Fireclay or stainless steel? Copper or composite granite? Though it may seem simple, one of the trickier parts of kitchen remodeling is figuring out how to choose a kitchen sink material that’s right for you. There are countless options available on the market, so how do you know which material works best with your lifestyle or design aesthetic? Here’s what you need to consider before you begin kitchen sink shopping.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Kitchen Sink Material
- Aesthetics – The kitchen material and style you choose has to blend in seamlessly with the rest of your kitchen design. For example, the warm tone of a copper sink may clash with a “cool” contemporary kitchen featuring white kitchen cabinets and silver stainless steel appliances. Choosing a sink material or finish that blends well with the colors and textures of the other materials in your kitchen will ensure that it looks great.
- Durability – If your sink sees a lot of activity, you’ll need a sink material that’s going to last without developing obvious signs of wear and tear. Certain materials scratch, crack, patina, and stain easier than others, and may start to look less attractive over time. A household with a lot of people may require a more durable sink material.
- Separate or Integrated – Will your sink be a separate, stand-alone item? Or would you prefer a sink that’s fully integrated into the countertop? Integrated sinks provide a seamless, attractive, and easy to clean alternative to classic sinks that are installed into a separate countertop. However, if you want an eye-catching sink that stands out, integrated sinks may not give you the look you’re going for.
- Maintenance – Do you have the time and energy to maintain the sink material you choose? Some materials require a little more care and attention than others. Choose a material that you’re willing and able to care for on a regular basis.
- Cost – Depending on your overall budget, affordability may be the most important thing when choosing a sink material. If a certain material or look has captured your heart, then finding space for it in your budget may be worth it. If funds are tight, however, there are still plenty of affordable and attractive options available.
Now that you’ve begun considering your priorities, it’s time to take a closer look at what your options are and how they fit into your preferences and budget. Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular kitchen sink materials on the market.
Pros: Stainless steel is the most common choice for kitchen sink material, and it’s also the most affordable. As the name suggests, stainless steel sinks are resistant to stains as well as heat. They’re super durable and resistant to chipping and cracking, while also being easy to clean and maintain.
Stainless steel sinks can be found or fabricated in just about any size or shape you desire. They’re also available in different finishes, from dull brushed and matte finishes to extra shiny mirror finishes.
Cons: The finish you choose for your stainless steel sink can make a huge difference in how it looks after a few years of use. Stainless steel is prone to being scratched, and while scratches can be easily concealed with brushed, matte, and textured finishes, they’re much more obvious with mirror finishes. Stainless steel sinks are also prone to developing water spots if they aren’t maintained properly.
Rough handling can cause stainless steel to dent, though this is more likely to happen prior to installation. They can also be somewhat noisy and may require sound-absorbing pads to reduce sound.
Pros: If durability is of the utmost important to you, then cast iron is even more durable than stainless steel. Made with a base of iron, cast iron sinks are coated in a porcelain enamel to ensure its strength. The porcelain enamel also creates a smooth, glossy, and attractive finish that’s easy to clean. While most often seen in white, cast iron sinks are available in a variety of colors and designs.
Cast iron sinks wont crack, dent, or corrode, and can handle a lot of wear and tear, making it a long-lasting option. If you’re big on environmental sustainability, cast iron sinks are often made from recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly option.
Cons: If cast iron sinks aren’t maintained well, they can suffer some damage. If, for example, the porcelain enamel is scratched off, the exposed iron underneath becomes vulnerable to rust. The enamel can also be stained or scratched by abrasive cleaning agents.
These sinks are quite heavy and require proper installation into strong and sturdy cabinetry. Cast iron is also significantly more expensive than stainless steel, so while it may be more durable, it’s also much harder on the wallet.
Pros: As far as style is concerned, copper is arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing kitchen materials available. Available in a variety of finishes and textures, copper kitchen sinks can shine as the centerpiece of your kitchen space. From opulent and traditional to sleek and contemporary, the right copper sink can take just about any kitchen space to an entirely new level.
Copper sinks can also last for a fairly long time, with the right amount of attention and maintenance. The antimicrobial properties of copper sinks also make them an attractive option for germ-conscious homeowners. Unlike some other materials, copper sinks won’t harbor bacteria or viruses for extensive periods of time.
