Comparing Top-Mount and Undermount Sink Installation Methods
If you’ve ever tried to wipe crumbs or food scraps off the counter and into the sink with a top-mount sink, then you know how frustrating it can be when they get stuck at the rim. For this reason, among many others, more and more people are turning to undermount sinks instead of the traditional drop-in style.
But is an undermount sink the right choice for everyone? Read on to learn about the pros and cons of each style, so you can decide which type is best for you and your kitchen.
One of the biggest advantages of a top-mount sink is that the installation process is just easier than that of the undermount style. Most models literally involve dropping the sink into the cabinet so that it rests on the countertop; you don’t need to do anything complicated. There are some models that have additional mounting braces you need to install, but these are still pretty straightforward. If you have an older kitchen with laminate countertops, installing a drop-in sink is going to a very simple procedure because you don’t need to make any modifications to the counter.
I also like that top-mount sinks work with pretty much any style of countertop, so you don’t have to completely revamp your kitchen to make it suitable for the new sink. Top-mount sinks are available in pretty much any size and style as well, including double bowl. Some top-mount models also have what’s called an apron-front, which is a piece that extends over the front of the sink like an apron. This creates a more seamless look to the sink by covering the front of the cabinet, and also helps prevent damage to the counter, since one edge doesn’t come into contact with the exposed counter.
The biggest disadvantage of top-mount sinks is that you are always going to end up with that seam separating the sink and the counter. Even if you create a solid seal during the installation, it can wear away over time. This is going to cause food to get stuck under the rim if you try to brush crumbs from the counter into the sink. Since the seal gets exposed to water, a weakened seal also opens you up to mold buildup, which is a major health concern. On top of it all, the water can seep right into the cabinet and cause more erosion of the counter or the sink itself, which isn’t pretty.
An undermount sink completely solves the problem of that troublesome rim by literally mounting the sink underneath the countertop. Depending on the model, you can even choose how much of the sink you want to see near the edge of the counter. This is called the reveal, and is going to be one of three styles. A positive reveal shows some of the sink rim, a zero reveal has the sink flush with the countertop edge, and a negative reveal has the countertop hanging over the sink a little bit.
In addition to undermount sinks allowing you to easily brush crumbs, water, or anything else from the counter right into the sink, they also give your kitchen a very sophisticated and seamless look. Many undermount sinks are also better at protecting the counter and the cabinet, as you don’t have the same risks of water getting trapped between the sink and the counter. Since more sinks are being made in the undermount style, many also come with special design considerations to make using the sink a better experience. You can usually find undermount sinks that have sound-dampening coatings or with interior designs that make them easy to clean.
The installation process for an undermount sink is much more complicated than with a drop-in sink, since you need to create a system to hold the sink up to the counter while the silicone dries and forms the bond. If you don’t do this right, then the sink could actually drop onto the floor during use, which would cause a lot of serious problems for your plumbing and the counter. Unless you have some experience working with sinks and home improvement projects, you’re probably going to need to hire a plumber to install an undermount sink.
Another inconvenient aspect of undermount sinks is that you can only use them with countertops that are sturdy, single pieces like granite. Tile countertops are too weak to support the undermount process, and can also break or collapse with use. This can get more complicated if you already have a countertop cut for a specific sink size, since making additional cuts to the countertop to accommodate a new sink aren’t always possible.
If you have an older style counter in your kitchen, then you might have no choice but to go with a drop-in sink. However, if you have a countertop that can support an undermount, and are able to ensure a proper installation, then the only reason not to go with one would be your own personal preference on style and appearance.