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Shopping for a new sink can cause much hand wringing. There are so many shapes, styles, and materials to choose from that you may be tempted to, well, throw up your hands. Fortunately, by focusing on the most important factors to consider when buying a sink, you can find the one that’s best for your bath.
The main distinction among bath sinks is how and where they’re mounted. Here are the top options:
Countertop: This is the most common installation, with the sink sitting in or on a countertop, typically as part of a vanity unit with cabinetry. Countertop sinks generally offer good storage and elbow room, as there is usually a sizable surface around the basin and cabinetry. This category includes the following:
Pedestal: A pedestal sink consists of a basin atop a tall, slender base. It’s often considered a vintage look, but there are contemporary versions, too. Pedestal sinks work well in powder rooms and small baths where counter space or storage isn’t a priority.
Wall-mount: Often found in commercial and institutional settings, wall-mount sinks work in home baths, too. They hang from the wall at a comfortable height and are open below -- the drainpipe and water supply lines are exposed. Wall-mount sinks are affordable, work well in small baths, and create a clean, open look. However, with the plumbing visible underneath, it calls for an attractive pipe finish, such as polished chrome.
Console: A popular variation of the wall-mount sink is the console sink, which resembles a traditional console table found in an entry or hallway. A console sink is basically a wall-mount sink with legs -- usually two but sometimes four. Some console sinks offer generous counter space and open shelving below.
There is no standard size for a bath sink. Some petite basins are just big enough for washing hands, while the largest sinks are big enough for washing hair or delicate clothing. However, most round sinks are 16-in to 20-in in diameter, while most rectangular sinks are 19-in to 24-in wide and 16-in to 23-in front to back. Typical basin depth is 5-in to 8-in.
Sink size and shape are generally matters of personal preference unless you are replacing an old fixture and wish to reuse the vanity and countertop. In that case, the new sink has to fit the existing opening in the countertop and mount the same way. If space is at a premium in a small bath, you may want a triangular sink designed to fit into a corner.
Make sure the size or shape of the sink works with your faucet choice. Most sinks are predrilled with one or three faucet holes to hold either a single-handle faucet or one with separate handles for hot and cold water. Generally, a single-handle faucet requires a single-hole sink, but some single-handle faucets come with escutcheon plates that let them work with 3-hole sinks.
Centerset faucets pair with sinks that have holes spaced 4-in apart, while widespread faucets fit sinks with holes 8-in to 16-in apart. Some sinks don’t have any faucet holes. They’re designed for faucets that mount above the sink on the wall or behind the sink on the countertop. This is true of vessel sinks and some undermount models.
Perhaps the most intriguing differences among bath sinks are in the materials used to make them. Traditional ceramics such as porcelain, vitreous china, and fireclay are familiar choices, but they’re rivaled by the striking looks of glass, natural stone, solid-surfacing, and metals such as cast iron, stainless steel, copper, nickel, and brass.
Vitreous china and its ceramic cousins provide a sink surface that is smooth, glossy, stain-resistant, durable, and easy to clean -- an attractive combination in the bath.
Glass sounds fragile but is surprisingly strong. A basin made of tempered glass is able to withstand normal bath use. You don’t want to drop heavy objects into it, however, and contact with sharp metal or glass items can cause scratches and chips. Glass can be a challenge to keep clean, too, especially if you have hard water.
Stone sinks made of marble, granite, travertine, or onyx offer luxurious looks full of natural color and veining, plus they allow undermount basin installation. However, because all stone is porous to some degree, it is prone to staining and requires routine sealing.
Solid-surfacing captures the look of natural stone in a composite material that’s easier to install and maintain than the real thing. A popular choice is a one-piece solid-surface countertop with an integral sink.
Metallic bath sinks range from the glossy enameled finish of a cast-iron model to the clean look of stainless steel and the earthiness of copper and nickel. Brushed and hammered finishes play up the texture of the metals
You can buy a basic white, oval, self-rimming drop-in bath sink for less than $50. Spending $100 to $200 opens up more options in shapes and materials, including many pedestal sinks and some entry-level vessel sinks made of stone and glass. The $200 to $400 range is popular, encompassing larger basins, a variety of colors and smaller console sinks. Designer basin shapes and the use of natural stone can push the price past $500, while some sculptural pedestal sinks and furniture-look console sinks sell for $1,000 or more.