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Everything about the kitchen sink—and faucet

Materials matter most, then pick the style you like

Published: August 07, 2015 12:00 PM
Kohler Whitehaven Hayridge

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Despite marketing hype, when it comes to sinks and faucets price has little to do with performance. Here’s how to save without sacrificing style or quality.


Pick the sink material

What the sink is made of matters more than who makes it, according to Consumer Reports' tough tests. That’s why we rate materials. We stained, scoured, dropped objects, and set down hot pots in 18 double-bowl sinks. We compared thick, heavy-gauge stainless steel with thinner versions, and heavy cast iron with lighter acrylic and trendy fireclay. Our sink Ratings show results for the six most common materials.

If you’re considering stainless steel, don’t spend more for thicker-gauge metal. Do look for sound-absorbing pads on the bottom of the sink’s exterior. They muffled noise better than spray-on coatings. And matte finishes hid scratches better than polished surfaces.

Select the style

Drop-in sinks, also called top-mount or self-rimming, fit into the counter with an overlapping lip. They’re easiest to install and work with any countertop material. But grime tends to build up where sink and counter meet.
Price: $100 to $500

Undermount sinks sit slightly below the counter, which must be a waterproof surface, for a sleek look and easy cleanup. Faucets are usually installed in the counter or mounted behind on a wall.
Price: $200 to $1,000

Farmhouse sinks, also called apron-front, are one deep bowl with the faucet mounted in the counter or on a wall. Stainless-steel models suit modern designs; for a traditional or country look consider copper or enameled cast iron. But they may require special cabinets.
Price: $900 to $3,700

Mind the specs

Double-bowl sinks let you soak a pot in one side while washing items in the other. Be sure at least one bowl can fit large pots or roasting pans. In smaller kitchens, a single bowl might be more practical.

Rectangular sinks are standard; D-shaped offer more space front to back. Most range in depth from 6 to 12 inches. Deeper sinks reduce splashing, but you might have to bend to reach the bottom.


Faucet features

You don’t need to pay hundreds for a kitchen faucet. All but the least expensive models have good-quality valves and tough finishes. As long as a manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty against leaks and stains, feel ­confident in picking whatever style and features you want.

Single-lever faucets can be easier to install and use than models with separate handles. They also take up less counter space. Models with a side-mounted handle may need more room between the backsplash and handle, or you might end up banging your knuckles when you turn the faucet on or off. Gooseneck faucets have higher clearances, so it’s easier to fit a big pot underneath.

A spray/stream selector, especially one that has accessible buttons on the side or top of the spray head, lets you switch between spray and stream. Some save the last mode used.

A pullout spout combines a spout and a spray head with a swivel that adds flexibility. Hoses should reach around to corners.

Scratch-resistant PVD (physical vapor deposition) finishes come in nickel, copper, pewter, bronze, gold, and polished brass.

A counterweight helps the hose and spout properly retract.

Whichever faucet you choose, get one with the same number of holes as your sink (new or existing). Otherwise you’ll need an ugly base plate to cover the unused holes.

It’s also critical to match the faucet to the sink size. A large faucet for a small or shallow sink can cause splashing. And a small faucet for a large sink may not extend into the sink’s corners for easy cleaning. Plus mismatched scale just looks silly.

Kitchen Remodeling Guide

Find everything you need to know, including our top-rated appliances and materials, in our Kitchen Remodeling Guide.

Planning to remodel your kitchen? Let us about your project by adding a comment below.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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Countertops Ratings

View and compare all Countertops ratings.

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