Vessel or undermount sink?

soonermomMarch 1, 2009

We are going to remodel our Master Bath and I am curious about the pros and cons of a vessel sink versus an undermount sink (would love to see pictures or know the model of your sink). Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated!

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Here is one opinion: Vessel sinks. Pro: looks cool. Con: splashes, very trendy now, may look dated later, harder to clean, possibly more likely to break/chip.

Undermount sink. Pro: looks understated, blends in. Can focus on countertop or backsplash. Easy to keep clean. Less splashing. Con: maybe doesn't look as cool as vessel.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 1:08AM
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I can't think of any "cons" to an undermount sink. get more countertop space, easier to clean around. I (thought)wanted a vessel sink but I'm so glad I found this instead.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 11:55AM
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You both have confirmed my feelings but I wanted to make sure I wasn't too off base. This is our first bathroom remodel in 20 years so I don't want to be stuck with something too trendy for that long!

Monicakm - LOVE your sink. Is it easy to care for and where did you get it (if you don't mind a copy cat)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 1:38PM
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From a practicality standpoint in a daily use master, I would probably go with an undermount because of low maintenance.

Vessel sinks are probably here to stay as an option, they may not be as "hot" as they once were, but nothing is. IMO they are more suited, though, to a space with lighter use.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 2:19PM
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palimpsest - Have you lived with vessel sinks in your master or are you just speculating? I'm really curious why several posts here talk about greater maintenance with vessel sinks versus undermount. That is not my experience. Our vessel sinks are simply soap and water cleanup when we do our normal weekly cleaning. ...and that would be the case whether they were mounted above or below counter. I'm not sure where people get the "splashy" comment - maybe because of faucets that aren't mounted correctly? ...don't know... All I know is that in our experience over the past 4 years, we notice less splashing than our previous bath with undermount sinks. Just trying to spread some reality and experience here from somebody that has actually lived with vessels in their master bath...

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 2:46PM
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Under...because I am a lazy butt, and don't need anything more to have to clean around! (Hence battling with our granite installers over the 12" spread between taps...I want to be able to easily wipe down/around the faucet set up).That's partly, but the main reason is that I have an issue with toothpaste spitting, mouth rinsing, face washing and the idea of bonking my forehead or chin on the bowl! Sounds silly I know, but as much as I love the artistic effect of some of the lovely vessel sinks, I could not and would not talk myself into one.

We undermounted.. and love it.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 4:04PM
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We've had two vessel sinks in our master bath since we completed the remodel around Thanksgiving. I wanted the vessel sinks mainly because I wanted a lower (shorter) vanity, but didn't want they sink itself to be that low. My vessel sinks are actually rather understated, they look like old fashioned washbowls - like you'd see with a pitcher on a washstand.

I don't have problems with splashing at all. I don't notice anymore water on the vanity tops than I did with our old vanity/sink. And I find it as easy to keep both the sinks and the vanity tops clean as I did before.

I've noticed in this thread and in others, people talking about the benefits of more counter space. My vanity is not that large, and I have room to set everything I need. I actually don't leave anything out except my soap dispenser, because I hate clutter, but when I'm getting ready for work, I get everything I need out of my medicine cabinet and vanity drawers and set them on the vanity - toothbrush, tooth paste, deoderant, hair gel, hair spray, brushes, etc.

I did read people saying that they would look dated, but I didn't buy them for anyone else - I bought them for me, and I love how they look.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 4:19PM
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With shaving and two people who cut their own hair, I think it is easier to wipe down the whole countertop into the sink (even though I dont wash the hair down the sink). The sink gets wiped down every day, so for me it is easier to have an undermount than it is a self rimming (have owned) or vessel (have used but not owned) for quick clean up.

This is also why I dont have a plate glass shower door either, I would want to keep it without spots every day, but wouldnt. I am lazy but I like things clean.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 5:29PM
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I would NEVER own a vessel sink, why? I have several reasons but mainly because they are not designed so that people of all heights can use them comfortably. When house hunting, we did not buy a house that we liked because it had vessel sinks and we would have had to change them in order to use the bathroom. I would never use them in any room, not for guests and not for my family.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 7:17PM
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My niece bought a house with vessel sinks and she says it is really hard for the kids to use them. If you don't have kids around, I'd say it's a personal preference. Do you have any friends who use a wheelchair? Vessel sinks may be harder to use in this situation as well.

It takes all kinds of people to make a world so do what you want! I like both.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 7:48PM
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OK - I'm sorry - but the post about vessels sinks and people of all heights cracks me up. if you have an undercounter mount sink - or "drop-in", why is this different? Can you change the height of the cabinet to accomodate different height individuals? The cabinet height is what affects overall height of the vessel - this has nothing to do with the vessel sink itself.