Cons: While copper sinks can be absolutely gorgeous, they’ll also cost you a pretty penny, ranging from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars for certain styles. If your budget is of great concern, then a copper sink may be just out of reach.
Copper sinks also require extra care and attention to keep looking like new. The lack of coating means your copper sink will be coming into direct contact with a number of different substances, some of which are acidic and will cause the material to turn green (patina) over time.
Even too much water can cause your copper sink to change after a while. If you don’t have the time to commit to keeping your copper sink clean and dry, or if you prefer a kitchen sink material that will look the same even after it’s aged, then copper is not right for you.
Pros: Fireclay is a type of ceramic made with clay and glaze that is shaped and heated in a kiln at an extremely high temperature for up to 40 or more hours. This creates a strong, smooth material with a handcrafted feel. Sinks made with fireclay are perfect for homeowners looking for something durable and easy to clean that will maintain its attractiveness for years to come.
Fireclay sinks are resistant to heat and can handle heavy use without scratching or chipping. You also don’t have to worry about staining, rusting, or fading. Fireclay sinks usually come in a wide and deep single bowl farmhouse style, so they can hold a lot of plates, pots, and pans.
Cons: The careful and extensive process used to create fireclay sinks mean that they’re going to be more expensive than other materials. Like cast iron, fireclay sinks can be quite heavy and need to be installed properly.
When it comes to style options, fireclay leaves much to be desired. They’re most often made in a white farmhouse style, so if this doesn’t work with your kitchen design, you’re better off choosing another kitchen material.
Pros: Popularly used as a countertop material, quartz is an engineered product made of 90% natural quartz minerals and 10% resins, polymers, and pigments. The combination of these materials creates an extremely durable and customizable product, making it perfect for sinks. There’s no need to worry about chipping, cracking, staining, or rusting.
Quartz sinks are also easy to maintain. There’s no need to worry about it no longer looking good after several years. You’re also more likely to find a unique color and style that matches your kitchen design. They can also be quite affordable depending on the style you choose. And if you love the look, you can choose a countertop with an integrated sink.
Cons: Quartz is an extremely strong material, so you’ll have to be careful with your glass or ceramic dishes. Darker colors are also more likely to show scratches than lighter colors.
Pros: When it comes to kitchen sink materials, soapstone is an old-time favorite. Sinks and countertops made from soapstone date all the way back to the 1800s. Soapstone is a natural mineral made up of about 50% talc, making it softer, yet still denser, than other stones. Unlike favorites such as granite and marble, soapstone is not porous, so you don’t have to worry about water, bacteria, heat, or any products that may stain your sink.
Because it is a natural stone, no two sinks will be exactly alike. It is extremely durable and easy to maintain, and any scratches can be removed with a mineral oil treatment or buffing with light sandpaper. You also have the option to use a soapstone countertop with an integrated sink.
Cons: Unless you’re in love with the grayish tones of soapstone, you won’t be too pleased with the lack of style options. The soft material also means that it can develop scratches and patina over time. It can also be pricey depending on the size and shape of the fabrication.
Pros: Composite granite sinks allow you to have the benefits of classic granite without the high cost. Composite granite sinks still boast granite’s famed strength and durability, yet they’re still soft enough to be gentle on your fragile dishes and glasses. There’s also a greater flexibility when it comes to the variety of styles available, as the composition process allows engineers to expand upon the designs naturally found in nature.
Unlike natural granite, which is a porous material that requires sealing, composite granite is made to be non-porous. This means that you don’t have to worry as much about water or other liquids seeping into the stone. Maintenance isn’t intensive; your composite granite sink simply needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.
Cons: Though cheaper than natural granite, composite granite is still pricier than some of the other more common kitchen sink materials. It’s also susceptible to chipping and cracking with rough use, though it’s more difficult than with natural granite. And just like some of the other sinks above, composite granite can be quite heavy, and requires a sturdy foundation and proper, careful installation.
While there are seemingly countless options available to you, finding the kitchen sink material that works in your home doesn’t have to be difficult. Create a list of priorities (durability, maintenance, etc) and limitations (such as budget) and narrow it down to a couple materials. Then, find the style that works best with your specific kitchen design. Chances are, you’ll find something that works perfectly for your needs.