What is an Undermount Sink? October 12th, 2009
Undermount sinks are more popular these days for a variety of reasons. One reason is because of the surge in homeowners who are upgrading to solid surface countertops.
Solid surface countertops can be any countertop made of stone, or a very hard stone like material, the most popular material being granite. Quarts, marble, and concrete are some of the other popular solid surface countertop materials you might be installing in your home.
The other reason for undermount sink popularity is the unique benefits undermount sinks offer compared to the conventional drop in sink. But not everyone knows what an undermount sink really is. Many people order them only because their countertop fabricator told them they need one. Sometimes customers order an undermount sink when they really need a drop in sink.
There are two basic styles of kitchen sinks
The purpose of this article is to briefly explain what an "undermount sink" actually is. There are two basic styles of kitchen sinks. The most common kitchen sink is what is referred to as a "drop in" sink. This style of sink is found in ninety percent of all kitchens. The easiest way to determine if a sink is a drop in sink is to check for a lip that sits on the countertop. If the sink has a lip on top of the counters that you can stick your fingernail underneath, it is a drop in sink. Also, most of the time drop in sinks have holes in the back of the sink that the faucet mounts to.
Drop ins do what their name implies, they are dropped into the countertop from above. The lip of the sink sits on the countertop and that is what keeps it in place. Drop in sinks are usually cheaper than undermount sinks, and most of the time they are sub quality.
When a hole is cut in a granite countertop for an undermount sink, the hole is very custom to the sink it was cut for. And, of course, the hole is permanent. So the sink that is installed in that hole must last a very long time. If your sink fails, it is very hard to find a replacement sink that will fit a custom hole cut in a granite countertop. Notice Sienna Sinks only sells 18 or 16 guage sinks made of solid 304 series stainless steel. We also use an 18/10 Chromium/Nickel content. This is the reason why.
But when a hole is cut for a drop in sink in a laminate countertop, it isn't as permanant. Most drop in sinks (not all) are very conventional shapes and sizes. And you can't see the edges of the hole so it isn't as necessary to have a perfect hole. If you need to replace the sink, just purchase one close to the same size and drop it in the hole you already have. Even if the hole isn't the exact size, the lip of the sink should cover up any discrepancies. And if the sink is larger that the hole, it's easy to cut the countertop larger to make room. This is not possible (or should we say "feasible") to do in solid surface countertops.
How to tell which is which
The easiest way to tell if a sink is an undermount sink is if it's hanging underneath the countertop. The sink will not have a lip sitting on the countertop. You will be also be able to see the edge of the counter in the hole cut for the sink. Most of the time an undermount sink will not have holes at the back for the faucet to mount to. Instead of mounting to the sink, the faucet will sit on the countertops behind the hole cut for the sink.
The benefits of an undermount sink versus a drop in sink
The benefits of an undermount sink compared to a drop in sink are both aesthetic and function. As far as function goes, undermount sinks are easier to keep clean because you don't have to deal with the lip on the countertop. For instance, when wiping your counters clean it is common to wipe any food debris straight from your counter into the sink. When there is a lip, it makes it more difficult to get the debris over the lip and into the bowl. Often times food particles can build up under the lip of the sink. Over time it can become unsightly, smelly, and unsanitary. Undermount sinks don't have this problem because there is no lip. The food particles just fall from the counter directly into the bowl.
This bring us to the aesthetics of an undermount sink. The main reason people choose undermount versus drop in is the minimalistic look it can bring to the kitchen. Without a lip around the edge there is nothing "sitting" on the countertop. Even though the lip of a sink isn't technically an object sitting on your counters cluttering them up, it is raised up so too the eye it just looks like another thing taking up space. You might not have ever thought about the lip of a sink this way, but when you compare the two it is obvious.
Add that to the fact that the faucet doesn't have to mount to the sink so you don't have that space in the back of the sink for the faucet to mount. To make the space look clean and well maintained, less is better.
It's also nice to have the freedom to choose exactly where your faucet is going to sit. For the most part, people will put their faucets in the same general places. But everyone's habits in the kitchen are unique. You might not want your faucet exactly in the middle. You might use one certain bowl ninety-nine percent of the time, so you can put the faucet closer to that bowl but where it can still swing over to the other bowl when you need it. It is also more popular now to offset the faucet to the corner of a single bowl undermount sink to break up the monotony. Of course, you don't have to do anything special with your faucet placement. But it's nice to have that freedom if you want it. You can't do that with a drop in sink because it has precut holes for faucets and soap dispensers.
Undermount sinks are easier to use, look nicer and less cluttered, and are usually better quality that a conventional drop in sink. Just make sure you are installing a solid surface countertop such as granite before you order one.