Installing New Kitchen Sinks and Faucets

From on February 01, 2007 in Kitchen Remodel

It wasn’t long ago when homeowners had two choices when it came to selecting a new kitchen sink - cast iron or stainless steel. There were fewer choices of colors or shapes, and no options for customized sink accessories. Today, homeowners have a multitude of sink choices to help personalize their kitchen. With this new bounty of sink options, comes the challenge of picking out the right kitchen sink for your home. Here?s a guide to help you make sense out of all the various materials and styles that are available to you:

Materials and Styles

Stainless steel is the most popular and usually the least expensive option. But don?t go too cheap - look for sinks made from 18- to 20-gauge steel. A general rule of thumb is that the lower the gauge, the heavier and more durable the steel. The chrome and nickel content of the steel also affects quality. The pros to using stainless steel are it complements commercial-style appliances, can be molded as a continuous part of a stainless steel countertop, won?t chip and is easy to clean. The cons are it will show scratches, but over time it will develop a natural patina - if you can wait that long. Thinly gauged steels will dent and make noise, so to combat these cons, choose a model with a satin texture finish. They are available in both undermount and drop-in models. One word of caution though: If you want to undermount a stainless steel sink, the countertop must be a solid material and not a laminate (due to water exposure, laminates can eventually separate and bubble). Average cost of a stainless steel sink is between $350-$800.

Cast Iron Sinks feature an iron base coated with an enamel finish. While there are many colors to choose from, this type of sink is susceptible to chipping (exposing the black surface underneath, which is susceptible to rusting) and staining. When it comes to installation, cast iron is one of the most difficult because these sinks are heavy and bulky in nature. It also has limited undermount installation options. Expect to pay between $300 to $1500.

Composite sinks are available in three common forms - polyester/acrylic, quartz composite and granite-based. Of all the types of composite sinks available, polyester/acrylic are the lowest performing in terms of scratch and stain resistance, as they are made from soft materials that can cut and nick easily, but because of its shiny look and multitude of color choices - it remains an appealing choice for homeowners. And it?s the cheapest composite sink on the market, ranging from $300 to $500. Quartz composite sinks provide a much more durable surface than polyester/acrylic because it?s made of 70 percent quartz and 30 percent resin filler. These sinks can resist everyday cuts, scuffs and dents and can easily stand up to harsh cleaning materials or liquids that can stain other sinks. Granite-based sinks are the toughest sinks on the market. It won?t scratch; rust, dent, burn or crack, but it will cost you some extra money. If you have your heart set on a glossy finish, than you?ll want to explore other composite sinks, because granite-based sinks are only available in matte finish.

Solid Surface sinks are made from solid synthetic sheets which are formed by mixing a mineral compound with polyester and/or acrylic resins. The benefits to using a solid surface sink are that it can be molded from the same piece of solid surface that you use on your countertop, comes in a multitude of colors and designs and you can sand out the scratches. The average cost is around $300 to $700.

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Types of Sinks

Self-rimming sinks are the least expensive and most common option. Its edges lap the countertop.

Undermounted and integral sinks are sinks where the edges are hidden. Undermounted sinks attach below the countertop. An integral sink is made out of the same material as the countertop and is fused to it, creating a seamless transition. Stainless steel, solid surface, and composite materials are flexible enough to mold integral sinks. The benefits of both these sinks are that they give a clean look and provide easy cleanup - no rims to push crumbs over.

Farmhouse sinks (also called apron sinks) feature an exposed front that sometimes juts past the front of the cabinetry that surrounds it. They are commonly used in kitchens with a rustic or country-style d?cor and the bowl itself is usually deeper than average. They often have no deck, so the faucet and other accessories are mounted directly into the countertop behind the bowl.

Kitchen Sink Styles

The most common sink configurations are single bowl, double bowl, triple bowl and main sink plus a prep sink.

Single bowl sinks are great if you?re tight on space or enjoy having some extra space when you?re rinsing pots and pans.

Double-bowl sinks are usually configured where both bowls are the same size so you can use one side to wash your dishes and the other side to rinse them. You can also opt for one large bowl and a smaller bowl to use as a prep sink for cleaning fruits and vegetables.

Triple-bowl sinks give you the wash-and-rinse function plus a smaller prep sink, which usually has a garbage disposal built in.

Prep sinks are most commonly found on a separate kitchen island or by the stove, because it offers the added convenience of not having to drag your food from the main sink to your prep counter.

