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Kitchen Sinks: Your Complete Guide to Choosing and Buying

kitchen sink from Blanco
(Image credit: Blanco)

The kitchen sink is still a vital feature in any kitchen, even though most modern kitchens come with a dishwasher to handle the bulk. Used for washing vegetables, scrubbing pots and sometimes as a waste disposal unit, it’s important to select a model that caters to your lifestyle, as well as looking good.

The kitchen sink you choose will depend on how you use your kitchen. If you don’t cook a lot and rely on your dishwasher for most clean-up operations, it may be that a single bowl offers the perfect level of functionality. At the other end of the scale, busy family kitchens or those that belong to keen cooks might benefit from a more versatile setup that incorporates an additional bowl, waste disposal function and hot water tap. Materials, maintenance and installation are all key considerations, too. 

[MORE: 10 Essentials features for a new kitchen]

What Kitchen Sink Material is Best?

Steel
This practical choice is durable, long-lasting and easy to keep clean. It’s important to check the gauge of a steel sink — that is, the number that denotes the thickness of the material. Smaller numbers indicate a thicker layer of steel. Ideally, you want to install a sink with a gauge of 18, though some high-end models come with a gauge of 16 — the lowest demarcation possible.

In terms of maintenance, stainless steel offers a low-upkeep solution. After using the sink, a quick rinse with soapy water will keep it clean on a day-to-day basis. Weekly cleans with a cream cleaner will help the metal maintain its attractive sheen. 

stainless steel kitchen sink from Franke

Franke’s Mythos MYX range of stainless steel inset and undermounted sinks is compatible with any worktop material. Inset models like the one shown here have a 6mm polished rim, and sit almost flush with the work surface they’re installed in. Prices start from £474 for the single bowl model. (Image credit: Franke)

Ceramic 

This traditional choice offers a timeless aesthetic. Though ceramic kitchen sinks are usually associated with Belfast and Butler designs, a selection of undermounted and inset models are now available. Fireclay ceramic is a popular option. 

Wipe down with a soft cloth to clean but avoid abrasive cleaners that risk dulling the lustrous finish of your ceramic surface

ceramic kitchen sink

Franke’s Belfast ceramic white sink is shown here in Crown Imperial’s Cotswood kitchen, fitted into the central island. The timeless design of the sink complements the classic Shaker-style unit fronts. (Image credit: Crown Imperial / Franke)

Composite 

This more recent addition to the market comprises a blend of man-made and natural stone particles. Composite kitchen sinks can withstand high temperatures (up to 280°C), have anti-bacterial properties and are highly resistant to stains and scratches. Many manufacturers have their own patented composite blends. Those made with a high proportion of granite tend to be the best quality, with those that are high in quartz taking second place.

Composite kitchen sinks are low-maintenance — just be sure to quickly wash away brightly coloured vegetable juices and dyes to avoid staining.

What's the Difference Between Insert and Undermounted Kitchen Sinks?

Inset kitchen sink 

The bowl of an inset kitchen sink (also called an overmount or sit-on sink) drops down into your kitchen worktop, with the rim overlapping and resting on the work surface. Inset kitchen sinks are self-supporting, easy to install, and suitable for all types of worktop.

On the downside, the raised edge can act as a trap for dust and dirt. Plus, if water is left to pool around the edges, the sealant can start to peel.

Undermounted kitchen sink 

Undermounted kitchen sinks sit below the worktop. This allows for a streamlined aesthetic, but makes it more difficult to install. “The lack of lip makes cleaning and maintaining the appearance of an undermount sink a breeze,” says George Holland, design expert at Victorian Plumbing. “If you choose to have one fitted, be sure to check your installer uses more than just silicone to secure it to the underside of your counter. We’ve seen several cases of undermounted kitchen sinks falling in due to poor installation.”

country kitchen sink

(Image credit: Wren kitchen)

Kitchen Sink Design Details

Sink depth 

A deep bowl is a smart option if you often scrub large pots and pans. However, you don’t want a sink so deep it takes forever to fill. Using a plastic washing up bowl is one way to overcome this issue, but some manufacturers advise against this in case dirt stuck to the base of the bowl leaves marks on your sink’s surface.

With or without tap holes? 

Inset designs typically come with one or multiple holes pre-drilled for taps. Be sure to check that these match the taps you want to install, or alternatively invest in a package that includes both a sink and taps to keep things easy.

Undermounted sinks and some Belfast sinks require a hole to be drilled into the work surface to accommodate taps — check there is enough space behind the sink to mount them.

Single bowl Vs. double bowl 

Available space is likely to be one of the biggest deciding factors here. Expansive worktops give you the freedom to incorporate second bowls, draining boards, automatic waste disposal units etc. “Double bowl sinks are perfect for bigger families, larger kitchens or those that are in high demand,” says Elina Enqvist-Twomey, category manager from Grohe. Built-in draining boards are a common feature on stainless steel and composite sinks. 

(MORE: Kitchen design)

How Do I Fit a Kitchen Sink?

How to Measure up

“We always recommend using the actual sink rather than a template. For example, ceramic sinks are handmade and can vary by up to 2% either way. Some sit-on (inset) sinks also taper, so be sure to measure the physical sink before installing. With granite and stainless steel sinks, check the dimensions thoroughly before purchasing.” Luke Shipway, product manager at Caple

Fitting an inset kitchen sink is feasible for a competent DIYer, but undermounted models need to be properly supported and fixed so it’s wise to bring in a professional installer. 

Fitting the new kitchen sink shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Prices will vary depending on where you are in the country, but labour costs typically range between £100 and £150. “It’s vital to get your measurements right and include your tap base aperture if it is set into the worktop,” says Luke Shipway, product manager at Caple. 

Check that your chosen sink has an undercoating applied to its base to protect the area of the worktop that has been cut from damp. With a solid granite countertop, water exposure won’t make a huge difference, but a laminate worktop will expand if exposed to too much moisture. The undercoating also provides good sound insulation when washing bulky pots and pans, and it prevents condensation from forming on the underside of the sink. 

Typically, your sink will be sealed into the worktop using a high-grade sealant to ensure a watertight fit. “Ordinarily, with inset sinks, a bead of silicone will be applied to the sink’s underside,” says George from Victorian Plumbing. “Once the sink has been set in place, a second line of silicone will be applied around its edge where it meets the countertop.”