Monday, June 18, 2007

Sinks: the simple truth on getting the best sink.

The Bottom Line: No pretty pictures here: just chalk full of information you need to know before you buy a sink. See web site links for the photos and spec sheets.

  1. Before going shopping, observe your cooking habits. Measure your existing sink width; include outside dimensions and each bowls inside dimension including depth. How do you use your sink? Do you wash dishes in a double bowl sink? How many cooks? Two water stations are essential for two cooks or for that holiday dining. Do you have place to add a second small prep sink?
  2. Take measurements of what your new sink base cabinet will be. Subtract for the sides of the cabinet to determine what size sink will fit in your new cabinet. If you have any doubts consult your designer. Never order your kitchen cabinets until you are satisfied with the size of your new sink. You don't want to be disappointed when your designer tells you can only buy a 33" sink or smaller to fit your design when you were hoping for a bigger sink!
  3. Depth: bowls that have straight sides will net a bigger interior space. Look for Blanco Magnum Series, Blanco Steel Art Series.
  4. Shape: Round shapes net smaller interior space in comparison to its square counterparts. An example of this: Kohler's Brookside verses Kohler's Clarity. If space is limited, Kohler's Smart Divide is a great solution. Round shape or square shape, it's all there!
  5. Built in stainless steel drain boards: I personally like this, because it gives a clean drip edge for water to drain into the sink. The draw back, hard water spots once the water dries and another area of stainless steel to wipe down to keep it looking new. See Kohler Prologue Elkay Gourmet series or Oliveri Euroform or Petite or New Petite.
  6. Waste Disposer Compartment: If you are ordering a single bowl sink, you will want to get the food waste disposer located in the far corner and not in the middle of the bowl. If you are ordering a triple bowl sink with the garbage disposal in the middle, much of the feed back from homeowners has been negative and no one has told me they want to replace them with a new one. The biggest complaint is that the extra bowl for the garbage disposal takes away from the size of the usable sink. Secondly, these dedicated bowls for the waste are higher up in the sink and food debris can be whirred right back up at you.
  7. Pick you faucet at the same time you pick your sink. How many holes are on the back ledge of the sink? Count out how many holes you will need to see if it will work with your sink. This is the biggest area of compromise for most people. What will be on your deck? A faucet, a side spray, a hot water dispenser, an air gap for the dishwasher, soap dispenser. Most cast iron sink are pre-drilled for four holes. Drilling holes in cast iron is not a viable option in some cases. Ceco Sinks carry many identical styles to Kohler, American Standard and Eljer, and the appeal is that they may be able to custom drill the holes at an additional fee. Adding holes in a stainless steel sink is much easier. In solid surface sinks, for example, Corian , the holes are drilled in the counter top deck so the number and placement is flexible.
  8. Composting: Do you want a chute in the deck? They are available. Check with the sink manufacturers. An alternate method I prefer that takes up less space is a separate composting bin kept on the counter or under the sink for immediate removal to the composting bin. Remember to remove daily to avoid the fruit fly party that will soon appear even if you forget.
  9. Sink Strainer. Do not order it in plastic. For best wear order a stainless steel strainer. I don't care if it matches your white, oil rubbed bronze or satin nickel faucet. I am going to be insistent on this point. You will pay more for quality but you will wish you had when you see your powder coated strainer peeling away in a very short time, these cheap plastic powder coated strainers will "ugly out" before they wear out. Stainless steel!
  10. Get a faucet that is proportional to the width of the sink. Make sure when you specify a large sink and a side spray, that the spray reaches onto the far reaches of both bowls.
  11. To under mount or not: You may be fastidious but your spouse or kids not. An under mount sink will have the faucets mounted on the granite or solid surface. This means water will run off onto the counters easier. Especially if someone leaves a wet sponge on the counter. Get a $6.00 suction cup sponge holder mounted to the inside of the stainless sink to resolve this. Stay away from sponge tilt out trays. They rust, won't close properly overtime, and wet sponges left in close proximity to wood is not a good idea.
  12. Single bowl under mounts side by side with a granite or solid surface rim. If you specify this make sure you recess the solid surface ledge between the two bowls at least 1/4" inch. You will want to avoid water run off between the two bowls, across the counter and down the floor. "Water wears away mountains" and please do not make your cabinets the victim of water damage. Wipe down spills off your wood surfaces to protect the longevity of your cabinets.
  13. Tile in sinks: This is a great alternative to contain the water on your deck. The faucet gear is mounted on the cast iron or stainless surface. Most people are opting for under mount because of the look with granite counters. But don't overlook the tile in if you think your family is going to run into problems described in item #11.
  14. Self rimming: pretty upon first site. Problems: several. Wiping down counters into the sink is harder because of the self rim. The rim has a visible caulking joint all around the sink. Tends to be a crumb collector area. Most plumbers will specify a white caulk unless you make sure to specify a matching caulk color. Cast iron rims can show chips more so than other types of sinks.
  15. Corner sinks: They can be the most awkward sinks if not placed close to the front edge. Place no more than 2-3 inches from the front edge of the counter top.
  16. Apron front sinks: Beautiful? Yes. Practical, I have my reservations. Water is my first concern. There is more chance for water roll off onto the face of cabinets, causing what else, but warranty issues on your cabinets. Peeling paint, cracked paint is a result of water damage. Protect your cabinets by wiping them down, be observant of water. Design options: Recess the cabinet doors. Install a ledge between the bottom of the sink and the cabinet doors to catch the water before it drops on your cabinet. Belt buckles can scratch the apron too, scratches on cast iron can be rubbed off but scratches on stainless steel are there forever. Deep apron sinks can give you a back ache. They are mounted 3/4" or lower depending on the thickness of your counter top and cause the user to reach deeper. Working at the kitchen sink for extended times, you’ll feel the difference.
  17. Faucets: watch out for the following: a) handle rotation front to back. Watch out for clearance: Window ledges or a wall could interfere with the lever in the hot water position. B) handle attached to the side of the spout, could interfere with the next item in the deck. Check the hole spacing available on your sink. Extra thick countertops could pose problems for the plumber. The faucet shank length needs to accommodate the counter thickness. C) Bridge faucets or two handles faucets, watch out to make sure they are accessible for both bowls. With a side spray, you need to make sure it reaches into the far end of the opposite bowl. Swivel Goose neck faucets with a pull down handle are my favorite for ergonomics. The high arc spout makes moving large stock pots in and out of the sink easy. The pull out sprays is longer and the braided hoses are the most durable. Plastic hoses wear down quicker at the connector than do the braided hoses.
  18. New ideas: If you are short in space for a second sink and you and your spouse can benefit from two water sources, consider a large double bowl sink and install two faucets, one for each bowl. This can be handy when you need to drain your pasta water and your spouse is rinsing the lettuce.
  19. Accessories not to overlook: Stainless steel grids protect the sink surface. A good design has the hole built to match the disposal hole. Stainless steel grids last longer than the plastic coated wire grids which tend to rust out and ugly out quicker. The plastic ones are not as expensive to replace if you find your’s has uglied out. Soap dispensers are not high on my list, actually on the bottom of my list. It is the first think to go bad. Once the spring action pump gets gumped and goey, it breaks. By the way, to fill them you remove the spout. I heard of one homeowner who never refilled hers because she thought she needed to unscrew the bottle form the bottom from underneath the sink. Colanders and cutting boards that fit the sink are ingenious for easy prep work! Most of this information can be found in NKBA's Professionl Resource Library , Kitchen Planning Volume. Product references and comments are from years of discussions about sinks with my customers.


