If you’re shopping for a new kitchen sink, you can get so stuck between choosing the right sink size and material that you don’t necessarily pay as much attention to style. Yet depending on whether you opt for an undermount or top-mount sink, your kitchen can have quite a different look. How do you choose between undermount and top-mount kitchen sinks? Which is better?
Whether an undermount or top-mount kitchen sink is better comes down to preference, but it’s important to keep these factors in mind when making your decision:
- Ease of cleaning
- Compatibility with your kitchen countertop
In this guide, we’ll cover undermount and top-mount sinks in great detail, including the differences between them and the pros and cons of each sink type. We will even have a handy comparison table that will make your decision easier. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know whether an undermount or top-mount sink is the right choice for your kitchen.
- 1 What is an Undermount Kitchen Sink?
- 2 What is a Top-Mount Kitchen Sink?
- 3 The Pros and Cons of Undermount Kitchen Sinks
- 4 The Pros and Cons of Top-Mount Kitchen Sinks
- 5 Undermount vs. Top-Mount Kitchen Sinks: Which Should You Choose?
- 6 Conclusion
What is an Undermount Kitchen Sink?
Let’s begin with undermount kitchen sinks. An undermount sink is built right into your kitchen counter. This creates a seamless look from the sink to the countertop with no rim between these two areas. The most popular undermount sink materials are copper, cast iron, and stainless steel. If you’d rather have a single-bowl undermount sink, that’s the norm, but double-bowl styles are also available.
If your countertop is one solid surface, then an undermount kitchen sink should be compatible. That means such counter materials as concrete, marble, soapstone, or granite are fine, but tile or laminate counters are ineligible. Between all the grout lines and seams, the tile counter can fall apart when trying to install an undermount kitchen sink.
What’s about a laminate countertop? Well, underneath the laminate, layers of medium-density fiberboard or MDF and particleboard can be wrecked by moisture from an undermount sink. It’s also a lot harder to install the metal clips an undermount sink needs if your counter is laminated. If you got your sink edge coated in laminate, then you could get an undermount sink installed, but this would cost you more money. Although the material and the size of your sink can play a role, you should expect to pay around $250 to $2,000 for an undermount sink.
What is a Top-Mount Kitchen Sink?
Your other option for your kitchen sink is a top-mount sink, commonly referred to as a drop-in sink. Why is that? When they’re being installed, the team will cut a hole in your countertop and then place the sink in. This leaves a lip or rim on the counter that sits flat. That lip is crucial for the stability of your top-mount sink, which is also appropriately nicknamed a self-rimming sink.
Another component of the stability of a top-mount sink is the inclusion of silicone caulk at the sink’s edge and metal clips that go below your counter. Unlike undermount sinks, you can get a top-mount sink installed with nearly any and every type of countertop. You can buy a top-mount kitchen sink for anywhere between $40 to upwards of $2,000 depending on the size and style of your sink.
The Pros and Cons of Undermount Kitchen Sinks
Now that you know more about both undermount and top-mount kitchen sinks, let’s circle back around to undermount sinks to highlight the pros and cons.
- Curb appeal: What’s undeniable is that a well-installed undermount kitchen sink looks seamless, flawless, and beautiful. With one or more of these sinks in your home, the resale value of your property may go up.
- Easy cleaning: Without any crevices for food debris to hide, undermount sinks and your kitchen countertop clean up quickly and easily.
- Makes your counter look larger: The style of an undermount sink can also create the illusion of more counter space, and who doesn’t want that?
- Expensive: The price range for an undermount sink is huge. You could pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and that’s before you factor in the costs of installation. If your budget isn’t significant, then an undermount sink can cause sticker shock.
- Requires professional installation: Installing an undermount kitchen sink isn’t something you should attempt to do yourself unless you have a lot of experience. A trained professional should do it using silicone caulking and epoxy adhesive. The professional installer will seal the sink in place so it doesn’t leak and ensure it is supported.
- No faucets attached: Your options for the undermount sink’s faucets are either on the wall or the countertop, not the sink itself.
- Mold risk: Beneath your undermount kitchen sink where you can’t reach, condensation can accumulate. If left untreated, mold will form, making your kitchen an unsanitary and even dangerous place to be in.
