The kitchen sink & sink cabinet; An important decision in you new kitchen remodel plans, or just an insignificant detail?

I believe that some simple and quick decisions about your kitchen sink and the sink cabinet that contains it, can provide a significant enhancement to the aesthetic and practical enjoyment of your new kitchen space. I will be providing you with some important, and often overlooked info below (Re: Stainless steel sinks only).


SS Kitchen Sink Style

The use of the kitchen sink has changed significantly since the invention of dishwasher. For those of us still stuck in the pre-dishwasher era (and those that can’t afford a dishwasher, of course), a two bowl kitchen sink is the clear choice. But when most people in the former category are confronted as to why they need two bowls, they are often at a loss to explain. In my experience, most people do not need or want, a two bowl sink if they are asked to think about how they use this fixture in their day to day lives. For most, the kitchen sink is appreciated for washing or filling larger items and sometimes for hiding dirty dishes. These goals are just more easily accomplished in a single bowl sink. The main advantage is the fact that there is no longer a barrier taking up prime space in your sink. This allows you to wash and fill larger pots, frying pans, etc. with greater ease (see pic above).

As well, I would usually recommend to my clients that they consider a deep bowl sink. The standard bowl depth is around 7″, which is fine, but deeper is always better. The extra depth allows you to clean these larger items more efficiently because of the larger area under the faucet head, but also reduces all the splashing associated with kitchen sink use, especially if you have a sprayer style faucet that you intend to use to clean off food particles from dishes before placing them into the dishwasher. Practically speaking, the deeper sink models that are available only reach a depth of 10″-11″ depending on manufacturers, but these extra few inches make a world of difference in efficiency and cleanliness. It baffles me that sink manufacturers don”t produce even deeper models for the residential kitchen market because there is usually more space beneath to be utilized, before the storage in the sink cabinet would be significantly impaired. The only real limitation to sink bowl depth is the height of the drain line. You should check with you plumber, or look at the horizontal section of the drain line yourself, as it enters the wall. It may be too high to leave enough room for the drain basket and tailpiece. If you demand a garburator, you’ll need even more room below the sink (more on the evil garburator later). Without the use of a garburator, I have found that the deeper bowl sinks will fit most of the time, and if you are planning to do some work on the main plumbing stack, the drain can also be moved down a few inches to allow for the extra room. It should also be mentioned that you will be paying a significantly higher price for this most awesome sink. Unfortunately, sink manufacturers think that these extra few inches in depth constitute a “premium” feature, so that always means extra cost.

As for the kitchen sink’s width dimensions (measured from front to back), this is also something to think about maximizing in your new kitchen (see pic above). This involves expanding the sink size backwards towards the back-splash so you are simply taking maximum advantage of the sink cabinet space (front to back). However, a significant limiting factor is that you still need enough room for the faucet and back-splash tile (must ensure that the faucet has enough room for the temperature control to move backwards and forwards if this is it’s operational style). This is a difficult job with some of these larger “designer” sinks, believe me. The contractor usually is forced to bring the sink as far forward as possible in the sink cabinet (so the bowl is in contact with the front horizontal cross bar or the crossbar is cut away somewhat), so that there is enough room for the faucet. These measurements have to be taken very carefully because there is often not even 1/4′ to spare, so there is no margin for error. Another risk is that the stone cutter may refuse to cut that much material out of a single section of counter-top because the stone becomes too brittle with the large sink hole and sometimes several faucet holes; it becomes a very risky endeavor for him/ her. In other words, he/she might tell you that the stone has to be cut at the sink, which is not ideal (aesthetically, this is not a good place for a seam). A great alternative to this is to place the faucet at the right or left ends of the sink rather than the back. This allows for much more stability in the stone counter, and more room for a very wide sink because there are no holes between sink and back-splash to compromise the stone’s structure. It’s also a great opportunity to do something a little quirky and different. It’s also surprising how little this position change effects the practical use of the faucet. Because of the fact that there is only one sink bowl, and people often like to install the pull-out or pull-down faucets, it seems to work just as well as if it was mounted in the traditional position. I also find that if at first, a client thinks that they’ve made a grave mistake by placing it at the side, they soon become accustomed to it, and learn to appreciate it’s uniqueness.

