The Basics of Basin Sinks

White basin sink in a bathroomBefore I moved into a new home, basin sinks were about the most boring thing I could imagine. It was a non-thing that I never thought about until a year ago. A sink is a sink, it does what its got to do and that’s it. Right? Well, my wife told me I was wrong. As usual, she was rrr– sorry, I can’t say it. Still, considering all of us use one every day, probably multiple times a day, sinks are something worth thinking about. Especially if you are ever planning to buy one for home you own in the future, or replace one in your existing home.

Most basin sinks are made out of ceramic but you will find quite a few modern looking ones in various shades of metal as well. There are a number of things to consider, the first of which is size. How much space do you have to fit the sink into? Not just left to right but also front to back. If you are putting a sink into a small bathroom then how far it sticks out might be of major concern.

Next you’ve got to consider storage. Do you need it to have a cabinet underneath? Some come with a built in cabinet, some just stand alone. This is partly where style comes in, because it’s not just the basin itself now but also the hardware and now the material of the cabinets as well. It can be impossible to find something perfect, and some people who will remain nameless can’t seem to settle for anything less than perfect. A nice basin with a great cabinet and an ugly faucet just won’t cut it, oh no!

Finally, the hardware itself is important. Some sinks will come with hardware and some will not. Typically, buying everything together tends to be cheaper than buying a basin separately from the plumbing but you might not find a perfect unit so arguments can be made to go either way. What you can’t do easily is make more holes in your basin. Why would you want to? Well some sinks have a handy soft soap dispenser built in. It’s a very nice feature and is far and away superior to buying those little plastic bottle soaps and leaving them on the counter.

For one thing, the little soap bottles with the push-top cost more than just buying the big soft soap refill container. For another thing, the can get knocked over or misplaced (if the wife, for instance, ran out of soap in the kitchen and decided to hijack a bottle from the bathroom without replacing it). Not to mention that having a plastic bottle on the counter holds your bathroom back from looking classy. See? There is a lot more to basin sinks than you’d think, just using them day-to-day.

So Many Sinks, So Little Time

Wide basin sinkIf you’ve ever had occasion to shop for basin sinks for your home then you probably already know there is an astonishing variety to choose from. Not all differences are stylistic though. Some design elements that may first appear to be a style choice by the manufacturer are actually there for a purpose. These make for some interesting trivia, but are also useful to know for when the time comes that you find yourself needing to purchase a sink. It’s not something you buy every day. For some people it may be something they buy once in their lifetime, because chances are unless you are building a new home you won’t buy a sink unless you are replacing one. Still, by choice or by necessity it does happen and it’s good to prepare and think ahead whether a single basin sink, double or even triple basin.

Some sinks have a lip that sits above the counter. This is functional, but not in the way you might think. It actually serves very little purpose for anyone using the sink. The reason it’s there is to make the sink easier to install. Basically, the installation works by cutting an approximate hole in the counter surface and then just dropping the sink in. These are called “self rimming” sinks and they are incredibly common because of the simple (and inexpensive) nature of their installation.

Sinks that are flush with the surrounding counter top are typically mounted from below. The counter surface needs to be cut with exacting precision and even then there are normally some imperfections that can lead to cracks that may allow germs to grow. Aside from the complications in cutting the hole for the sink to fit into, once installed the edge needs to be filled with sealant in order to lessen the possibility of water leaking. You might wonder why anyone would go through so much trouble. The answer is that these sinks have a very distinct and modern look.

There are a number of other types of sinks which are around, but less common. With stainless steel or plastic it is possible to weld or glue (respectively) the sink from underneath, which is sort of the reverse of how a self rimming sink is installed. These work very well but have a less traditional, more contemporary / modern look to them. Often you will see these types of basin sinks in restaurant and office bathrooms because they look professional, are easy to clean and are relatively inexpensive.

Bathroom Remodel Frustration

2 round basin sinks in a bathroomI am taking a break from looking at basin sinks online. My wife decided to spend my bonus by remodeling our bathroom. I know the Al Bundy’s of the world love their “thrones” and I certainly can appreciate a nice, well maintained bathroom, but it is by no means something I can get passionate about. My wife on the other hand goes absolutely crazy for some of this stuff. I had no idea how much variety — some of it crazy, some of it very nice but just crazy expensive – there is when it comes to the basic stuff you put in your bathroom: toilet, sink, mirror, bath. It should be simple, right?

First off she wants a claw foot bathtub. Those turned out to be surprisingly expensive. I don’t know what it is, the thing isn’t made by Cartier you know, but for whatever reason if you want a claw foot tub you are going to pay a lot more than a regular tub. Plus, you can’t really shower can you? I mean, I just thought of that. I guess you could get one of those old fashioned shower curtains that goes all the way around. Anyway, they look very nice but if I had my druthers it’s not the way I’d spend my money.

