It maybe seem that buying a sink is an easy experience, but there are many things to consider. Your sinks should be a long term investment and are one of the most used items in your home or office. Experts always say buy the best you can afford, because a good quality sink can last up to 50 years.
If you are looking for an Eco- Green- Sustainable Sink, your considerations should be the same as buying any old sink.! If you are looking for economy, there is nothing more sustainable than keeping your current sink or buying a used sink from Habitat, salvage yards or go to craigslist and other like sources such as Build it Green. Here are some tips for recycling or reusing your old porcelain sink. And from Fly Lady, some tips to clean up your sink.
Top 16 Things to Look for in A Sink – Eco or Otherwise
1.) Space: – If you need storage, don’t go with a pedestal type of sink in the bathroom. Also look at your countertops. Standard Sinks are 22×33 wide, 8 inches deep and have 2 bowls of equal size. Do you only need 1 bowl or 3? Some styles might require special cabinets In the bathroom you have to consider countertops and space.
2.) Material: There are so many materials to chose from. (See below)
3.) How many holes: What do you want with the sink? Faucet type, sprayer, hot water dispenser, water filter, dishwasher drain, liquid soap dispenser all need separate holes. You can drill holes in some materials. But if you aren’t sure, you can always by a sink with more holes and put in plugs.
4.) Depth: If you cook more, you might need a deeper sink.
5.) Accessories: Drainers, cutting board do you want to add those as well?
6.) How it will be installed? Built in, over counter (easiest to install), under counter (more difficult to install, but easier to clean)
7.) Location of sink: What are you using it for? The bathroom sinks will definitely be different than the kitchen sink. But do you want a decorative sink in your primary bathroom?
8.) Long term investment? Renting? Selling? What will be the return on investment?
9.) Plumbing: What will your current plumbing support?
10.) Maintenance: Will it be easy to clean and keep up? Will you easily be able to buy biodegradable products to keep it clean?
11.) How many bowls? You can buy kitchen sinks from 1 to 3 bowls and various heights. This will also depend on space, amount you cook and clean.
12.) Sustainability: Of course this is important if you are looking for Eco Sinks!
13.) What type?, Vessel, Pedestal, Farmhouse, Wall Mount, Countertop, Bar? Laundry Room?
14.) Look and Style? What will go with your decor?
15.) Cost? As usual
16.) Undercoating: Undercoating is applied to the underside of the sink to absorb sound, protect against condensation and help maintain sink water temperature.Typical undercoats consist of a rubberized or latex coating sprayed over sound absorbing padding. All metal sinks should have an undercoating. Obviously, the thicker the undercoat the better
The following are Materials for Any Type of Sink
Stainless Steel: Get the best you can afford. A cheap sink is made of thin metal. easily scratched, hard to keep clean, and noisy. Better quality is thick and firm. Finish will maintain original appearance.
Stainless steel is the most popular and typically the least expensive option for kitchen sinks and wet bars. Since they do not have any ceramic or enamel coating, they are essentially indestructible under normal use. They won’t chip, nick, crack, rust, stain, or fade.
Look for sinks made from 18- to 20-gauge steel. The lower the gauge, the heavier and more durable the steel. The chrome and nickel content of the steel also affects quality. The chrome adds strength and the nickel prevents corrosion. The ideal combination is 18% chrome and 10% nickel (18/10). 18/10 stainless steel is completely hygienic, will not rust and will maintain its appearance much longer than lesser grade steel.
The gauge (thickness) of the steel is also an important feature. (Gauge is an inverse measurement – 22 gauge is thinner than 20 gauge.) A thicker gauge stainless steel sink will maintain water temperature longer and has more sound deadening qualities. Thicker gauge stainless steel sinks are generally more expensive.
Economy models come without undercoating and are not highly polished. These tend to be noisy and require more maintenance. Thinner gauge steels have a tinny sound and dent more easily.
Some stainless steel sinks have a nickel plating on them which makes them very shiny. If this surface is worn off, you may not be able to get the sink shiny again.
More expensive models display a high luster and are heavily undercoated to absorb sounds and retain heat. However, highly polished models show scratches readily during the first year after installation, and only after sufficient use will the scratches blend to form a uniform finish.
Enamel Cast Iron: Available in many colors, finish is hard and rarely chips. Quieter. Easy to clean
Enamel-coated cast iron is the most durable material for fixtures, and usually the most expensive. It is used for sinks and bathtubs and some whirlpools. These units are extremely heavy.