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Kitchen Sink Accessories

If you like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen you might want to check out some of these options - cutting boards that fit securely on the sink?s sides and that have holes to empty scrapes through (works best when the sink has a garbage disposal attached), colanders that hang on the side, a garbage disposal, dish racks that fit into the basin and hot water dispensers. A note about garbage disposals - you want a high horsepower garbage disposal that can handle tough foods like meat scraps. If you?re worried about noise using a larger horsepower, just be sure you have a wide dampening collar, because it greatly reduces the noise.

Faucets

In general your faucet will have its own style based on the shape of its handle or handles, its height and its accessories. Keep in mind that your faucet should be chosen to compliment the architectural theme you?ve created with your countertops, cabinetry and appliances. Faucets also offer a lot in the way of options - adjustable heights, spray and swivel features and multiple colors and finishes.

Don?t forget about your sink when you choose your faucet, because if you have a self-rimming sink it comes with predrilled holes so you?ll need to make sure your faucet will fit. You can pick any faucet you like if your sink is undermounted or integral, because the holes are drilled by the installer after you?ve picked out your faucet.

Here are a few things to consider to help choose a faucet that’s right for you.

Handles

Handles should be chosen to compliment your kitchen. The traditional style is a two-handled faucet with one knob for hot water and the other for cold water, which allows for independent control of both. However, faucets with one handle are becoming increasingly popular because you can enjoy the convenience of single-handedly controlling your water temperature and volume. Handles come in a thousand varieties, from cross-handles to wrist-blade lever styles.

Finish

Look for a long-lasting, low maintenance finish to compliment your decor. Your choices are quite extensive and include chrome plating, nickel plating, white enamel, brass, colored epoxy, platinum, porcelain, bronze, stainless steel and gold or silver. The favored finishes are chrome and brass because they are easy to maintain and very durable. A word of caution if you go with brass - it requires a special protective coating to prevent it from tarnishing. For lots of color options and easy cleanup go with an epoxy finish.

Material

When it comes to the faucet?s main material, your two best options are solid brass or plastic. Solid brass comes highly recommended because it is a much tougher material than plastic and can handle extreme temperatures. Internally, your faucet will control the flow of water using 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 solid brass.

Spout and spray

A basic kitchen faucet has a standard spout that rises only slightly in height from the faucet body to its tip. A high-arc faucet (also known as high-neck or gooseneck) has a spout that increases dramatically in height, often as high as ten inches or more. This allows for easy rinsing of large pots and presents an elegant look in any kitchen.

Scald Protection

This may not seem that important to you if you don?t have children, but you may someday, so why not add an anti-scald feature to your faucet for a few more dollars.

Look for quality

An inexpensive faucet may look as good as the more expensive one, but don?t be fooled - it won?t last long. Your flag should go up when plastic is used on integral parts, washers are controlling the flow of water (should have ceramic disks or replaceable cartridges) and are lightweight. Plummer bills will be far more costly down the road, than purchasing a high quality faucet from day one.

Off-set drains

By placing the drains to one side you?ll gain more flat space for stacking dishes and glasses and create more usable space under the sink. Offset drains also allow water to drain, even if a large pan or tray is soaking in the sink.

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Trends in Kitchen Faucets and Sinks

Bigger is better, when it comes to kitchen sinks. The new trend in the kitchen is installing a large, single-bowl sink - which is more efficient for rinsing and washing, especially large pots and pans.

Rims are out! The majority of new homeowners are spending the extra money (about a couple hundred more) to get an undermounted or integral sink. It not only looks great, but it is very functional.

Pullout spray faucets and satin nickel or stainless steel finishes are very popular. Another trend is towards decorative faucets, which help add a little spice to your kitchen. If you want a sleeker style and finish then satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze are worth checking out. Oil-rubbed bronze is a unique finish which gives a weathered, natural look that changes into a nice patina. For a more rustic/country look you can go for a farm or apron sink.

People like the idea of having a sink on the island where the cooktop is because they won?t have to worry about dripping back and forth from the sink to the stove. For an added touch on your island you can get a small basin installed. It may look like just a pottery bowl, but it has real plumbing and is attached to the wall. Pot-filler faucets are also becoming popular, because people don?t want to have to keep running back to the sink to fill a pot. This faucet is attached right by the stove and folds back against the wall when you’re not using it.

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