Bathroom Sink Buying Guide

Is it time to remodel your bathroom? Whether you’re ripping everything out and starting from scratch, or you’re trying to preserve some things and do your renovations on a budget, you should probably be considering a new sink.

When you choose the right one, a new sink can breathe new life into your old bathroom, making it look fresh and stylish instead of old and tired. Finding the right one can be overwhelming, though. Do you want an undermount, top-mount, partially recessed, or drop-in? Should you get it in porcelain, hammered copper, stainless steel, or stone? What shape should you choose?

In this buying guide, we’ll walk you through the different types, styles, and materials you’ll run into when shopping for a new bathroom sink. We’ll give you the definitions and information you’ll need to make an informed decision. We’ll even go over considerations and decisions to make regarding weight, shipping and handling if you’re buying online, and installation concerns.

By the time you get done here, you should be ready to easily find the right bathroom sink for you and your needs. Let’s get started, shall we? First, here’s an overview of the different types of bathroom sinks you’ll encounter as you shop.

60 Inch Single Sink Bathroom Vanity in Walnut with Electrical Component

60 Inch Single Sink Bathroom Vanity in Walnut with Electrical Component

Types of Bathroom Sinks

What is an Undermount Sink?

Undermount sinks are installed under a cutout in your counter top. The sink will be attached to the cutout with adhesive and supported from beneath. Cabinetry below your counter will hide the plumbing and give you lots of storage space.

This kind of sink is very simple and elegant. It maximizes counter space and allows for a lot of hidden storage, too. You can even install one in your existing bathroom vanity. However, you can only do this if you have a solid material counter top, like granite, concrete, or marble. If you want to install an undermount sink, and you have a tile or laminate counter top, you’re going to have to replace it, as well.

Undermount Sink

What is a Vessel Sink?

Top mount sinks are most often called vessel sinks. They can be made of glass, copper, stainless steel, marble, porcelain, or a number of other materials. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from large, round bowls to soft-cornered trapezoids and other interesting shapes.

With a vessel sink, the only cutout in your counter will be for the mounting ring and waste pipe, unless you decide to mount the faucet to the counter, as well. A lot of homeowners choose to mount the faucet and handles to the wall behind the sink and below the mirror. Doing this requires drywall work and re-routing water lines through the wall.

If you’re only doing a basic remodeling job without a lot of construction, a vessel sink is probably out of the question if you want to do it right. However, if you have your heart set on this style, go ahead and call a contractor for an estimate on time and cost. You might be surprised and find out that your dream of a top-mounted vessel sink is in your budget.

22 Inch Bathroom Vanity with Travertine Vessel Sink

22 Inch Bathroom Vanity with Travertine Vessel Sink

What is a Partially Recessed Sink?

A partially recessed sink has a similar look to a top-mounted or vessel sink, but it’s recessed farther into the counter top. Do you love the look of a top-mounted sink, but you don’t want to get rid of your current counter top? This is a common problem for people who want to update their bathroom vanity’s look, but don’t want to get rid of a gorgeous stone or tile counter top that already has a cutout in it.

To install a partially recessed sink, you’ll need to re-cut your counter top’s cutout to fit the new sink, so you’ll have to measure and make sure that the base of your new sink is large enough to fill the hole. You’ll also run into the same issue with plumbing and cutting for the faucet that you do with a top-mounted sink, so this kind of sink is definitely better left for larger, more involved remodeling jobs.

72 Inch Double Vessel Sink Bathroom Vanity with Drawers

72 Inch Double Vessel Sink Bathroom Vanity with Drawers

What is a Drop-in Sink?

Drop-in sinks (also called self-rimming sinks) are the easiest sinks to install. This type of sink has an extended, oversized rim. As the name suggests, the sink just drops into place when you install it. With one of these, all you have to do is cut out the right shape in your counter top, place some construction adhesive on the underside of the rim, and let it set before you reattach the plumbing.

If you’re less worried about unique styling and saving counter space and more worried about cost and ease of installation, a drop-in sink is the perfect solution. Drop-ins are clean and simple, though they lack real pizzazz. No one will really give this kind of sink a second glance.

Click to Shop Bathroom Vanities Designed for Vessel Sinks


Choose Your Style

Now that you know the basic types of sinks you’ll be looking at for your bathroom vanity, take a moment to think about the style you want for your bathroom. Are you modern and minimalist? Do you want to create an elegant powder room? Would you love a romantic, old-fashioned bathroom, complete with a claw-foot tub and framed mirror?

A hammered copper undermount sink could be the perfect addition to a powder room fitted with faux-antique tub and sink fittings and accessories. If your style is more minimalist, a top-mounted or partially recessed sink would look clean and modern in a floating bathroom vanity.

As you think about your style and the bathroom setting you want to create, visualize each type of sink in that bathroom. Some will very obviously stand out as entirely wrong, while others will appeal to you more. This will help you narrow your choices down.

Stainless sink

Sink Materials – It’s Not All About Porcelain Anymore

When you think of a bathroom sink in someone’s home, you probably think of a white, porcelain, drop-in sink. They’ve been the de rigueur choice for residential bathroom sinks for years now, but they’re not the only choice. You can really impress your guests by making a less traditional choice, and the shape and type of sink aren’t your only options, either. Modern bathroom vanity sinks come in a number of different materials.
You can get a sink in stainless steel, hammered copper, smoked, clear, or colored glass, marble, concrete, or another type of stone, and the list goes on! Even if you choose the old porcelain standby, you still have a lot of options to make it more interesting because we haven’t even begun to touch on colors and finishes.