The thickness of cast iron makes its surface resistant to acids, and provides outstanding protection against chipping, scratches and dents. It’s very impact resistant and displays the richest, most highly polished finish of all the fixture materials.
Its high gloss surface resists damage and Its structural density prevents dents and dings which can cause porcelain-on-steel tubs to chip. Cast Iron reduces vibration and noise while helping water to stay warm longer.
Properly maintained, a cast iron sink should last a lifetime.
Cast iron will not scratch easily, but that does not mean it won’t. Avoid using or cleaning sharp metal objects in the sink. Repairing scratches is an almost impossible job for the layman. Repair and refinishing a cast iron sink is best left to professionals.
However, even a badly scratched cast iron tub can be refinished at a fraction of the cost of replacing it. The usual method for refinishing involves the use of epoxy paint, and can be done without removing the sink. Many colors are available at the time of refinishing. See your yellow pages for a list of refinishers.
Clay: Clay is one of the oldest materials used for sinks. All clay based sinks can be chipped and broken if abused. Avoid dropping hard or sharp items into them. With reasonable care, these sinks should retain their beauty for many years.
Earthenware is a clay body that tends to be very porous. It is generally decoratively painted and glazed. It is the base material used for Fireclay and Vitreous China sinks, lavatories and toilets.
Earthenware develops a crackle finish over time. This was orginally considered a flaw in the material but is now a much sought-after look in period restorations. China and cast iron largely replaced earthenware by the turn of the century, since neither is as prone to cracking as earthenware.
Fireclay, sometimes called ceramic, became extremely popular in the 1800’s. Similar in composition to vitreous china, this material offers a smooth, non-porous surface that won’t rust, fade or discolor.
Fireclay is used to create kitchen and bathroom sinks and lavatories. The most common style, the Belfast, has a deep, square or rectangular bowl. These sinks can be plain, sculpted, or hand-painted to produce a variety of old world, farmhouse and contemporary looks.
While they look delicate, their hard hard non porous surfaces offer excellent resistance to all commonly used chemicals and detergents.
Maintenance and Care
Clean the outside of fireclay sinks with mild soap and warm water. Wipe the entire surface dry with a dry, clean, soft cloth. If the sink gets dirty, it can be cleaned with any general purpose cleaner.
This material is commonly used on bathroom sinks and toilets. It is an earthenware product, cast and glazed and fired at high temperature to form a high gloss, stain-resistant surface. It is very durable and has a smooth, easy-to-clean finish. It is offered in a rainbow of colors, as well as in hand painted, etched, hammered, matte, and carved finishes. Vitreous China is easily cleaned with any mild household cleaner.
Never pour boiling water into a china sink, and be careful not to drop heavy objects in them because they are fragile.
Maintenance and Care
If you live in a hard water area, frequent cleaning is recommended. Use of a mild cleanser will maintain the glossy finish. Do not use abrasive cleaners or solvents.
Composite Acrylic and Fiberglass Sinks: May lose glossy finish and can absorb stains readily. Very common type. As a note, if you are looking for bathroom countertops with built in sinks, go to Craigslist, many people are giving away or selling bathroom vanities at good prices. Saves from the landfill.
This is the latest Trend in sinks: Originally available only in vessel bowls, they are now available in pedestal, wall mount, over-the-counter, under-the-counter models, and countersink models. Glass sinks work well with contemporary or traditional settings.
Glass sinks are more durable than you might think. Most can withstand a temperature change of 20 degrees without breakage. Almost all glass sinks are resistant to small accident breakage, such as dropping a brush or plastic bottle into the bowl.
However, a heavy object falling into a normal glass sink will shatter the sink. Tempered glass will crack or break, but not shatter. Laminated glass is the most resistant, cracking and crazing but remaining intact.
Types of Glass used to make Sinks and Lavatories
- Soda-lime glass is the most common (90% of glass made), and least expensive form of glass. It usually contains 60-75% silica, 12-18% soda, 5-12% lime. Resistance to high temperatures and sudden changes of temperature are not good and resistance to corrosive chemicals is only fair.
- Lead Glass (Crystal)
Lead glass has a high percentage of lead oxide (at least 20% of the batch). It is relatively soft, and it has a brilliance that can be enhanced by cutting. It is somewhat more expensive than soda-lime glass . This glass will not withstand high temperatures or sudden changes in temperature.
