We know firsthand the consequences of leaving a tiny smidge of counter space beside the sink: It all seems fine until you’re juggling slippery, clean dishes—or a super-hot pan—and have no place to set them down. Ask us about the couple with a small apartment kitchen who had all of their under-sink storage space taken up because of a bulky centerset drain. Or the family who invested in a gorgeous countertop, only to have an extra hole drilled in it because of a last-minute faucet switch.
The sink is the unsung hero of the kitchen: You’ll use it countless times every day and, when chosen with care, it can make your life a lot easier. There are a lot of tiny choices that can make or break how your sink works for you—but don’t worry; we’ll help. And with a Skipp kitchen, you might even like doing the dishes. Just don’t tell anyone.
Where to Put the Kitchen Sink
To avoid kitchen bottlenecks, the three most important workspaces in your kitchen—the sink, refrigerator, and range—should form a triangle. You don’t want them too far apart from each other or too cramped: The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) says each “side” of the triangle should be no shorter than 4 feet and no longer than 9 feet. You’ll also need to consider where your plumbing hookups are,, in order to minimize lots of rearranging (and cost). (For more on that, see our Kitchen Layouts Guide.)
Have a teeny cook space or a single-wall kitchen? You don’t have to follow the triangle thing perfectly to have an efficient space. Just be sure to leave clear stretches of counter space between sink, range, and fridge. The NKBA suggests at least 24 inches on one side of the sink, and at least 18 inches on the other.
Once that’s settled, it’s time to choose what type of sink to get and which faucet to go with it. Here are your options.
Kitchen Sink Size
When it comes to sink size, it’s best to strike a balance between sink size and counter space on either side. Basically, go for the biggest sink you can while still leaving plenty of counter space on either side. Sinks are measured in depth, width, and length, but it’s length you’ll want to pay particular attention to (the distance from the left inside wall of the basin to the right inside wall). The length can range widely, from a prep sink (a petite 12 or even 9 inches) to a single-bowl sink (20 to 33 inches) to a double-bowl sink (which can go up to 48 inches). In most cases, contractor Nauman Shah of Sanz Construction recommends one that’s 30 inches across—not too big, not too tight.
🧰 Pro Tip: Consider sink depth, too. A deep sink is a plus for keeping dirty dishes out of sight, but it can be taxing for tall people who have to bend over to reach the bottom of the sink. And, it might take up too much space beneath the counter.
Types of Kitchen Sinks
Undermount sinks are installed—you guessed it—underneath your countertop. The pluses? There’s no lip around the sink, lending an extra streamlined look. On the other hand, most undermount sinks don’t work with tile or laminate counters, if that’s your thing, and they can be on the pricey side. They also need to be specially installed to make sure they can hold a dinner party’s worth of dirty dishes without crashing down.
🧰 Pro Tip: If you have the space, opt for a sink with a built-in drainboard for mess-free drying of clean dishes.
Drop-in sinks (sometimes called top-mount sinks) fit just the way they sound: They slip down into your countertop and have a small lip around the edge, which can look a little more old-fashioned (and collect mildew and dirt).
💰 Money-Saving Tip: Drop-in sinks are easier to install and often cheaper than their undermount counterparts.
The farmhouse sink, also called an apron-front, has an exposed front and can be made of just about any material: stone or metal, porcelain or enamel. Because a farmhouse sink is heavy and juts out to the edge of the counter (or a bit beyond), you’ll need to make sure the cabinet beneath is sturdy enough to support it.
Kitchen Sink Materials
Stainless Steel Sinks
There are quite a few kitchen sink materials out there: copper and cement, soapstone and fireclay and solid surface. But the most common is stainless steel, and for good reason: It’s sturdy, hard-wearing, and easy to clean. It’s a little counterintuitive, but you’ll want to go for the lowest gauge you can. The lower the gauge number, the thicker and more durable the steel, which means less noise when you run the water or do the dishes, and more protection against denting. "The minimum recommendation is 18- to 16-gauge,” says Shah. “Any less and you risk structural damage.”
🧰 Pro Tip: You could save a little money by installing a middle-of-the-road thickness and insulating with foam spray for noise reduction, rather than opting for a pricier 14- or 16-gauge option. “But if you could afford it,” says Shah, “it's better to get a lower gauge sink. It will last you much longer and you wouldn't have to worry about repair costs down the line.”
Enamel and Porcelain Sinks
Enamel—layered over cast iron (on the high end) or steel (on the low end)—and porcelain sinks look charming and timeless in the kitchen. But keep in mind that white sinks can be tricky to keep sparkling clean, and will be less forgiving if you accidentally drop a wine glass while doing the dishes. (It’ll probably shatter.) They can also chip if you clink a heavy pan against them.
🧰 Pro Tip: “A very important question is if the water will completely drain from all corners of the sink without any assistance from you,” says Jessi Economos, founder and principal designer of JEID Studio. “This unfortunately is a problem for a lot of the hard-lined, contemporary-looking sinks. Be cautious of the basin's slope to make sure it won't irk you every time you go to rinse something.”
Where to Put the Drain
You can choose a sink with a centerset, rear, or offset drain—and it matters more than you’d think. Some say a centerset drain minimizes noise because it’s positioned right below the faucet, so running water hits the drain, not the sink basin. Then again, an offset drain allows you to stack pots and pans in the bottom of the sink without blocking the drain—no more sinks full of dirty dish water. And, offset drains can save space under the counter, too: Since plumbing will be tucked to one side, there’s more room for the trash can or cleaning supplies.
Types of Kitchen Faucets
For hard-wearing, long-lasting faucets, Skipp offers only all-metal models, no plastic parts included. That’s one decision made easier. Here are a few types to choose from:
A deck-mounted faucet is installed in the counter behind your kitchen sink. Pay attention to a few terms: Some are bridge faucets, which means the tap and handles come off of one raised branch. Others are triple-hole, double-hole, or single-hole, referring to the number of holes that will be drilled into the counter.
🧰 Pro Tip: “Check faucet depth with the placement of the sink and the depth of the sink. Many times the faucet spout can be too short or long,” advises interior designer Larah Moravek, partner at Dutch East Design.
Single-handle faucets are super streamlined: They often have pull-down sprayer nozzles, just one handle for temperature control, and sometimes hands-free turn-on, all from one petite attachment point in the counter.
The increasingly popular restaurant-style, semi-pro faucet falls into the single-handle category, too, with a high-arc spout, powerful pull-out spray nozzle, and industrial look.
You’ve probably guessed that wall-mounted faucets are attached to the wall. They extend over the sink, leaving the sliver of counter between the sink and the wall free and clear for a streamlined, open look, also ideal for plumbing hook-ups that run through the wall. But wall-mounted faucets are more expensive than deck-mounted, and if you want to add any accessories, like a sprayer nozzle or hot-water tap, you’ll need to install them in the counter.
Accessories and Add-Ons
A few more things to consider? A spray nozzle, cold-water tap, deck-mounted soap dispenser, a disposal, or a pot-filler faucet above the range. Consider your lifestyle before choosing which would make your kitchen work harder for you. Constant tea drinker? Go for the hot water tap. Hate cleaning the sink? A sprayer nozzle makes it easier.
Have pasta regularly? A pot-filler faucet like this one fills pots right on the stovetop—no more heavy carrying from sink to stove.