Choosing Sink Size and Material:
Yet another decision that must be made when giving your kitchen a makeover is what kind of sink you’ll be putting in. We’ve already gone over the different formats that sinks come in (topmount, undermount, and farmhouse) but there are several material types to choose within those three umbrella varieties. There are positives and negatives to any material, just like anything in life, and we’ve outlined some of those here:
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel sinks are the most fire-and-forget sinks out there. They’re heavy-duty, light-weight, easy to maintain, and match well with stainless steel appliances. The flange or lip around undermount stainless steel sinks is thin enough that it can sandwich between 2CM stone and plywood or sit on top of the sink base box without causing stress to the stone. This means that the only measurement to really worry about for these sinks is the basin width. These will also be the loudest of the sink options when the water hits the basin, though there are coatings that can be applied to the underside to mitigate the noise. While stainless steel is more hardy and resistant to many cleaners than the other material options there are a few things to keep in mind about its care and cleaning.
- Don’t use bleach on your stainless steel. bleach can cause visible clouding on the surface of your sink.
- We recommend rinsing out your sink after each use as many cleaners contain chlorides which can patina or stain your stainless steel.
- Avoid the use of steel wool or steel scrub brushes. Steel wool and brushes contain a small amount of iron which can get into the polish lines in your sink and rust.
- Make sure to scrub in the direction of the polish lines in your sink anytime you are using the scrubby side of a sponge or any sort of abrasive.
- Try not to leave steel or cast iron items in your sink for too long. The iron in these items can cause rusting and surface staining if left in a damp environment.
- Dry any sponges, cloths, or dish-mats on a rack rather than in the sink. Anything absorptive will trap bacteria and give it an environment in which it thrives. Some bacteria can stain your sink, and you don’t want bacteria to set up shop where you clean your dishes.
- Place any edged, sharp, or heavy items in your sink carefully to prevent dents and scratches.
The upkeep of stainless steel is relatively easy. Make sure to rinse after each use and clean up food waste quickly. If your sink starts to dull over time you can use a mix of baking soda and water to scrub the full interior surface of your sink, and then rinse out with vinegar. Never mix vinegar and bleach as this creates chlorine gas which was the toxic gas used to kill many soldiers in the trenches of WW1. Make sure to check the ingredients list of any cleaners you’ll be using in tandem. If you’d like to intensify the shine you can try wiping it down with club soda and a soft, non-abrasive cloth. Should the idea of water spots on your sink fill you with horror, make sure to dry your sink after each use with a soft absorptive cloth. This will also prevent mineral deposits from wreaking havoc with the shine.
Granite Composite – Granite composite sinks are a man-made option composed of granite dust and epoxy resins. Because colourants and additives can be integrated within the entire matrix of the sink they come in a wider variety of colours than other sink options. They’re also less heat conductive and most closely resemble natural granite sinks but without the hefty price tag. The flange on granite composite sinks is a lot thicker than stainless steel which means the entire flange must fit inside the cabinet box for an undermount variation. They are also heavier than stainless steel is, so our installers will build a support structure within the sink cabinet out of 2x4s to make sure your brand new sink doesn’t simply drop out of your brand new counter. That would not make for a good day. Because this sink is thicker throughout it’s a good idea to check any drains or disposals to make sure they’ll be compatible. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of granite composite care:
- Never use bleach or any other harsh chemicals such as ammonia or Drano on your sink. This will cause lasting damage to the protective coating and the coloration.
- Avoid harsh abrasives such as Comet or the scrubby side of the sponge. These will cause scratches within the surface of your sink which will shorten the lifespan of your sink, dull the finish, and allow bacteria to proliferate. Stick with soft cloths and sponges and use warm water to soak off stubborn gunk.
- Clean food waste out of your sink quickly, and rinse the sink clean after every use. If you want to avoid water spots or mineral staining you can dry your sink out after each use with a soft cloth.
- Clean stains using a baking soda and water combination, but don’t scrub too hard or the abrasive nature of baking soda will scratch the surface.
- Use a sink rack in the bottom of the basin to prevent chips and dings from heavy cookware.