Lead glass is most often used for vessel sinks. Design patterns can be hand etched on a lathe or hand cut.
How the glass is made determines the clarity, strength, resistance to breakage and thermal shock.
- Annealed (Normal/Natural) Glass
Annealed Glass is “normal” glass. Basic glass is made from silica, or quartz sand. ANNEALING it is subsequent natural cooling which is slow and controlled. The absence of stress in the glass means it can be worked even after the bending and annealing (cutting, polishing, drilling).
Sinks made from natural glass are approximately 12mm (1/2″) thick. They will shatter on impact and when subjected to rapid temperature changes.
- Heat Strengthened Glass
Heat strengthened glass is produced in much the same way as tempered glass, but with lower levels of surface compression, usually in the range of 3,500 – 7,500 psi. The resultant product is two times stronger than annealed glass.
NOTE: Heat strengthened glass is not safety glass
- Cast Glass
Cast glass is heated until soft then laid on a textured surface to cool. The imprint of the surface is left in the hardened glass.
- Spun Glass
Spun Glass is actually cast using soda lime glass. Air bubbles formed during the casting process work with naturally occurring pigments to give the glass a somewhat irregular surface that’s inviting to the touch. The intensity of their color is impacted by the thickness of the basin walls. The thick glass walls can withstand rapid changes in water temperature.
- Tempered/Toughened (Safety) Glass
Tempered, or Toughened, glass is a heat processed glass produced by heating annealed glass to approximately 650°C (1202°F), at which point it begins to soften. The surfaces of this heated glass are then cooled rapidly with high velocity blasts of air. Tempered glass is five times as strong as Annealed glass.
Tempered (Safety) Glass will break!
However, it shatters into blunt pieces rather than sharp fragments. Many of the things that can break annealed glass can also break tempered glass. Tempered glass will shatter if attempts are made to “work” the glass after tempering. Therefore, tempered glass must be cut to size and have any other processing, such as edgworking, cut-outs, notches or hole drilling, completed before being subjected to tempering. Laminated Glass
- Laminated glass consists of a tough plastic or resin interlayer bonded together between two panes of glass under heat and pressure.
Once sealed together, the glass sandwich behaves as a single unit and looks like normal glass. It can crack on impact.
Hand Blown Glass
Hand blown glass sinks may be single layer of glass or laminated. Hand blown sinks tend to be much thicker (1″ to 1-1/8;”) than cast or molded sinks (5/8″ – 3/4″), relying on the thickness of the glass for stability rather than the glass making process itself.
Finishes Textured, pebbled or bubbled glass is easier to clean. Smooth glass requires frequent cleaning to avoid water spots.
- Textured Glass
Textured glass is moulded at extremely high temperatures, making shapes such as sinks or bas-relief motifs.
- Colored Glass
Colored glass is made by adding metal oxides to the dry mix and melted in the same way as clear glass.
With Cobalt Oxide you get blue, with Iron you can get green, with Gold you can create a beautiful cranberry colored glass. The coloring agents used to produce ruby red glass are Cadmium and Selenium. The more difficult colors to make, such as amethyst and gold, come from glass color factories in Europe. These colors often contain such precious metals as gold, titanium and silver in their closely guarded formulas.
- Frosted/Etched Glass
Glass is etched by sand-blasting the glass for an opaque look. When it gets wet, however, it becomes transparent until it dries . In sinks, the etching is done on the exterior, and the interior polished smooth. Etching is used to produce patterns in the glass, as well as a frosted look.
- Glue Chip
The outer surface is subjected to the old stained glass art of glue-chipping, which peels flakes of glass from the surface and leaves an organic textured pattern.
- Polished Glass
The inner surface of the bowl, and sometimes the exterior, is polished to a smooth finish.
In addition to the various methods of creating the bowls, there are also unique edge treatments.
- Polished – a smooth and flat, polished edge
- Eroded – a pattern of undulating bumps and valleys smoothed to a worn finish
- Ground and Polished, – the edge of the sink is ground down to a wide surface, then polished clear. This makes the edge appear as a window with a unique view of the inside of the sink.
Maintenance and Care
Glass sinks are a lot more durable than you might think, but certain precautions must be taken. If a glass sink is chipped, cracked or broken, it cannot be repaired or “fixed like new.” It must be replaced.
To minimize the risk of damage, avoid placing a shelf or medicine cabinet
above a glass sink.
- Do clean with plain water or a mild glass cleaner.
