You need a kitchen sink whether you're building a new house or renovating an old one. Finding the right one is a balance of budget, function and looks.
A low-end model gives you a basic bowl in which to soak a few dirty dishes but not much else. A higher price tag buys you a range of choices -- some functional, some purely aesthetic.
For such a simple kitchen feature, the options are seemingly endless. Start with how many bowls you want -- a sink can come with one, two or even three. Is the standard depth just fine? Or do you want an extra-deep sink for scrubbing soup pots?
Do you want an "overmount" or self-rimming sink that drops in on top of your countertop? Or an undermount sink that hides supporting hardware and allows you to sweep water and debris straight from the countertop down the drain?
The range of materials has grown. Do you appreciate the utilitarian sturdiness of stainless steel? Or covet the warm look of fireclay, a stain-resistant ceramic? Or would you prefer an old-fashioned farmhouse sink of cast iron to carry out a rustic theme?
Some manufacturers have even developed sinks that do double duty as cooktops, such as Kohler's Pro CookSink.
Stainless steel undermount sinks are popular, said Vicki Paul, an interior designer at the Kitchen Guild in Fairfax, Va. If you're going with that standby, the gauge of the metal is the best indication of quality, with 18 gauge or lower preferred. Twenty-gauge stainless steel is the cheapest, but it isn't very durable and "it's going to sound really hollow," she said. Commercial kitchen sinks are often made with 12-gauge stainless, but that is overkill in most home kitchens.
Paul said her clients usually spend $400 to $600 on their sinks, as part of a $75,000 to $80,000 kitchen renovation. Elkay, Kohler and Blanco are common brands she turns to.
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Ready to sink shop? Here's a look at what you can get for your money.
The sink: Atlant, from Ikea
What you'll pay: $29
What you'll get: A compact place to scrub the plates but not much else. The overmount, single-bowl Atlant is made of 20-gauge stainless steel, which dents easily. And when the water is running, don't expect to be able to hear "American Idol" from the next room, much less carry on a conversation with your kitchen cleanup buddy.
Size: 23 inches by 20 1/2 by 6 3/4 deep.
The sink: Lakeland, by American Standard
What you'll pay: $312 to $434
What you'll get: A large, overmount single-bowl sink made of Americast, an engineered material designed to mimic the strength of cast iron at half the weight. It also resists heat damage. This modestly priced sink comes in a range of colors and you can pick how many faucet holes you need and where they are.
Size: 33 by 22 by 9 inches.
The sink: Undertone, by Kohler
What you'll pay: $1,063
What you'll get: An 18-gauge stainless steel undermount sink with two basins -- one large, one medium. Soundproofing helps minimize the garbage disposal's roar. This is a popular upgrade in Toll Brothers kitchens, said Mike Smith, a spokesman for the luxury new-home builder.
Size: 32 7/8 by 17 7/8. One basin is 7 1/2 inches deep; the other is 9 1/2 inches.
The sink: King Solomon II, by Whitehaus
What you'll pay: $3,040
What you'll get: A large undermount sink of welded 10-gauge copper. The thickness guarantees durability and minimizes noise. Still, you don't buy a sink like this for purely functional reasons. It's showy, with a decorative front apron playing up the unusual material and ever-evolving patina. Another nice touch: A slight pitch toward the drain means no water settles into low spots.
Size: 32 by 22 3/8 by 10 inches.