Bathroom Sinks – The Pros and Cons

I did a post recently about bathroom sinks.  One of you commented that you thought that glass sinks and vessel sinks weren’t practical.  So I thought I would do a more extensive report about sink types and materials.

You’ve got 4 different sets of choices when it comes to sinks.  The previous article dealt with type. This article concentrates on Material but also with reference to style and function.


Ceramic, Vitreous China, & Fireclay Sinks

Modern Undermount Porcelain Sink


Pros: They have a smooth, non-porous surface that won’t rust, fade, or discolor. They are relatively easy to clean & maintain with non-abrasive cleaners.  There are many styles, shapes, colors and designs to choose from, plain is very affordable.  Follow this link for more information on the difference between these materials.  Ceramic and china sinks offer the greatest diversity in terms of style and function.  You can buys pedestal, drop-in, undermount and vessel sinks in this material.  You can buy ones that are square — and coordinate with a modern theme, or ones that are ornate and coordinate well with very traditional themes.  Personally, this is usually my sink of choice when remodeling my own bathrooms or those of my clients — unless I’m trying to make a visual statement with stone, glass, metal or concrete.

Cons:  There are few cons.  While they can chip or crack – they are much harder to chip and crack that most materials.  Their cost is largely dependent on the style and function.

Stainless Steel

Modern Stainless Steel Undermount Sink


Pros:  Durable, easy to maintain, better quality (18 gauge) resists water spots, dents and scratches, thinner is readily available and very affordable.  Some suppliers (Artisan) offer 16 gauge stainless that’s even heavier and less prone to dents than 18 gauge stainless.  High nickel content gives the sink a smoother, shinier look.  Stainless is more resilient that china or most other materials so fragile items dropped into a stainless sink are less likely to break.  I prefer a brushed finish since most scratches can be brushed out.  I only use undermount  or vessel sinks in the bath.

Cons:  Stainless steel is really only appropriate in contemporary or modern style baths.  Stay away from thinner stainless (22 gauge) which is easily dented and shows scratches more easily.  If used as a drop-in, grime can get concentrate around the rim.

Enameled Steel

Pros:  Lightweight, thin.

Cons:  I personally tend to stay away from enameled steel.  Enamel finish can chip and repairs are difficult and noticeable.

Enameled Cast Iron

Circa 1925 Enameled Cast Iron Sink


Pros:  Thickness gives solid look, affordable, easy to clean, chip-resistant and available in a wide range of colors.  Most enameled cast iron sinks are vintage sinks such as this sink circa 1925 or reproductions of vintage sinks.  Cast iron holds water temperaturs better than most sink materials — which is why cast iron is good for soaking tubs.  If you hand-wash and want to let items soak in hot or warm water frequently, you should consider cast iron.

Cons:  Heavy – Countertop may need extra support, do-it-yourselfers may need extra hands to install. Colors and special shapes can be pricey.

Cast Polymer & Solid Surface

Integral Solid Surface Sink and Countertop


Pros:  Stain resistant, lots of colors & looks (can look like stone or concrete).  The sink and countertop can be cast as a single integrated unit — which is a very functional and clean look.

Cons:  To my taste, the integrated sink and countertop look is very institutional.    Check to see whether installation must be by a licensed installer in order to maintain the warranty.

Other Materials – Glass, Stone, Metal, Concrete

Pros:  For a powder room, using an unusual material is a great way to create a custom look.  While expensive, it can be a cost-effective way to create a big statement.

Cons:  These materials can be very, very expensive.   Glass, stone and concrete can all chip.  Glass is particularly inappropriate for most moderate to heavy use — for example, a steady stream of hot water while shaving can create enough of a temperature differential that the glass can crack.   But I will admit that, if my client is so inclined,  I will recommend these alternate materials in powder rooms to create a statement.  Here are 2 that I’ve used:

Stone Pedestal Sink by Stone Forest
Stone Pedestal Sink by Stone Forest
Custom Glass Vessel Sink
Custom Glass Vessel Sink by Jackie Braitman
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