Whether you’re designing a new kitchen or remodeling an old one, there comes a time in every homeowner’s life when you need to search for a new kitchen sink. If you go shopping around for sinks, you’ll notice that are hundreds of types, styles, and designs to choose from. Though, one of the first choices you’ll have to make, and arguably the most crucial, is between a drop-in and an undermount sink.
The question of which is better – undermount or drop-in sink – is both a stylistic and utilitarian one. Drop-in sinks have been around for almost as long as plumbing, while undermount sinks are a relatively new design. Undermount sinks are commonly viewed as the more elegant, high-end option, but they aren’t suitable for every kind of countertop. Not to mention, drop-in sinks tend to be more affordable and easier to install than their undermount counterparts.
What’s the Difference?
The main difference between these two sinks is the way in which they are installed. Also commonly referred to as self-rimming or top-mount, drop-in sinks are installed from the top of the sink by lowering the fixture into the opening that is cut out in the countertop. On the other hand, undermount sinks are installed underneath the counter, inside of the cabinet, and attached to the underside of the countertop. Another crucial difference between the two is that drop-in sinks feature a rim that sits atop the counter for support, while an undermount sink relies on support anchor posts.
These differences between these two sinks impact the appearance of your entire countertop. The rim on a drop-in sink accentuates the space around the sink, but the undermount’s lack of a rim creates a virtually seamless design that highlights the natural beauty of your counters.
The Pros and Cons of Drop-In Sinks
Originally, drop-in sinks were the only option available, meaning they come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. These sinks can also be made in nearly any standard material, such as ceramic, stone, stainless steel, engineered stone, porcelain, and enameled cast iron. With that said, here are the pros and cons associated with drop-in sinks and why you may want to choose one of over the other:
- Drop-in sinks are the more affordable option, costing approximately 50% less than undermount sinks of the same material and size.
- They are simple to install. The process involves cutting a hole in the countertop, dropping in the sink, and securing it with specialized clips.
- These sinks are suitable for all countertop materials. Its rim conceals the edge of the hole cut into the countertop, meaning it can be installed on stone, metal, engineered stone, and even laminates with a plywood core.
- The sink’s rim is known for collecting dirt. The gap between the rim and countertop is filled with caulk during installation, but the caulk does not last forever. Over time, the caulk will usually turn black from mold and sediment.
- These sinks make cleaning the countertop more difficult. Since the rim creates a barrier around the opening of the sink, wiping water and debris from the countertop to the sink is not feasible.
- Loss of counter space, as the rim of the sink occupies valuable real estate on your countertop.
The Pros and Cons of Undermount Sinks
Most people prefer undermount sinks for aesthetic purposes. These sinks are available in much of the same materials as drop-ins, except for heavier materials as they are more challenging to support properly. Assuming the countertop is suitable, undermount sinks also have some utilitarian advantages over drop-ins.
- Undermount sinks are more hygienic. The edge of the sink is located below the countertop, meaning there isn’t a rim that will collect debris, grow mold, or prevent you from wiping liquids and crumbs right into the sink.
- It’s more aesthetically pleasing. Undermounts were designed to take advantage of the visual appeal of polished stone countertops, and they look nice paired with most other countertops, as well.
- These sinks can add to the resale value of your home.
- They increase usable countertop space. The lack of rim allows for a small, yet valuable, additional amount of working space on the countertop.
- These sinks don’t work on every countertop. Since the end of the countertop overhangs the sink and is exposed, you cannot use an undermount sink with any countertop that has an MDF or plywood core – this rules out tile and laminates. You also cannot install a heavy undermount sink in a countertop that can’t support it.
- Undermounts are susceptible to sagging. These sinks rely on the support posts and brackets to hold it up. If these fail, the sink may sag or eventually fall into the cabinet below.
- They are prone to leaks. Caulk is applied to create a seal between the countertop and the rim of the sink. However, if the caulk fails, water can get into the gap.
Which Sink is Best for Me?
If you find yourself stuck between whether an undermount or drop-in sink is the better choice for your kitchen, there are a number of elements to consider. Cost is often the main determining factor and if you’re on a budget, a drop-in sink is certainly the economical choice. Not to mention, if you want to go the DIY route, installing a drop-in sink is a much easier process.
The material of your existing countertops is another important factor to keep in mind. If you’re working with MDF or plywood (tile and laminates), your counters simply won’t be able to hold the weight of a heavy undermount kitchen sink.
Finally, think about the amount of space you have in your kitchen. When it comes to small kitchens, every little inch matters. Losing a few inches to the rim of a drop-in sink may not seem like a huge deal, but it can actually make a big impact on the functionality of your kitchen. In this case, you may want to splurge for an undermount sink to enjoy that extra counter space.
Have more questions about whether an undermount or drop-in sink is better suited for your kitchen? Give us a call today. We’d be happy to help! If you need an experienced, licensed, bonded Santa Cruz plumber for any sort of plumbing installation or service, choose the experts at Anytime Plumbing. We have been serving Santa Cruz County, and beyond, for many years.