We also just wanted to repeat that bleach and vinegar should never be mixed. Or bleach and ammonia. Or bleach and rubbing alcohol. Probably best just to avoid mixing bleach with anything but water.
Porcelain – The composition of a porcelain sink will usually consist of either 100% fired porcelain with an enamel glaze over the top, or porcelain and glaze fired around a thin cast iron core. These sinks are durable and come with a high gloss finish. Porcelain has been around for a long time, and can often lend a classic touch to a home. Like any hard surface sink it’ll be important to place fragile dishware carefully into the basin to avoid shattering. To keep your porcelain gleaming and stain-free:
- Never apply bleach directly to the surface, use harsher chemicals like Drano or Comet, or use strong abrasives to clean your sink. Chemicals can eat through the glaze layer, and abrasives and scrubs can damage and scratch the glaze. You can pull stains from the surface by layering paper towels at the bottom, and then spraying a 50/50 water and bleach solution over the towels. Let it sit for 30 minutes making sure to ventilate the space, and then thoroughly rinse. If you’d rather avoid bleach then a mild cleaner such as Barkeeper’s Friend used gently can also help remove surface stains. For daily cleaning just use warm water and dish soap with a soft cloth or sponge.
- Clean up any coffee, tea, or food materials immediately. Food and beverages are the number one stainers of any porcelain surface, so nip it in the bud before you have to go to bleach city.
- Place silverware, cutlery, and heavy pans carefully into the basin to avoid scratching and chipping.
- For extra protection, use a sink rack to conserve your investment. If you use a soft dish mat make sure to dry it thoroughly to avoid bacterial contamination.
Fireclay – Fireclay is an extremely durable sink made from a special clay found only in certain parts of the world such as Italy and France. This clay is mixed with water, glazed, and then heated to over 2100 degrees Fahrenheit (as hot as lava which ranges between 1,292 and 2,192 degrees F). The glaze bonds thoroughly with the fireclay, and the extreme heat toughens the material beyond that of porcelain or granite composite. These sinks are usually found in white or off-white colours but there are a few black options out there. These sinks are extremely heat and scratch resistant and also extremely heavy. It’s extremely difficult to chip these sinks. Like the granite composite sinks it’ll be important to get drains and disposals that are fireclay compatible. The care and feeding of fireclay:
- Don’t use super harsh abrasives to clean them, industrial solvents, Drano, or metal cleaners.
- Clean daily with warm water and dish soap and a soft sponge. If you notice scratches or scuffs on the sink it’s most likely just stubborn residue left by metal implements. Just soak it off, or use a baking soda paste to gently abrade it away.
- If you want to protect the shine of the sink and encourage proper drainage you can apply a layer of food-safe liquid wax.
That’s pretty much it! These sinks are resilient to most things you throw at them. They’re also lead-free, made of eco-responsible materials, and recyclable!
Cast Iron – Cast iron sinks are a classic choice. They’re made of – you guessed it – iron coated with a thick enamel layer. Because they get their colouration from the enamel you can sometimes find them in a variety of colours to match your theme. They’re also frequently made of 80% recycled/reclaimed iron which is good news for the eco conscious. Because they’re predominately metal they do hold heat extremely well which can be nice when washing a lot of dishes at a time. These are also the heaviest sink options so brace them well, and if you opt for the topmount variation make sure you reinforce the countertop it’ll be sitting on. For your cast iron sink the care will be very similar to the porcelain and granite composite options. The only difference is that if the enamel layer is damaged or worn through you run the risk of your sink rusting out from under you. Treat your sinks with kindness and they will last you a lot longer and look better doing it.
Measuring sink cabinet: Ok, you’ve chosen your sink material, mounting type…but now you have to figure out your size. It’s a pretty simple measurement; just take your measuring tape from one side of the inside of your sink cabinet box and measure to the other inside wall. Subtract a quarter of an inch for ⅛” wiggle room to get the sink in on either side, and you’ve got the maximum basin measurement for stainless steel sinks and topmount versions of the other materials, and the maximum flange measurement for the undermount composite, porcelain, fireclay, or cast iron sinks.