kmndesign said...

Thanks for all the great info! I love didactic posts just as much (if not more) than expository ones. I'm going to be taking a Kitchen and Bath class next quarter, and all this info will come in handy, I'm sure.

Since I currently work as a housekeeper, I've noticed a lot of the same issues you bring up in regards to keeping the area around sinks clean and new-looking. I'm constantly informing my clients about little maintenance things they need to be doing to keep their house in good condition. People tend to forget that houses require little maintenance tune-ups, even moreso than their cars!

Laurie Burke, Kitchen Designer said...

Upkeep is so important on so many levels! For function, user satisfaction, longevity, appearance, resale value.

Personally, I can't get into cooking or prepping food unless the kitchen is almost spotless. (Revealing my fuss-budget nature). The kitchen sink tells a lot about the user, doesn't it? What do you tell your clients to use when it comes to cast iron sinks. I love ajax for getting cast iron sinks spotless, but it is horrible on the high gloss finish. Using Ajax on cast iron sinks is just as bad as using it to wash a car's painted finish. Bon Ami is gentle, so is Bar Keeper's Friend, and Baking soda and Vinegar is great too. What do you like to use?

kmndesign said...

I mostly use organic, home-made cleansers for cleaning houses. For scrubbing purposes, I use a combination of water, baking soda, and Dr. Brommer's Peppermint Soap. Safe for the environment, safe for me (I have some chemical sensitivities), safe for my clients, and it does a good job. The added bonus is with the peppermint soap, the place actually *smells* clean, too. If a sink is really scuffed up with those gray marks from pots and pans, you can probably be safe filling the basin up with hot water, and adding one cup of bleach to the mix. Let it sit for an hour, drain, and then scrub with a kitchen scrub brush and baking soda.

As far as which sinks I prefer for maintenance, I'm partial to under-mount stainless steel ones, as long as the divider (if there is one) is below the counter top as well, so water doesn't run all around when you switch the faucet stream between basins. It's so easy to wipe crumbs into the sink that way, and you don't have to deal with caulking (which, no matter what, will ALWAYS get water in it and mold in it that you can't scrub out).

That's probably the #1 thing people don't know they're supposed to do: replace the caulking around sinks/bathtubs/shower basins when mold gets up inside. It's not a matter of keeping it clean, because caulking is porous and water will get up inside, so it just needs to be replaced periodically. You'd have to be very, very diligent for water to not get trapped inside (like, wiping it dry every single time you use it); and even then, there's no guarantees.

JJ said...

I came across your blog after trying unsuccessfully, to get an answer from a Kohler technician whether a built-in standard dishwasher would fit under the work area of the PROLOGUE sink. He still could not give a definitive answer after viewing the PDF.

Have your ever installed a Prologue sink for a client, and do you know if a dishwasher can be housed under the work space? Thank you!

Laurie Burke, Kitchen Designer said...

Let me get back to you. I'll take a look at it. Do me a favor, email or
forward the link for the specs so I don't have to hunt the kohler site.

Laurie Burke, Kitchen Designer said...

JJ the short answer is no, a built-in standard dishwasher will NOT fit under the work area of the PROLOGUE sink. If you go back to the installation specs,
you will see what I am talking about.
You will see that they use a large enough sink base cabinet to accommodate this 42" sink, including the shallow work surface.
However you can get a little creative. I installed an under cabinet refrigerator under the drainboard- similar to the Prologue. I will upload the photo of my break room kitchen in a new post!

JJ said...

Thank you for your quick response, Laurie! Here is the info you requested:
There is no depth measurement of the work surface area. My concern is once the undermount sink is set, which looks like it would be slightly below the counter surface, will the work space area stop the dishwasher from sliding in or will it block it?

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