- Limited on countertop materials: Remember, as we discussed earlier, tile and laminate counters are not good candidates for an undermount sink. You need a stable countertop that was ideally installed as a single piece.
The Pros and Cons of Top-Mount Kitchen Sinks
Next, let’s take a deeper dive into the advantages and disadvantages of top-mount kitchen sinks.
- Fewer installation constraints: Due to the nature of a top-mount kitchen sink, the installation team needs to only cut a hole out of your countertop that fits the sink and put the sink in. Installation is a lot easier and goes faster, which can save you money on your project bills.
- Less bending: Given the depth of an undermount sink, to use it when washing the dishes, you have to reach down, bending pretty far. A top-mount sink will have at least an inch of height compared to an undermount sink. That might not seem like much, but it will make a big difference for your back.
- Almost all countertops welcome: You also don’t have to worry if you have a tile or laminate counter with a top-mount sink. This sink style is compatible with nearly any countertop material, giving it great versatility.
- Should be less expensive: Even if the undermount sink itself isn’t super expensive, the installation costs are what can kill you. Top-mount sinks aren’t often as costly.
- Slightly less curb appeal: Given the custom quality of an undermount kitchen sink, the appeal is greater with this style compared to a top-mount sink. That doesn’t mean you’d get drastically less money than your home’s asking price if you have a top-mount sink, just that it’s not as appealing.
- Bacteria and mold risk: Yes, you could still have mold as well as bacteria with a top-mount sink. All it takes is sweeping food debris beneath the sink’s edges where you can’t easily reach and a mold problem will develop soon after.
- Harder to clean: If you do try to clean this part of your top-mount sink, you’ll find it’s not particularly easy to do. Every couple of years, you might have to remove the caulk, clean out what’s behind it, and add new caulk yourself, which is a pain.
|No laminate or tile
Undermount vs. Top-Mount Kitchen Sinks: Which Should You Choose?
Now that you’ve had a chance to mull over the pros and cons of both undermount and top-mount kitchen sinks, it’s decision time. If you’re still not sure which sink style is the right choice for you, keep these factors in mind.
This is arguably one of the biggest factors, how much money you can afford to spend on a kitchen sink. Both undermount and top-mount sinks had similar price ranges quoted above, but undermount sinks are generally accepted as the more expensive option. That’s due to the more intensive, time-consuming installation work. The longer it takes for your counter to be set up, the more money you end up paying.
However, you shouldn’t automatically disqualify an undermount kitchen sink if that’s what you’re more interested in. You will have to create a bigger budget to accommodate your sink choice though.
Ease of Cleaning
Cleaning your kitchen sink is a necessary evil, but it’s not one you enjoy. You want to get it over with as quickly as possible so you can get to your leisure time. Undermount sinks are easier to clean due to the seamlessness from the countertop to the sink. Top-mount sinks will require more time and meticulous cleaning due to their above-surface rim.
Keep in mind that mold can develop on both sink types, so regular cleaning really should be a priority.
You want a kitchen sink that’s as beautiful as it is functional. Looks is one area that will come down to personal preference. Many homeowners appreciate the undermount kitchen sink because it has no rim, but some people like top-mount kitchen sinks as well. Both will increase your home’s curb appeal to a degree, so you can’t really go wrong.
Your mind might be made up for you depending on the material of your kitchen countertop. If you have tile, especially customized tile, then you can’t get an undermount sink installed. The tile has too many points of instability, so installation is risky.
As we discussed earlier, the particleboard or MDF that comprises your laminate countertop is also not compatible with an undermount kitchen sink. Fortunately, you can get a top-mount sink with either of those countertop materials as well as practically any other.
The last factor we’d advise you to think about is counter space. You do get the illusion of a bigger counter with an undermount sink more so than you do with a top-mount sink. That said, if you then turn around and get the undermount sink faucet installed in the counter, this can erase that illusion as yet more of your counter is taken up.
Undermount and top-mount kitchen sinks are two of the most popular choices for homeowners. Both sinks have their perks and their downsides. Now that you’ve read our post on these sink styles, choosing one should be easy. Best of luck!