- Do wipe the sink dry after every use to prevent water spots.
- Do dust/wipe the outside frequently if the exterior of the bowl is textured.
- Do not use common abrasive bathroom cleansers to avoid scouring or dulling the glass surface.
- Do not install a glass sink where indoor temperatures are unregulated (such as during new construction). Wide variances in temperatures may cause breakage as a result of thermal shock.
- Do not allow the sink to come in contact with steel or other glass objects which could scratch or chip the surface
- Do not pour boiling water directly into the sink. Doing so may cause the sink to crack or shatter.
- Do not allow extremely hot water to flow into the sink. If it is too hot to the touch it could crack the glass.
Stone Bowls: Not so sustainable, due to energy in manufacturing process.
Ceramic: May not have mountain holes to faucet must be installed in the countertop. Finish is easy to clean and hard to scratch or stain. May chip
Brass and Copper: Wiped after use to keep from tarnishing. Copper is a natural antibacterial product. Copper has what many call a ‘living finish’ which means it constantly can shce.
Because copper is a metal, it is non-porous and will not stain in the traditional sense of the word. Copper will oxidize and obtain a patina, which is a chemical change that causes the metal to change color. The copper will not change evenly. It will spot. It will also exhibit rich color combinations ranging from pinks, to greens, to browns.
Copper is a much softer metal than stainless steel. It will scratch much easier. Copper oxidizes rapidly and eventually obtains a deep, weathered brown color. Almost anything that comes in contact with it will oxidize it to some degree (including water). A full patina takes about a year to develop.
Copper sinks should be copper welded, not soldered. Solder turns black with age and is no where near as strong as welding both inside and outside. Welds may be noticeable in some new sinks, but this will disappear as the sink ages.
Prolonged contact with hot pots and pans from the oven should be avoided. Copper has a relatively low melting temperature, and although it will not melt, some distortion can occur with prolonged contact over 300°F.
As with all metal sinks, the thicker the better. Thinner copper sinks may require additional support with a garbage disposer and an oversized sink.
Depending on the manufacturer, copper sinks are available from the factory in Weathered Copper, Dark Bronze, Satin Nickel, and Polished Nickel finishes. Hammered Copper Sinks are the perfect compliment for individual Kitchens, Baths or Powder Rooms.
Use a clean, soft cloth to clean or polish all copper fixtures. Polishing will remove most surface scratches. Scratches will never rust and can be polished, or in extreme cases, sanded out.
Discovered in the 13th century, Brass is as yellowish alloy of copper and zinc, sometimes including small amounts of other metals, but usually 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc.
Brass sinks can give long lasting service and beauty to your bar if handled and maintained properly.
Brass, although durable, is soft and can be scratched, scuffed and dented fairly easily. Keep that in mind when bringing glasses, utensils and cleaning materials into contact with the sink.
For ordinary cleaning, use nothing but a soft, clean cloth and mild dish detergent followed by a thorough clear water rinse. Wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth.
Stains and tarnish should be removed with a small amount of good quality brass cleaner. Rub lightly to lift the discoloration, let dry, then polish with a soft, clean, dry cloth.
Minor surface scuff and very light scratches can be removed with fine automotive rubbing compound followed by brass polish.
Metal sinks can be polished, treated or plated with other metals to produce a variety of appearances.
- Polished – a shiny smooth surface – readily shows scratches and water spots. It is the hardest to maintain.
- Satin – a brushed appearance – hides scratches and water spots.
- Satin Polish – a beautiful luster that is resistant to water stains and calcium deposits
- Antique – a dull weathered look that is applied at the factory. Generally, this finish wears away at an uneven rate.
Steel sinks may be plated with brass, nickel, pewter, gold. These metals are too soft for use on their own as a base sink material. The thicker the plating, the longer the sink will maintain it’s appearance. Plating that is thin will eventually pit, exposing the underlying rough, base metal.
Bronze may be applied over any metal or clay fixture material.
Some of the available finishes are:
Antique: Sustainable, reusing. This is a great article from World Village about the value of Antique Kitchen Sinks.
Concrete: Many of the previous listed tile and non-tile manufacturers actually do sinks as well.
Resources: Please note much of the above information is from Keidel Design.
More great information is Available on Keidel Design
Some Great Pictures from a Bathroom Guide
A General Discussion on Sinks from Chowhound
Where to recycle old toilets in Colorado
How to Install A Sink Yourself from ehow
Consumer Report Rating on Standard Sinks