Another more costly, but very cool feature in stainless steel kitchen sinks, is the “low radius” or “zero radius” style kitchen sinks (see pic above). This may be a subtle feature, but I believe it is an important detail to consider in a well conceived kitchen. The radius simply refers to the sharpness of the corners of the sink. The corner radius of standard stainless steel sinks are quite gentle, because it is easier and cheaper to bend this more gentle radius during manufacturing. The steel has to be bent more carefully if the radius is sharper (low radius). When the corner gets too sharp (zero radius) it means that the walls and base are made of separate plates of stainless that are welded together. This produces as close to a “zero radius” corner as possible, with a very small and subtle weld. Both of these corner styles make the sink progressively harder to clean as the radius is reduced, but this fact, as well as their higher purchase price, does not seem to effect the growing popularity of these styles of kitchen sinks. And in my opinion, they do significantly improve the ‘Coolness” factor in a new kitchen.


Sink Cabinets & Drainage

Because of the relatively inefficient nature of the storage area under you kitchen sink, your contractor should really be attempting to get you as small a sink cabinet as possible to match your ideal sink bowl size (see pic above). By this, I mean that when you are installing a stainless steel under-mount or drop-in sink, the interior of the sink cabinet should be as close to the same size as the exterior bowl size as possible to reduce the size of the sink cabinet beneath. Most contractors do not do this because it involves a little extra trouble (& time) with the under-mount option, which is the most popular in new kitchen designs. In both scenarios, the left and right sink flanges, which hold a good portion of the weight that the sink can bare, are positioned directly over top of the structural side members of the cabinet. This offers a great advantage over other, often precarious, sink mounting strategies that are involved with mounting the smaller sinks (an important consideration when your sink contains 10kg of dishes and a 20kg water filled pot) The best part is that the extra 3″, and often 6″ reclaimed from this cabinet, can be applied to one of the more efficient adjacent cabinets such as a pot drawer or pantry. Next time you’re in anyone’s new or old kitchen, look into the sink cabinet, and you’ll see what I mean.

Another sink cabinet issue that needs attention is the garburator and it’s effect on drainage and other more important things. I referred to the garburator as evil earlier (only partially in jest)  just to make an important point. This appliance is a relic of the 60’s and 70’s and it should have stayed in that era, but for some reason it has not. It is still a relatively popular kitchen appliance, because of it’s convenience value, but I believe this trend will soon change when more people become aware of the problems it causes. The fact is that garburators were always designed for only vegetable waste, and only certain kinds of vegetable waste, at that. So in other words, you clearly cannot throw all the wet and messy bi-products of your dinner preparations into it without some serious problems with its operation. In other words, it is a problematic device at times, and restrictive in it’s convenience value. Well if that assessment didn’t convince you to abandon the garburator, maybe this will. The plant matter that you are permitted to throw into your garburator is composed of plant cellulose fibers, which won’t break down significantly for a long time as it travels down the sewer pipe. Instead, much of it often settles in the traps and in the horizontal runs of your own house drainage lines and eventually turns into a sticky slime that attracts other solids, which in turn can create clogs. For the same reason, the material that continues down the line can settle and clog the municipal sewer lines causing major blockages costing significant tax dollars to repair (garburators have been banned in Toronto). Additionally, this plant matter interferes with sewage treatment, and produces high nitrogen levels as it digests downstream, which interferes with lake and ocean ecosystems ( search “breaking up with your garburator”). After all that info, you may be thinking “isn’t it worse to throw it in the garbage?”. That would be a good question and I’m not quite sure if it is indeed worse or better to throw plant waste into the garbage where it will eventually end up in a landfill somewhere. Lets just say that they are both bad, and instead offer an environmentally sound option that would be easy for many of us embrace; Composting! There are many myths about composting and as such, people often steer clear of it. But with the right info, it is really quite easy to maintain a clean and smell-free composter that will provide you with nutrient rich soil for your landscaping or garden. It’s actually quite shameful how anyone that owns a home with a yard does not use a composter all year round. There is really no good excuse not to. It is currently a little more complicated for those living in multi-unit complexes to embrace composting, but also very possible, if it were fully embraced by property managers and promoted by the tenants & owners.