Contractors have long used topmount sinks in many settings thanks to their easy installation and the wide variety of styles and features found in todays selection of topmounts. Sometimes called the drop-in skin, the sink style is installed by placing the fixture directly into its accompanying cabinetry from above rather than from below. The beauty and durability of stainless steel perfectly complements the design of topmount sinks, making it one of the most popular materials for this type of fixture.
To help you navigate the vast selection of styles available today, we have developed this Topmount Stainless Steel Sinks Buyers' Guide. The guide consists of important points to consider when comparing sinks as well as tips to simplify the buying process.
Basic Design and Benefits
Drop-in sinks are easily recognizable by their metal lips or rims, which extend over the surfaces of countertops. The style is ideal for replacing existing fixtures, particularly if your cabinets have become damaged over the years. Even if the hole inside the woodwork is no longer symmetrical or even along the edges, a top mounted sink will look perfect once installed. Provided that you choose a replacement to fit the current size of your cabinetry, changes to the woodwork and to the plumbing are typically not necessary with drop-in sinks.
The secret to easy installation for a top mounted sink is selecting a fixture that perfectly fits the size of your cabinetry. For new construction, the building specs will provide this information in great detail; however, if you are embarking on a remodeling or replacement project, you may need to measure the area yourself by following these steps:
For square and rectangular sinks
For circular and oval sinks
- Place your tape measure on one of the front corners of your sink and then measure to the opposite front corner to obtain the length. For a perfectly square sink, this value will also be your width.
- For rectangular sinks, turn your tape and measure from your starting corner to the one directly above it to obtain the width.
- Look at the left side of your sink and determine the widest point of the curve.
- Place your tape measure at this spot and extend it across the sink to the widest portion of the curve on the right-hand side. This measurement is a round sink's diameter or an oval sink's length.
- For oval sinks, take the length and divide the distance by 2.
- At the front of your sink, measure across by the number of inches determined in step 3.
- From the halfway point, turn your tape measure and determine the distance to the back edge of the fixture. This is the oval sink's width.
Before you begin to browse through the selection of drop-in sinks available from retailers, consider the purpose and location of your sink. Certain styles are better suited to particular settings and purposes, and thoroughly evaluating your needs will help you quickly focus on only those styles that are best for your home or business.
The most common uses for top mounted sink fixtures are:
- Kitchen sinks are usually large to accommodate pots, pans and large loads of dishes after big meals. Rectangular and square sinks are often preferable in the kitchen as they provide the most room. Often, two bowls are useful in kitchens: one for soaking and scrubbing and one for rinsing. Some home cooks prefer a separate, round prep sink located away from the main fixture to quickly obtain water while cooking or to rinse off equipment while they work.
- Bar sinks are generally smaller in size and used only as a source of drinking water and for light cleaning. Many people prefer round sinks for use in bars due to their aesthetic appeal.
- Bathroom sinks are usually chosen for their appearance and to complement the other plumbing fixtures in the space. Like bar sinks, most bathroom sinks are round or oval in shape. Usually, only one bowl is placed in bathrooms, though some designs include side-by-side single bowl sinks to allow a couple simultaneous access.
Even is two sinks that have the same overall size, differences may exist between the bowl sizes. The sizes of top mounted sink bowls are represented in three different measurements.
- The depth of a sink bowl is its vertical measurement. Rather than measuring from the drain upward, the depth is determined from the spot in the sink immediately adjacent to the drain. Deeper bowls hold more water than those with shallower depths.
- The taper of a sink bowl describes the amount of inward slope found from the top of the sink to the drain. Typically, smaller tapers decrease the overall room in the bowl of the sink.
- The corner radius is found only in non-round sink bowls. The figure is obtained from measuring from the corner of the sink horizontally to the point where the side is no longer curved.
If you wish to have more than one bowl in your sink, your next decision is what configuration will best suit your needs. Three primary options are available:
- Identical side-by-side bowls have the exact same dimensions and are placed directly beside each other. This is the traditional style for multiple sink bowls.
- Nonidentical side-by-side bowls feature a smaller bowl on one side for prerinsing or rinsing and a larger bowl for soaking and scrubbing. A small number of nonidentical sinks, often called gourmet style, have two identical bowls and a smaller one in the center for rinsing and obtaining water while cooking.
- Cornered bowls are oriented at a 90-degree angle from one another and are intended to conserve counter space in tight kitchens by placing the sink in the corner of the cabinetry.
Materials and Construction
After you have found a selection of sinks with the appropriate dimensions, bowl size and configuration for your purposes, you are ready to compare their materials and construction. To make the process simple, consider the following elements:
The gauge of stainless steel corresponds to its thickness, which in turn gives you an idea of its strength. Gauge measurements can be difficult to interpret at first because smaller gauges actually correspond to thicker steel. When shopping for sinks you will generally encounter one of four gauge sizes: 14 (1.98mm), 16 (1.6mm), 18 (1.27mm) and 20 (0.95mm).
While it is important to purchase a sink that is durable and strong, keep in mind that for some purposes, the strength is not as important. For example, for a small bar sink that will not be used for scrubbing pots and pans, a higher gauge may be adequate if the rest of the stylistic elements are to your liking.
In all descriptions of stainless steel topmount sinks, you will see a mention of the steel type. Most products feature Type 304 or austenitic steel. To produce this material, iron is blended with carbon and a mix of alloys, including nickel or manganese. Chromium is also contained in the alloy blend and accounts for 16 percent of its volume. For sinks, Type 304 steel is ideal because it is a safe surface to place food in for rinsing, but is durable enough to withstand corrosive cleaners and heavy loads.
A small number of manufacturers make sinks out of Type 430 ferritic and Type 410 martensitic steels. Ferritic steel contains iron, carbon and chromium only, while martensitic includes 12 percent chromium and a very small amount of nickel. Both types are durable in the presence of very high heat, making them better suited to industrial purposes rather than for use in drop-in sinks.
Some sinks come outfitted with pre-drilled holes to accommodate accessories. Before purchasing a sink, take into consideration what accessories would suit your needs to ensure that there are an adequate number of holes in the fixture you select. In addition to your faucet, you may desire holes for:
- Sprayers for assistance with removing food and cleaning the sink
- Soap dispensers to make washing dishes faster
- Water filter taps to supply water from a fresh drinking-water system
- Filtered hot water taps to quickly dispense heated water
Drains in steel sinks can be placed in the center, front or rear of the fixture. The drain area is the deepest point in the sink, so its location affects how water will lay in the bowl. The center drain is the most common, though some people prefer the drain at the back to allow for more water directly beneath the faucet for cleaning large items like pots and pans. Forward drain placements make it easier to find small items like flatware, which often drift to the lowest part of the sink. When replacing a sink, always look at your plumbing before changing the location of the drain hole; in some cases, it may be impossible or expensive to modify the existing drainpipes to accommodate a new drain location.
Typically, drainboards are included only for commercial stainless sinks, though some homeowners also prefer them in kitchen settings. The drainboard is an additional stainless steel sloped surface positioned beside the sink bowl. After rinsing, items are placed on the drainboard to air dry, and the water that runs off them is returned to the sink thanks to the slant of the board.