Replacing a Kitchen Sink
A primer for sink and faucet replacement
Replacing your kitchen sink and faucet can seem overwhelming with the endless hardware possibilities. And that doesn't even get you started with the choices in color, materials and finish. Because the kitchen sink and faucet is a household item that is used daily, but sits idle and on display most of the time, the tradeoff between style and function is very important. You want a kitchen sink that meets your needs, but still looks good.
Like any home improvement project, the first step is to set the budget. This will help determine some key initial decisions such as whether or not to replace the countertop along with the sink. Replacing the countertop adds to the cost of the project, but it allows for more flexibility in the sink layout since you create the size of the cutout in the countertop. Replacing the counter also allows you to install an undermount sink where the edge of the counter comes up to the edge of the sink, as opposed to the drop in sink which leaves a lip where the sink meets the counter.
Once the budget has been set, take a look at the physical space and how you use the kitchen to determine the features you want to put into the new sink and faucet. Kathleen Yates, group product manager at Moen, says, "You're going to want to think about how you live and what you do in the kitchen functionally." For example, she says some people want two bowls in the sink for hand washing dishes while other people simply want one large bowl to soak items. Other considerations include which bowl in a two bowl sink is more convenient for the garbage disposal and which bowl in a sink with two different sized bowls should be closer to the refrigerator.
Yates continues, "What you don't want to do is get a sink and install it and not have it functionally work for you."
The faucet also offers options. Angie Coffman, director, Delta product marketing for Delta Faucet Company, says, "When replacing a kitchen faucet, consider how you will use the faucet. Will a pull-out version, with a long extended hose be best? Would a high arc spout with a separate sprayer be ideal? Then consider how you want that functionality to look, what style compliments your décor."
Steven Nadler, senior product manager at Price Pfister, says you should take the location of the sink into consideration. Is it on an island where it can be seen from all angles? Is it hidden in a corner where there isn't room for a tall faucet? Once the budget and physical space have determined the project guidelines, Nadler states, "Then really go out and look at the different styles and finishes that are available."
Style and Function
Functionality is very important, but once you've decided on the features you want in your new sink and faucet it's all about style -- high arc or traditional faucet, stainless steel, chrome or copper finish, and stainless sink or custom cut granite are among the many options. Nadler says you can find a variety of styles and all the common finishes from every major manufacturer.
"Find a style that you're really comfortable with. Find a product that you're really going to enjoy because the kitchen is the workhorse of the home," says Nadler. "People really look at their kitchen today a lot different than even ten years ago. The kitchen has evolved into this meeting room where the family hangs out, food is prepared, food is eaten. It's adjacent to a family room, or even part of a family room."
Coffman adds that integrating an entire look is a current trend. She says, "We’re seeing a strong desire to coordinate items in the kitchen – the faucet with the sink and countertop, matching the drawer pulls and lighting – bringing the elements in the kitchen and bath together with matching, related accessories."
Technology that aids the performance of a new faucet is another priority. Coffman states, "Things like a reinforced steel hose and finishes that are guaranteed not to tarnish or corrode are top considerations."
Style meets function in many of the options currently available. To reduce sink top clutter, soap dispensers can be integrated into the sink, hiding the containers beneath the sink and leaving only a dispenser nozzle on the surface. Water purification systems can be completely installed under the counter to help clean up the sink area.
One space saving device that has been around for a while, but is still the leading growth area in new faucets, is pull-out faucets. These faucets allow the spout to pull out with an attached hose and buttons for stream, spray and other features. The pull-out faucet eliminates the separate spray nozzle and is now within the price range of most homeowners.
Nadler explains how the pull-out can solve a number of faucet issues, "If people are looking for simple decisions, they can buy a pull-out faucet, for example, and mount it without a deck plate in just one hole and you've got everything you would need out of a three or four hole faucet. Now you're ready to show off a beautiful new sink or countertop instead of cluttering it up."
One thing to consider when looking at pull-out faucets is features. All pull-outs offer stream and spray buttons, but many manufacturers are offering additional features. The Price Pfister third button gives the user a jet spray, a handy feature for heavy cleaning jobs or good for everyday spray use for people in areas with low water pressure. The Moen Aberdeen faucet includes two spray patterns as well as a "pause" button allowing the user to temporarily shut the water off in order to fill a coffee pot outside the sink or water a plant. Yates explains the pause button was one of those features that became obvious after watching research tape of how people use the sink.
"Pull-outs and pull-downs are the greatest growth area in the kitchen," says Yates. "We look at the kitchen market as one-handle, two-handle and pull-out faucets. Pull-out is the rapid growth area."
Both Yates and Nadler agree the most difficult part of installing a new sink and faucet is very likely removing the old faucet. The latest faucet technologies make installation much easier with more pre-assembly work and connections made with quick connect fittings. Nadler adds if you are looking to do the work yourself you should take a good look at the area before you get started to make sure you understand what holds the sink to the counter, what holds the faucet to the sink, how the water is connected to the faucet and how the drains are connected to the sink. Look for anything unusual, or anything that isn't clear to you.
Nadler says classes at homeowner centers are a good resource and will give you a good idea if the project is something you can accomplish and let you know if you have the tools for the job. He does warn that you shouldn't try replacing the sink and faucet for the first time on a Saturday afternoon with a dinner party coming up on Sunday.
Yates sums up kitchen sink and faucet replacement by reminding consumers to think about how you live and what you do, and that both style and functionality are important factors in the decision. She also reminds homeowners to think toward the future, "You're going to have a budget, spend as much as you can to put as much functionality into the room." Yates continues, "Kitchens are one of the most important room in the house for resell, so if you're thinking this a first home and you are maybe thinking resell down the road to upgrade my home, you want to put as much functionality and quality into it (the kitchen) as you can."
Steven Nadler of Price Pfister offers these basic sink options:
- Material: stainless steel vs. cast iron
- Installation: undermount vs. drop in
- Counter tops: granite vs. Corian vs. tile
- Depth: deeper depth sink basin vs standard depth
- Configuration: single basin vs. double basin vs. custom
Nadler offers these basic faucet options:
- Single handle vs. two handle faucets
- High arc spouts vs. straight spouts
- Pull-out spouts vs. standard spouts
- Single post mount faucet vs. multi-hole with deckplate
- Options like side sprays and soap dispensers
- Various finishes: chrome, brushed stainless, oil rubbed bronze, copper,