall near your stove.
One the most common accessories for faucets is a side spray, which gives your faucet a longer reach for cleaning each area of your sink. Their ability to spray water also makes it easier to clean off dishes. Some faucets have a pullout spray, which turns a regular faucet head into a spray hose.
Other accessories include soap dispensers, hot water dispensers, and faucets that provide filtered water.
Handles, Mounting and Compatibility
High-arc faucets with pull-down sprays are a popular choice for contemporary and traditional kitchens. This one has a single handle located on the faucet, with a soap dispenser to the left that requires a separate hole.
Picking the perfect faucet requires sorting out a few important factors that affect not just look and function but also installation: 1) Number of handles, 2) how it will be mounted, and 3) compatibility with your sink and countertop.
Do you prefer to have separate handles for hot and cold water, or just one handle? Separate handles offer a more traditional look, but single, lever-style handles are popular beause they are easy to use with just one hand or even the side of your hand. Handles can be located on the faucet or off to the side. A faucet with a lever handle will require either a single- or a double-hole setting, depending on the location of the handle. If your sink has more holes than required, you can use escutcheon plates-metal discs-to cover the extra holes.
Faucets with separate hot and cold water handles located on either side of the faucet require a triple-hole setting. They may be either centerset, widespread or mini-spread.
This centerset faucet is on 4-inch centers and used with an entertainment sink.
In a centerset model, the spout and handles are placed together on a single base. This type of faucet setting has three holes, one in the middle for the spout and one on each side for the hot and cold water handles. Most centerset kitchen faucets place the handles 8 inches apart, although some intended for use with bar or prep sinks have the handles 4 inches apart from each other. Centerset faucets are more affordable and easier to install than other types of faucets.
Courtesy of Kohler
The holes for the handles of this widespread faucet are 8 inches apart. The sidespray requires a fourth hole.
Widespread and Mini-Spread Faucets
As the name implies, the handles for these faucets are spread apart from the spout. The spout and handles sit directly on the sink or countertop, not on a base. Handles are 8 inches apart for widespread faucets; 4 inches apart for mini-spread faucets. What you want to avoid is buying a faucet that needs more installation holes than your sink or countertop currently has. While it is possible to drill extra holes into certain sinks and countertops, this costs more money and generally is something you want done during fabrication, not when the products are being installed in your kitchen.
This wall-mount faucet is also a bridge faucet with widespread setting.
Most kitchen faucets are deck mounted-that is, they are installed on a horizontal surface (your countertop). Wall-mount faucets, however, are installed into a vertical surface (usually the backsplash behind your sink). Although more common in the bathroom, wall-mount faucets add style and help conserve countertop space in kitchens as well. Potfiller faucets are an especially popular type of wall-mount faucet. Before buying a wall-mount faucet, make sure your kitchen is plumbed properly: You will need a water supply line that extends up the wall behind your sink (or your cooktop, in the case of a potfiller).
Explore the Many Finishes Available Today
Brushed or satin nickel finishes have a softer, less shiny look than chrome or stainless steel, which makes nickel appealing for transitional kitchen designs.
Most kitchen faucets come in a range of finish choices, typically some color of metal. In the silver family, options include chrome, nickel, stainless steel, platinum and pewter. For a warmer tone, you can try brass, gold, bronze or copper. Metallic finishes can be either polished, brushed or satin, depending on whether you want a bold shine or more muted gleam.
Non-metallic options include white, black and biscuit in either enamel or epoxy.
The 2008 Style Barometer survey by the National Kitchen & Bath Association found that satin nickel was the most popular finish for kitchen faucets, according to a panel of kitchen and bath dealers and designers. Stainless steel and bronze came in second and third, respectively.
Nickel (shown above) has all the durability of chrome, plus it stands up to scratches and water spots a little better than its shinier counterpart. It also provides a more toned down, softer look. Nickel finishes are generally more expensive than chrome, and work well in transitional style kitchens. Satin and brushed nickel generally have a similar appearance; manufacturers simply use different terminology.
Chrome adds sparkle to a bar or entertainment faucet.
Chrome is durable, inexpensive and easy to maintain. Polished chrome provides a shiny, lustrous look that fits in well with contemporary kitchens-in fact, chrome has become more popular in the United States as contemporary kitchen styles have gained ground. You can also find softer chrome finishes, such as matte or brushed, which can go with most kitchen styles.
Courtesy of Moen
Oil-rubbed bronze is slightly darker than brushed or polished bronze.
Oil-rubbed bronze has had a surge in popularity, and this finish is a little darker than brushed bronze. (In fact, oil-rubbed bronze varies in shade from brand to brand, being nearly black in some lines.) Bronze finishes are usually a little more expensive than nickel and brass, and are often used in country, rustic, Old World and traditional style kitchens.
Courtesy of Delta
Like chrome, stainless steel is durable and easy to maintain. Stainless doesn't show spots as easily as chrome, but it also costs more, typically comparable to nickel. Stainless has the advantage of matching and blending with a stainless steel sink and stainless steel appliances.
Things to Think About When Selecting Sinks and Faucets
Choosing the right sink and faucet is easy if you do your research and answer some basic functionality questions.
To help focus your selection process, ask yourself the following questions.
You can print out the questionnaire and refer to it as you read through the site and while visiting a designer's showroom.
- Do I plan to wash or just rinse dishes in the sink?
- Do I want to set a cutting board across the sink for chopping vegetables?
- Do I need two sinks; a main one and another for prep work or entertaining?
- Where would a sink, or sinks, be most conveniently placed for my cooking needs?
- How will my countertop material affect my choice of sink material?
- Which installation method do I prefer; self-rimming, undermounted, or integral?
- Do I prefer a stainless steel or a colored sink?
- Do I prefer a single, double, or triple bowl?
- Do I want a faucet high enough for me to fill tall pots?
- Do I need one by the stove for easy access while I'm cooking?
- How will it be attached to the sink, countertop, or wall?
- Do I want it to filter my water?
- Do I need a spray on the faucet?
- What kind of handle style do I like? Do I prefer single, lever, or dual controls? Curved or straight lines?