Bath Sink Colors and Finishes – Complementary, Bold, and Subtle

If your bathroom’s theme is dusky rose and warm wood, a white sink will stand out, and not in a good way. A copper vessel or undermount sink will fit right in, though. You can choose from a range of colors and finishes for your sink to fit perfectly with the theme and style you’ve chosen for your bathroom. When you’re choosing colors, patterns, and finishes, though, you should think about how you’ll be using the sink, what volume of use it will get, and how often it will need cleaning.


Uses – Which Bathroom Are You Remodeling?

Now, we know what you’re thinking. Uses? You use your bathroom sink to wash your hands and your face. You use it to rinse makeup brushes or to run a bit of warm water when you’re cleaning your mirror or counter top. Why would you have to think about uses for the sink?

Well, depending on which bathroom in your house you’re remodeling, it will get more or less use by you and your guests. You’ll spend more time washing your face, shaving, or doing makeup at the bathroom vanity in your master bathroom than in your guest bathroom, so you’ll want to make sure that the sink is a bit larger and that there’s more room between the basin and the faucet so that you can comfortably get your face down there to wash it.

Think about how often you and your guests use this bathroom. Glass can get streaked and spotted with use. If your sink is in a heavily trafficked bathroom, a glass top-mounted sink might be a poor idea. However, a stainless steel undermount sink might be perfect.

shop all bathroom vessel sinks

Take the Necessary Measurements and Know Your Sink’s Dimensions

When you’re shopping for a new sink for your bathroom vanity, you might want a large, wide, rectangular, top-mounted sink, but that could be problematic if your counter is too shallow or if you have a narrow vanity space. You’ll need to take a few measurements for any bathroom sink to ensure that it will fit, so let’s walk through the basics.

Measure your counter from the wall to the edge closest to you. Subtract 2 to 4 inches. Now, measure from the right edge of the drawer to the left of your sink across to the left edge of the drawer to the right of your sink and subtract 2 inches. If the first measurement is 28” and the second is 24”, the largest sink you can install would be 26” x 22”.

If you’re installing a top-mounted sink, you’ll just have to measure from the wall to the edge of your counter to make sure that the sink will fit on the counter top and line up properly with the waste pipe.

Because you have such a great range of options for the shape and style of your sink, you’re going to have to make sure that its dimensions fit within the confines of your bathroom vanity’s counter top. A few minutes with a tape measure should answer all of your questions, but if you are uncertain, don’t hesitate to call and ask for a professional’s opinion.

Natural Petrified Wood Stone Sink

Natural Petrified Wood Stone Sink

Weight – Your Sink Could Get Heavy

You may not have thought of it before, but if you choose a marble or concrete sink, you could be looking at some heavy lifting, not just for you, but also for your counter top. If you have a marble or tile top on your vanity, it should have no trouble supporting the weight of any kind of sink. However, some laminate counter tops cannot sustain as much weight.

Furthermore, if you can’t lift your sink without straining, you’ll need to get some help. Even if you still want to do the installation yourself, get help from a friend when lifting and placing the sink, and remember to lift with your legs, not with your back!

Other Installation Considerations

When you install your sink, you’ll want to make sure that you have all of the proper materials and hardware necessary to do the job right. Make sure that all of your measurements are accurate and that you have the right hardware to support your sink.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have the right caulk, adhesive, or other sealant for the job. The last thing you want is to turn the faucet on after you install your sink and find that it leaks all over the place. If you aren’t sure of your carpentry and plumbing skills, call a professional. Getting the job done right the first time is usually worth the price.

Construction Plans

What Comes With Your Sink?

When you purchase your sink, you’ll want to make sure that you’re aware of what it comes with and what it doesn’t. After all, not all sinks come with faucets and fittings. Top-mounted sinks, especially, usually only come as the basin, and may or may not even come with a mounting ring.

If you know what fittings, hardware, and accessories come with one sink versus another, you’ll know whether you’re getting a better deal on a lower priced model or whether it’s just more stripped down.

Carribean Wave Glass Vessel Sink

Carribean Wave Glass Vessel Sink

Considerations for Online Purchases

Finally, for your sink purchasing education, let’s talk about buying sinks online. We live in the day of finding a better price on the Internet, but you’ll need to take a few things into consideration when purchasing sinks online. First of all, as we mentioned earlier, these things can get heavy. Heavy materials come with heavy shipping and handling charges.

If you find a discount on a sink online, make sure that the price is still right when you add shipping and handling costs. You should also read the return policy on your purchase. You’ll want to make sure that you can return the sink to the manufacturer if you have any problems.

There you go! Now you should be all ready to go find and purchase your new bathroom sink. Good luck, and enjoy!

shop all vessel sinks

My name is Julia Ritzenthaler, Founder and President of Unique Vanities, started in 2005. I started this business as an extension of our residential remodeling business, which focused on the design and build of custom cabinetry and architectural trim. I also worked as a financial advisor for 10 years at Ameriprise Financial, helping clients make sound money decisions, including budgeting for home improvement expenses. This expertise led me to start Unique Vanities, which offers a handpicked selection of high quality bathroom vanities, sinks, mirrors and more. You can find me most days sitting in Starbucks, my second office, or in my car driving my daughter across Dallas to gymnastics training.

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