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Kitchen Sinks and Faucets

Kitchen Sinks and Faucets In today's world there are many styles and colors to choose from when purchasing a new sink for your home. The only available choices in the past were cast iron and stainless steel in very few sizes and colors. You could not order a customized sink and you had to design around what was available. Now you can select a sink to fit your design as well as faucets to compliment that style. Here is a guide to some of the choices that are out there for consideration.

The least expensive and most popular option is stainless steel. Concern yourself with quality though; don't just choose the cheapest one. It is best to find a sink that is from 18- to 20-gauge steel. The lower the gauge, the heavier and more durable the steel will be. Content of the steel can also affect its quality. The best combination to look for is 18% chrome and 8% nickel. Chrome adds strength and nickel prevents corrosion.

Stainless steel will compliment commercial-style appliances and can be molded as a continuous part of a stainless steel countertop that will not chip and is easy to clean. It will show scratches quickly and easily. Over time this will develop a natural patina, but this does take time. Choose a satin textured finish if you picked a thin gauge. Thin will dent and make noise and a satin finish can help with this. These sinks are made for under-mount and drop-in models. If you choose an under-mount stainless steel sink, be sure that your countertop is made of a solid material and not a laminate. Otherwise, water exposure can cause separation and bubbling. Average cost of a stainless steel sink is between $350-$800.

Cast Iron Sinks feature an iron base coated with an enamel finish. There are many colors to choose from in a cast iron sink. They are prone to chipping, which will expose the black surface that is beneath the color. Then you will have to deal with rusting and staining. Cast iron sinks are pretty much the most difficult to install because they are very heavy and bulky. There is limited under-mount installation available for them. Expect to pay $300 to $1500.

Composite sinks have three common forms: polyester/acrylic, quartz composite, and granite-based. Polyester/acrylic will scratch, cut, nick, and stain the easiest because they are made from soft materials. Many people still choose them because of the multitude of color options available. These are the lowest cost at $300 to $500. Quartz composite sinks have a much more durable surface. It is made of 70% quartz and 30% resin filler. They can resist much of the everyday cuts, scuffs, and dents; and can withstand harsh cleaning materials or liquids the other sinks can't. Granite-based sinks are the strongest on the market, but are also much pricier. They will not scratch, rust, dent, burn, or crack. Granite-based sinks are only available in matte finish, so if you really want a glossy finish you will want to consider a different type.

Solid Surface sinks are made from solid synthetic sheets, which are formed by mixing a mineral compound with polyester and/or acrylic resins. The nice part of these sinks is that you can have them molded from the same piece of solid surface that you use on your countertop. They come in many colors and designs. If they scratch, you can sand them out. The average cost is around $300 to $700.

Types of Sinks
The least expense and most common option is the self-riming sink. The edges lap the countertop.

The edges are hidden in an under-mount and integral sink. An under-mount attaches below the countertop and an integral is made from the same material as the countertop and fused without seams. Stainless steel, solid surface, and composite materials are flexible enough to mold integral sinks. Both of these sinks offer a clean look and easy cleanup since there are no rims to push crumbs over.

Farmhouse sinks, otherwise known as apron sinks, have an exposed front that sometimes stick out past the front of the cabinet a bit. These are most often used in kitchens with a rustic or country-style décor. The bowl itself is typically deeper than the average sink. They normally do not have a deck. The faucets and other accessories are mounted directly to the countertop right behind the sink bowl.

Note: If you choose a flat-bottomed sink and steep, straight sidewalls, you'll greatly increase the space around the sink for usability.

Sink Styles
The most common sinks are single bowl, double bowl, triple bowl, and main sink plus prep sink.

Single bowls are best for small spaces where you are tight on space or if you like a larger single sink area for rinsing large pans.

Double-bowl sinks have two bowls that are the same size. You usually wash in one side and rinse in the other. You can also get these with one large and one smaller bowl to use as a prep sink to clean fruits and vegetables.

Triple-bowl sinks combine the possible single and double bowl functions by giving two larger, but same size, bowls and also the smaller prep bowl. Most commonly the garbage disposal is built into the smaller bowl.

Prep sinks alone are most often placed in a separate area from the main kitchen sink. They are on kitchen islands or close to the stove. This offers convenient prep cooking.

Sink Accessories
There are some convenient accessories available for your kitchen sink if you spend a lot of time preparing and cooking food. There are cutting boards that fit securely on the sink's sides with holes to scrape the scraps through; it is handy to use this on a sink that has a garbage disposal. Other accessories are available, such as colanders to hang on the side, garbage disposals, dish racks that fit in the basins, and hot water dispensers.

A note about garbage disposals - you want a high horsepower garbage disposal that can handle tough foods like meat scraps. If you're worried about noise using a larger horsepower, just be sure you have a wide dampening collar, because it greatly reduces the noise.

In general your faucet will have its own style based on the shape of its handle or handles, its height and its accessories. Keep in mind that your faucet should be chosen to compliment the architectural theme you've created with your countertops, cabinetry and appliances. Faucets also offer a lot in the way of options - adjustable heights, spray and swivel features and multiple colors and finishes.