We have kids and we have many different vessel sinks - no problems. ...and we have under-counter mount sinks in a few bathrooms as well. We like both for different reasons but my main objective here was to dispel some of the myths that seem to be perpetrated by those that have never lived with these types of sinks. ...hopefully I have helped in that regard...

This is obviously something that is a "different strokes for different folks" subject.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 8:18PM
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I am not against vessel sinks as a design statement in any way. I think they have entered the design vocabulary permanently. I don't think they are too "trendy" they've been around for 15 years or so.

The height issue IS pertinent for the following reasons.

Vanity height used to be 30", now it is 33" and I just did a bath with vanities at the height of kitchen base units 36". If you don't PLAN ahead --and have a 33" vanity and a 5" high vessel then all the sudden you have a sink rim at 38" or even 41" on a full height vanity.--42" is Bar height.

It sounds silly but people DO make this error. If you know you are getting a vessel sink from the get-go and get a low vanity, or a custom vanity to compensate for the height, great. But many people pick an off the shelf vanity at 33"-- and then decide later that they will try a vessel sink. Then they wonder why their elbows are up around their neck when they are used to bending.

If you can think in dimension, that's great. A lot of people need to see it in person to understand.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 8:39PM
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soonermom, thank you :) The sink is extremely easy to take care of and is good about not "looking" dirty when it really is. I clean it with Scrubbing Bubbles and wipe it daily (or so) with a washcloth or paper towel and water/alcohol combo. This company will send you samples of the glass and I'd suggest doing that if you can't find a plumbing store or a design center that carries them. You can read about the special glass these sinks are made from. They are also used in the kitchen and can withstand boiling water. A really nice benefit is that the the clear sink allows light from above to light the contents of the cabinet below the sink. There are many colors to choose from. Notice that depending on the style of sink (undermount/drop in vs vessel) the colors will look different. I love my sink and it's the thing that makes most people say "WOW!" :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Oceana Glass Sinks

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 10:43PM
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We went with undermount. Decorative vessels are pretty but in a master bath they are impractical - they break up the space on the counter, reduce space to put things down, and tend to be flatter, causing a lot of splash. They also can be fragile if you drop something like a hair dryer around them. I also saw larger, white porcelain vessels, which were either square with sloped sides or large, flat rectangles. These eat up all the counter space and I thought they looked heavy and industrial. The undermount is less obvious, emphasis on the aesthetic around the sink rather than the sink itself. Regarding the posters who said that the vessel woudl be higher, that may be true but you can also have higher counters on your vanity to compensate for the undermounted sink. I will probably go with a vessel when we re-do our powder room but I am happy with the choice of undermount in the master.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 11:27PM
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palimpsest is right. If you do not plan for a vessel sink then the vessel sink will definitely be too high for many people.

We originally wanted an undermount but loved the look of a vessel sink. Our vanity height was 33" so we decided to recess the vessel sink so it would not be too high.

It is 36" to the top edge of the sink and it a perfect height for us. It is extremely easy to clean and is not "splashy" at all.

Here is a picture:

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 11:40PM
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Vessel, undermount, flush mount, partial mount - in any case, the top of the sinks are now closer to 36". Our 1960s undermount sink top is only 30" tall and I hate it.

All of our new vessel sinks are installed at the 36" height. The countertop, vanity are adjusted accordingly.

I dont find the splashing to be any less or any more. You need to get into a habit of wiping up the counter after a splashy use (for both vessels and undermounts).

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 2:38AM
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flyinghigh, no reason to disclaim someone elses concerns just because you've never had an issue. Obviously you're insensative to it, because you're not short and have never had to deal with it. Standard counter height for vanities and cabinets is 31 - 34 inches, add another 4-6 inches (or more) for some of the vessel sinks and they are OBVIOUSLY hard to use for people who are not taller, including kids and elderly!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 5:53AM
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I don't understand about undermount sinks providing more counter space. The profile of the sink is the same whether it sits on top or below. One thing not mentioned is the vessel sink gives you more space inside the vanity. You can have a usable drawer under the sink if you leave a channel in the middle for the pipe.

Another benefit is you can easily change out a vessel sink to change the look of your bath which you can't do with an undermount. One compromise might be a sink that's partially inset into the vanity, but that's not easily changed.

