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Remodeling 101: What to Know About Choosing the Right Size Kitchen Sink


Remodeling 101: What to Know About Choosing the Right Size Kitchen Sink

June 20, 2019

Sink size is a personal choice. If you know your way around a kitchen, and especially if you’ve worked with different-sized sinks over the years, you probably know what you like. But if you’re starting out, we’re here to help.

Architect Jerome Buttrick of Buttrick Projects Architecture & Design, a member of the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory, is based in Oakland, California, and has plenty of experience (he’s been practicing for more than 25 years and worked on not one but four renovations with Remodelista founder and editor Julie Carlson). And, for an appliance perspective, we also checked in with Reece Williams, who’s handled sales for 20 years at Cherin’s Appliance in San Francisco, in business since 1892.

Note that we’re only considering sink sizes here; in a later post in this series, we’ll look at the pros and cons of single-bowl versus double-bowl sinks. Also, the words used to describe sink dimensions can be confusing (for example, for a contractor, the “depth” of a sink is the distance from front to back, not the depth of the bowl). For our purposes, in this post we’ll refer to sink length (how far a sink extends along the countertop), width (the distance from front to back), and depth (how deep the bowl is).

an average sized sink, with room on either side for dirty dishes and drying, in 9
Above: An average-sized sink, with room on either side for dirty dishes and drying, in Kitchen of the Week: Practicality in White Marble.

Is there a standard sink size for the kitchen?

Both Buttrick and Williams say they’re seeing many more single-bowl sinks installed than double-bowl. According to Williams of Cherin’s Appliances, customers typically choose a single-bowl dimension of about 28 to 30 inches long, and “they’re quite happy with that—it gives them enough room to do two things in the sink at once.”

Buttrick recommends a sink that is at least 27 inches long, 19 inches wide, and 7.25 inches deep. “Once you factor in the three-quarter-inch counter depth, the sink is eight inches deep,” he says. Similar-size models are also available commercially.

something to consider: divided sinks offer relatively little washing space. see 10
Above: Something to consider: Divided sinks offer relatively little washing space. See Steal This Look: Hudson Milliner Kitchen in New York for more.

How do I know what size sink I need?

A commercially made single-bowl sink can be as long as 33 inches, while a double-bowl model can reach 48 inches. Either of those takes up a lot of kitchen real estate, so your decision may well be based on how much counter space you can spare. Budget might also help you choose—but in any remodel, sink cost is far from the biggest slice.

Most people who cook prefer a sink that’s larger rather than smaller: You don’t often hear someone complain their sink is “too big.” An undersized sink quickly gets crowded and cluttered, and it’s hard to wash large pots, pans, and woks; extra space is better for both food prep and cleanup. But once your sink is above a certain size, advises Buttrick, you should have a spray head or gooseneck faucet you can use to flush food particles toward the drain.

Note that extras such as integrated drain boards (like the one above) will eat up more room. Another consideration: It’s helpful to reserve some counter space on both sides of the sink for stacking unwashed and clean items.

in kitchen of the week: a family gathering spot in a london victorian, a d 11
Above: In Kitchen of the Week: A Family Gathering Spot in a London Victorian, a double-bowl butler sink fits perfectly atop an antique cupboard. Photograph by Rory Gardiner.

What should I know about installation methods?

Most kitchen sinks are installed in one of three ways:

A drop-in sink fits into a cutout in the countertop, with the rim resting on the counter.

An undermount sink is installed under the countertop.

An apron-front sink, which is generally longer and deeper than average, is installed so that the front, or “apron,” is exposed for a cottage-y look.

Obviously, if you’re replacing an old sink but not the countertop, you need to make sure the cutout will accommodate the new sink. If the cabinet allows, you may be able to size up the sink by expanding the cutout. Same countertop, smaller sink? Not advised.