Something as simple as basin sinks apparently isn’t very simple at all. Do you want one with a built-in soap dispenser? Ceramic or metal basin? Does it have a lip? That’s not even counting all the stylistic differences between the shapes and the faucets. Throw in the ones that come with the cabinets underneath and I’m just completely lost. There are a lot of choices but it’s really difficult to find one that’s perfect, which seems odd considering I’d never even thought about sinks before and just use them. Now all of a sudden I’m being picky.

Then of course there is the toilet. Now this is a relatively simple matter since there aren’t many variations on the trusty old toilet. Undoubtedly my wife will spend untold hours online and in stores browsing through toilet seats, but that at least is something I don’t have to make a decision on. Although now that I think about it, if she picks out something crazy I may regret not picking it out myself. Ugh! Well, I’ll try not to think about that. Any toilet seat is a good toilet seat. That’s my motto! Right? At least, that’s the way it should be. Then again, I used to think that about basin sinks, and I was definitely wrong there.

Not All Sinks Are Created Equal

Old basin sink on pedestal Many people take our basic basin sinks for granted. We use them every day, several times a day, and yet don’t really think about them. For those who own homes or may one day own a home, it might pay to learn a bit about sinks. There are a surprising variety of them and they come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and even materials.

Stainless steel sinks are found most often in our kitchens. This is because it is an inexpensive material that is easy to clean, durable and relatively inexpensive. They don’t get damaged by hot pans and they don’t crack if you knock something into them. The two main downsides are that they tend to be noisy, and they’re not much to look at.

Another popular type of sink found as a bathroom basin sink or even kitchens is cast iron coated with enamel. These are more often found in older homes because they are a bit more expensive but they are pretty rugged and they look nicer than stainless steel. If you manage to chip one though, it tends to start a process where chipped area gets bigger over time and the sink will eventually have to be repaired (or more likely, replaced).

Ceramic basin sinks are very popular. This in in part due to the fact that they don’t have the downside the enamel coated sinks have (where one chip will eventually end up ruining the sink) but they have all the advantages. They actually look a bit nicer, in my opinion.

The are even plastic sinks. These can’t take heat so sell, because they will melt, but as you might imagine there is a huge advantage to plastic. You can mold it into any shape, size or design you like. If you have a plastic sink in your home it will probably be a big ugly slop sink in your basement, but they also make beautiful plastic sinks that can be inset with a counter and really bring out the decor in a room.

Soapstone sinks are not as popular these days as they once were, in part due to the expense of the material. They look very nice though, and they are extremely resistant to pretty much anything you can throw at it. Soapstone sinks are often used in commercial applications where damaging chemicals will be used or disposed of regularly because of the material’s resistant nature. The material is also used by some luxury manufacturers for their basin sinks – because of its high quality.

Everything But the Sink

Basin sink on a metal pedestalI recently had an unfortunate incident in my bathroom involving some hot water, glass sink, and my house flooding. Well, it’s not quite that bad but I did need to replace my sink, which had oddly cracked and was leaking into the cabinet underneath. I’m not sure how that happened but it’s really, really old so I guess these things just happen sometimes. The really frustrating part is finding a replacement. I had never really thought about it but not all kitchen sinks are the same size and mine was apparently a particularly rare size, on account of being so old I imagine.

So I was looking online, because I figured that would be the best way to see the most sinks in the least amount of time, and it’s still not making my life any easier. I’d seen basin sinks with soap dispensers built in before, but there are ones with multiple faucets, double-sink, deep sinks, shallow sinks, one sink, two sink, red sink, blue sink. I just wanted to beat my head against the wall. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to say to somebody: Fix that. For that reason I wish I was still renting. Then it would be the landlord’s problem.

Eventually I was able to find something that fit and had the correct number of faucets (one) as well as not costing me an arm and a leg (just an arm) and doesn’t look too terrible. Unfortunately I discovered that “doesn’t look too terrible” isn’t a visual standard my wife finds acceptable, but my thinking was: it’s a bathroom sink, who cares? As long as you can pile dishes really high in it and the water drains out into the sewer instead of the basement then that should be scored as a win in my book.

On eBay I actually saw someone had custom made a spider man sink that I’m pretty sure would have fit. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get that or the wife would be even more upset than she is now. For the time being at least, she’ll just have to live with the Flintstones. Just kidding, there are no cartoon characters on the bathroom sink I purchased. It is, however, a particularly ugly shade of gray. I’m wondering if some rust-oleum paint would do the job or if I’m just stuck with it. In any case don’t underestimate the difficulty involved in picking out basin sinks, it’s not as easy as it should be.

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