Don't forget about your sink when you choose your faucet, because if you have a self-rimming sink it comes with predrilled holes so you'll need to make sure your faucet will fit. You can pick any faucet you like if your sink is undermounted or integral, because the holes are drilled by the installer after you've picked out your faucet.

Here's a few things to consider to help choose a faucet that's right for you.
Handles should be chosen to compliment your kitchen. The traditional style is a two-handled faucet with one knob for hot water and the other for cold water, which allows for independent control of both. However, faucets with one handle are becoming increasingly popular because you can enjoy the convenience of single-handedly controlling your water temperature and volume. Handles come in a thousand varieties, from cross-handles to wrist-blade lever styles.

Look for a long-lasting, low maintenance finish to compliment your décor. Your choices are quite extensive and include chrome plating, nickel plating, white enamel, brass, colored epoxy, platinum, porcelain, bronze, stainless steel and gold or silver. The favored finishes are chrome and brass because they are easy to maintain and very durable. A word of caution if you go with brass - it requires a special protective coating to prevent it from tarnishing. For lots of color options and easy cleanup go with an epoxy finish.

When it comes to the faucet's main material, your two best options are solid brass or plastic. Solid brass comes highly recommended because it is a much tougher material than plastic and can handle extreme temperatures. Internally, your faucet will control the flow of water using either rubber washers, a plastic or ceramic cartridge, a plastic, brass, or stainless steel ball valve, or a ceramic disk. A ceramic disk is recommended for the same reasons as solid brass.

Spout and spray
A basic kitchen faucet has a standard spout that rises only slightly in height from the faucet body to its tip. A high-arc faucet (also known as high-neck or gooseneck) has a spout that increases dramatically in height, often as high as ten inches or more. This allows for easy rinsing of large pots and presents an elegant look in any kitchen.

Note: If your design calls for a sink with two or three bowls, the length and flexibility of the spout is important. A long spout with a reach of 12- to 14-inches may be called for, as well as one that swivels at least 180 degrees to reach the different bowls. Spouts can be straight, short, elongated, curved, and high-rise, with an integrated spray that pulls out or pulls down.

It's hard to imagine a kitchen faucet that doesn't have some kind of retractable sprayer for washing vegetables and rinsing large pots, which is why almost all faucet manufacturers sell a system with a sprayer - a traditional side sprayer or a modern pullout spray.

Dripless Faucets
Think longevity when you're installing anything that has to do with water. Consider how long a new faucet will last without dripping. Faucets should offer long-term performance and be drip-free for life - of course the operative word is should. To help minimize the chances of dripping it is best to use ceramic disc valving, because it's very durable and leak resistant.

Scald Protection
This may not seem that important to you if you don't have children, but you may someday, so why not add an anti-scald feature to your faucet for a few more dollars.

Look for quality
An inexpensive faucet may look as good as the more expensive one, but don't be fooled - it won't last long. Your flag should go up when plastic is used on integral parts, washers are controlling the flow of water (should have ceramic disks or replaceable cartridges) and are lightweight. Plumbing bills will be far more costly down the road, than purchasing a high quality faucet from day one.

Get enough holes
When you buy a new sink, you'll need to decide how many holes you will need in the "deck" - the flat part behind the bowls. Depending on the style of faucet you choose, you will need one to three holes to accommodate the taps and spigot. More holes will be needed for a hot-water dispenser, a spray accessory (if it's not part of the faucet) or a built-in soap dispenser. It's difficult, but not impossible, to add holes once the sink is in place, so get as many as you think you'll ever need.

Off-set drains
By placing the drains to one side you'll gain more flat space for stacking dishes and glasses and create more usable space under the sink. Offset drains also allow water to drain, even if a large pan or tray is soaking in the sink.

Web or divider
For double bowl sinks, make sure the web divider between the two bowls is lower than the outside sink walls. This will provide overflow protection by allowing water to flow from one bowl to the other.

Trends in Faucets and Sinks
Bigger is better, when it comes to kitchen sinks. The new trend in the kitchen is installing a large, single-bowl sink - which is more efficient for rinsing and washing, especially large pots and pans. The standard single bowl sink is 25 inches, but now people are looking for bowls that are 30 to 36 inches.

Rims are out! The majority of new homeowners are spending the extra money (about a couple hundred more) to get an undermounted or integral sink. It not only looks great, but it is very functional.

Pullout spray faucets and satin nickel or stainless steel finishes are very popular. Another trend is towards decorative faucets, which help add a little spice to your kitchen. If you want a sleeker style and finish, then satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze are worth checking out. Oil-rubbed bronze is a unique finish which gives a weathered, natural look that changes into a nice patina. For a more rustic/country look you can go for a farm or apron sink.

People like the idea of having a sink on the island where the cooktop is because they won't have to worry about dripping back and forth from the sink to the stove. For an added touch on your island you can get a small basin installed. It may look like just a pottery bowl, but it has real plumbing and is attached to the wall.

Pot-filler faucets are also becoming popular, because people don't want to have to keep running back to the sink to fill a pot. This faucet is attached right by the stove and folds back against the wall when you're not using it.