Many people shopping for a new sink are undergoing a full kitchen renovation, and in those cases, as Williams points out, “A new countertop offers a good opportunity to make improvements. A customer who has an old drop-in sink, with a rim that collects gunk, on top of an old tile countertop, is thrilled to replace those with a new solid-surface counter and an undermounted sink.” And a bigger sink, if you have room to spare, may be a smart upgrade as well.

a moderately sized undermount sink gets the job done in kitchen of the week: ay 12
Above: A moderately sized undermount sink gets the job done in Kitchen of the Week: Aya Brackett’s Hippie House Update in Oakland (and it’s economical, too: Brackett admired a $2,000 sink before settling on this $300 version by Kraus from Amazon. “It’s been awesome,” she said. “We didn’t need to spend that much.”)

What are the pros and cons of a deeper sink?

A number of sinks on the market are two to three inches deeper than the usual eight inches. Depending on the sink’s width and length, the extra depth can make it easier to wash oversize pots—which is especially useful for anyone cooking for a big family or a large numbers of guests. (Think of that roasting pan for the holiday turkey.) Another plus: If your sink is visible from the dining table, it’s easier to hide the dirty pots and dishes.

The drawback is in the ergonomics. “We often have discussions with clients about the benefits of a deeper sink,” says Buttrick. “That discussion ends when people understand it can be a back-breaker.” By his calculations, someone who’s six feet tall already has to bend over six or seven inches to reach the sink bottom—“so making the sink two inches deeper can really get to you.”

For shorter people, however, the extra depth is less of a problem. “If you’re five foot three, a ten-inch-deep sink will be easier on you,” says Buttrick.

even a petite kitchenette, like this one in a seattle office, can accommodate a 13
Above: Even a petite kitchenette, like this one in a Seattle office, can accommodate a sink suitable for washing dishes and hands. For more sinks in tiny kitchens, see Trend Alert: 20 Well-Designed Kitchenettes. Photograph by Belathée Photography and courtesy of H2 Design + Build, from Kitchen of the Week: A Before & After Office Rental in Seattle.

What size sink works best in a small kitchen?

When counter space is at a premium, you’re likely to go for a smaller sink. But many homeowners (including myself) find that a 22-inch-long sink will serve most purposes. (Have a really tiny kitchen? New Zealand-based designer Karin Montgomery Spath installs 9-by-15-inch sinks in her kitchenettes; see Expert Advice: The New Kitchenette: 11 Tips for an Efficient Small Kitchen for more.)

Still, it’s wise not to skimp on size if at all possible. If your tiny kitchen doesn’t allow for a dishwasher, a roomy sink matters even more for hand-washing. It’s also good if you’re the clean-as-you-go type. Some ingenuity might be needed to create more counter space, such as an integrated cutting board that sits over the sink.

even a minuscule sink serves a purpose, particularly if installed as a secondar 14
Above: Even a minuscule sink serves a purpose, particularly if installed as a secondary prep sink. This one in An Airy Studio Apartment in a Garage suits the tenant’s needs.

Is a bar sink too small to be useful?

Not at all, says Buttrick. “A separate bar sink is great when you have two people who are active participants in the kitchen. You can use it not just for making drinks, but for, say, vegetable prep or fixing a vase of flowers.” He generally specifies a 12-inch stainless sink for that purpose. Note that installing a second sink in a different location than the main sink will incur extra plumbing fees.

On the other hand, Williams finds that most San Francisco kitchens can’t accommodate a second sink, however small. “It’s not that our customers don’t want it,” he says, “but they really don’t have room for it.” As with most renovation decisions, consider your lifestyle to help determine what size sink is right for you: How big are your most-used pans? How often do you entertain? Would you rather have extra counter space or a bigger sink?

To help decode more remodeling decisions in the kitchen, see our posts:

Featured photograph by Belathée Photography and courtesy of H2 Design + Build, from Kitchen of the Week: A Before & After Office Rental in Seattle.

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen sink and faucet in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Sinks & Faucets.

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