I also look at them as jewelry for your vanity. A countertop with a set in sink has no focal point. It's just a plain slab when viewed. I think a vessel sink adds interest to it, and adds another level of decor to the bath.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 8:49AM
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We have a combination of vessels, undermounts, drop-ins and semi-recessed vessels in our house, and I use all of the sinks regularly. There DO seem to be a lot of myths out there regarding vessel sinks!

- Are they harder to clean? Ours are EASIER to clean! Because the area of countertop that 'can' get splashed is not directly at the edge of the sink, so you don't get that little line of crud where sink meets countertop. But - if you have hair shavings or trimmings outside the sink, those would have to be swept off the countertop rather than simply down the sink. (Probably better for your plumbing anyway.) Good sink-sizing will help with shavings.

- Splashing - Depends on how much water, what angle, sink angle, distance -- NOT a factor of whether your sink sits above or below your countertop.

- Trendy? - Maybe. I'm sure some of them will be -- the ones that aren't really good-looking will still be not-so-great-looking 10 years from now, and then they'll also be 10 years old and still very visible simply due to their location. But the gorgeous ones will still be gorgeous! Like every other design trend, the really good ones will age better than the marginal ones.

- Too high? - If you don't plan for them, very possibly. If you plan for them, then no.

- Limited faucet options? - Yes, definitely. And no one's even mentioned this! Many faucets will not work well with a vessel sink. The handles for deck-mounts need to be located in such a way that they're still easy to reach. Wall-mount faucets tend to be more expensive, and if there's a plumbing problem, much harder to detect before major damage has been done, and much harder to repair.

- Breakage prone? - To an extent, yes. Any unprotected exposed edges will be likelier to break than undermount sinks. Of course, replacing a vessel sink is also a much easier endeavor than replacing an undermount. And if the vessel is a 'drain hole only' mount, you can replace it with virtually any other vessel sink. You aren't tied to that one undermount dimension forever.

More Counter Space? - Huh? I know math can be a hard subject for many, but doesn't this entirely depend on the size of the sink? I've found that I actually have a bit more counter space around my vessels, and those little round things (eyeliner, lipstick) never roll into my vessel sinks.

Bottom line - It's not really such a good idea to generalize, as so much depends on the individual sinks and layouts.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 11:02AM
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Another vote against vessel sinks. My brother talked my mom into installing an all glass one in the kids' bath, which is the most inappropriate location for it, and it's been a disaster with water spots. You also lose storage space under the overhang; in the messy kids' bathroom, they were always getting toothbrushes stuck at the back of the sink under the overhang. You have to wipe down/clean two sides of sink, inside and outside, instead of one.

Obviously some of these issues wouldn't be as bad in a master bath used solely by neat adults, but it's turned me off vessel sinks completely (although JTS' sure are pretty!).


    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 11:04AM
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Thank you all so much for your comments on both the vessel and undermount sinks. I have to say that many of my concerns about a vessel sink were dispelled by this post. I'm trying to observe how my husband and I use the sinks and have to say in general, we aren't big splashers. (I don't know what exactly that says about us). We are raising our countertop height and will definitely keep that in mind when we decide which sink to go with. We are currently taking bids for our bathroom remodel so I have to see where we land with the budget before deciding. I'm sort of "you only live once" type of gal but my hubby is very conservative so we'll definitely have to meet in the middle. Thanks again for your advice!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I hope you decide to go with vessel sinks, you won't be disappointed. They come in such a variety that you are sure to find something that will make you bathroom feel really special. We have 3 vessel sinks in our house and we are always getting compliments on them. I found mine on ebay, here is a link for you - - Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Flying High - I really don't think you need to apologize for your post ;-)

I think most people got what you were trying to communicate.

I could accuse the other poster of not understanding those of us who are tall - lol I lived in a house with undermount sinks that gave me a backache leaning over because the previous owners set them lower than standard.

If you are two short or too tall you will have to make adjustments based on your circumstances - the sink is not really the issue unless you are stuck with a certain height counter.

I think people also forget that there are many designs of vessel sink now.

In my master we put one in because we only wanted one sink and I wanted a hair-drying station - since in our old bathroom the second sink held my hairdryer all the time and was never turned on ;-) I did not want two levels of counter so a vessel was the perfect choice to raise the sink to a comfortable height. It does not splash and this one actually has a built-in faucet deck for a regular faucet.

It is a very simple round porcelain sink but it adds a bit of flare because it sits on top.

We have a gorgeous hand made vessel sink in our pool - mountain stream inspired bath - that has fused glass dragon flies imbedded in it. It is stunning - it won't get dated anymore than any other piece of fine art glass. Not that I care - it may be my very favorite thing in our new house.

If you love the look there is a way to make a vessel sink work for your situation.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 10:48PM
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