It might not be particularly exciting or glamorous, but choosing a sink is one of the most important decisions you'll make for your kitchen. If you're feeling a bit flummoxed by all the choices, or just want to get a better look at what's out there, take a look at this handy guide.
Here, we'll be exploring a few different kinds of sinks: drop-in, undermount, farmhouse style, and integral sinks. Each of these styles of sink comes in a huge variety of materials, which we explore in depth in this post about the best materials for your sink.
Drop-in (or Top Mount) Sinks
This is the most inexpensive kind of sink, and also the easiest to install, often seen in porcelain and stainless steel. Drop-in sinks fit into a hole cut into the countertop, and can be used with pretty much any kind of countertop. With most drop-in sinks, the faucet mounts to a ledge at the back of the sink, and they all have a bit of a lip around the edge of the sink.
Keep in mind that if you want to sweep food and debris directly into the sink, then this isn't the style for you.
Although you may not think of a top mount sink as an especially glamorous choice, there are ways to make them look good: take, for example, the black stainless steel sink above, paired with a black countertop.
For more info: All About Drop-In Kitchen Sinks
For a more minimal look you can choose an undermount sink, which mounts, as the name would imply, under a hole cut into the countertop. Because this exposes the edge of the countertop material, these are only suitable for solid-surface countertops.
There's the advantage of being able to sweep crumbs and countertop grime directly into the sink: there's the disadvantage of the tricky joint between the countertop and the sink, which has to be sealed carefully so it doesn't leak. That makes these sinks harder to install than their top-mount counterparts — this is a job for the pros.
If you want to go DIY and save some money, think twice before diving in and doing this job yourself.
Undermount sinks are a popular choice for contemporary kitchens because of their attractive, minimal look. You can also set up a nice contrast between the countertop and sink, as in this kitchen with a white Caesarstone countertop and black stainless steel sink.
A farmhouse, or apron front, sink is a popular choice for country-style and contemporary kitchens alike. Farmhouse sinks can come in both drop-in and undermount varieties, depending on the kind of countertop you have and how you want the detailing to look.
The big difference with these sinks is the so-called apron, which protrudes past the edge of the cabinets to make the sink a much more prominent feature in the kitchen's design. The potential disadvantage to consider is for those who like to wash dishes by hand; many of these style sinks are just one large basin (instead of divided like the examples above), they don't let you soak on one side, and wash on the other.
For a truly seamless look you can choose an integral sink, where the sink and the countertop are made from the same material. There are a few ways this can be accomplished. In the kitchen above, for example, the soapstone sink looks to be continuous with the counter, but if you look closely, the sink is actually made from a separate piece of stone that's carefully joined to the countertops on either side.
Another way of creating an integral sink is to have the countertop installer build a sink basin out of the same material as the countertop, as with the marble sink seen here.
This marble sink is truly integrated with the surrounding countertop: the whole thing, including the sink, drain board, and countertop, is carved from a single very thick piece of marble. A nice look, but also, because it involves carving and installing a giant piece of stone, one that's very, very expensive. Of course, if your budget is limited, this is certainly a factor.
You can also purchase stainless steel integral sinks, which are made of a piece with the surrounding countertop (and possibly the backsplash) and have no joints at all.
You can see a stainless countertop (and integral sink) in the kitchen above. Although some of these are commercially available (especially for commercial kitchens), you can also have them custom made.
If you go with an integral sink, be confident in your choice. Obviously, it's impossible to easily switch out the sink down the road if you're unhappy with your choice, without changing up the entire counter surface.