Drop In Sinks vs Undermount?

amck2April 9, 2014

In the 8 Trends To Avoid post undermount sinks were cited as a trend. Another poster noted that they were likely to be problematic over time and be difficult to replace without changing out the countertop. I do understand the changing out part.

I have to choose a new sink for my remodel and I was certain about going with another stainless undermount. Mine has been great for 12 yrs of hard use (I rarely use my DW) and I find it so much easier to keep clean compared to the drop-in style I had for 20 yrs. before this one.

What am I missing? I can't imagine going back to a drop-in sink. I have a soapstone apron style sink at our lake house, which I love, but I don't think that style fits well with this house and layout.

Of all the things I've heard and read about going wrong with kitchens, I have never heard of anyone having their properly installed undermount sink fail.

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Are we all supposed to return to drop-in sinks?

Being able to sweep everything straight into the sink (including spilled liquids) without having to go up and over the trim wins for me. You don't hear much about undermounts failing or long posts of people losing their counters because of it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:34AM
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You pretty much summed it up.

I know of exactly one person who had to reattach their undermount sink. That's one out of countless others. It took them an afternoon to repair it. I'll take that over always cleaning that border of junk and crud that collected around the drop in sinks we've had in the past.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:40AM
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I am relatively new to undermount sinks. I like the way they look; however, they do need a bit of extra maintenance. The other day I looked under the edge of the sink (on the faucet side) and there was a buildup of gunk that I hadn't noticed. I had to do a sideways limbo to clean under there. My last sink was a drop in and I can assure you if there was gunk around the edges I saw it and with a flick of the sponge it was gone.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:56AM
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How often do people replace sinks without doing additional work (like replacing counters)? I think the "difficult to replace" argument is bogus.

Let's say you have a top-mount sink, and you want something different. You will only be able to replace it with something that is very similar in size to the one you have, or larger, and then it will be a challenge if you have anything but laminate countertops.

I've had both, and I adore my undermount sink. I'm not a slave to fashion or trends - I am more interested in function and practicality. Undermount wins! The fact that I think it looks nicer is a bonus.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Linelle makes a good point. I've been reading the forum for almost three years and most of it's repetition by now. I can't think of one instance where someone posted about a sink failing.

As for cleaning underneath, by choosing a positive reveal, there is no underneath. It will also protect your countertop edge from chipping, which is more of a concern. You'll find threads about reveal choices on here.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:11AM
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I have fantasized my entire adult life about undermount sinks. We are in the early stages of a kitchen remodel or facelift (not sure which yet). But HIGH on my list is an undermount sink. Like I cannot get one of those fast enough.

So my question is how often do these really fail? I haven't heard of one failing before, but it wouldn't have been something that I had been "looking for" either. How long until they tend to fail? Is their a particular counter top that works better with an undermount?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:17AM
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The one person I know who had an issue had it start to back away. It didn't fall down. It was installed in granite, don't know for how long, and the adhesive used was incorrect. Liquid Nails will hold it - a nice thick glob of it going all the way around the perimeter.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:29AM
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I always wanted an undermount sink - our old house had laminate countertops so of course we had a top mount sink. I used to joke about how the food debris under the edges of that sink was our emergency food supply! It seemed so incredibly gross.

When we started our building project, we saw the integrated sinks that worked with solid surface countertops; I loved the seamless look, but I was afraid of a possible need to replace the sink in the future...solid surface sinks didn't seem very durable compared to stainless.

So now we have an undermount with our granite countertops/stainless sink, and I love it! It's clean, looks nice - important since we have an open floor plan.

I'm not concerned about trends. Although if a future homeowner *wanted* a top mount, it'd be easy enough to put one in.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:31AM
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Circus Peanut

I've been reading the forum for many years and have only heard about 2 undermount sinks failing -- one was not long ago, actually, and involved an unskilled contractor only adhering the sink with silicone instead of using the standard installation technique of building a metal/wood cradle or using metal clips. And that's a failure of practice, not of the material or mount style.

Otherwise, it's simply a personal preference of where you want the gunk to wind up -- each style of sink mount has that tiny seam in a different place and has its plusses and minusses, and every experienced kitchen user knows which one they prefer.

Go forth fearlessly and undermount if it's your desire!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:35AM
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Doesn't a positive reveal kind of defeat the purpose of having an under mount sink? Imo, visually, a positive reveal gives the illusion of a drop in sink by having that stainless steel rim around it that can be seen.

I am sure that there are sinks that "fail" but that has to be a tiny fraction. I have heard they sometimes get rusty but that's because they weren't cleaned properly. Also, someone might end up wanting a different configuration - two bowl vs one bowl. I think sink failure is probably not something one should be worrying about too much.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:38AM
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may_flowers, thanks for bringing up the joys (or rather absence of not-joys) of a positive reveal: no hidden gunk, a softer bump, esp. if you have a stainless sink.

My counter fabricator told me I could have either a negative or positive reveal, but not flush. I figure flush is much harder to get perfect, no real wiggle room. It would have been pretty, but I would do a positive again.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:41AM
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Circus Peanut

Jerzee, I prefer a positive reveal on an undermount because I make differently-sized custom cutting boards that fit into that niche, or even turn the entire sink into another piece of countertop. Works extremely well for my work style. I've had negative reveal sinks and dislike the stuff that collects underneath that hidden rim.

Re. sink reveals and the collection of gunk:

Here is a link that might be useful: where's the gunk?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:34AM
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With 9 out of 10 undermount sinks made with cheap and contaminated chinese steel we are beginning to see them rust out. Likely to be replaced with a polymer drop in.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Doesn't a positive reveal kind of defeat the purpose of having an under mount sink? Imo, visually, a positive reveal gives the illusion of a drop in sink by having that stainless steel rim around it that can be seen

I've always liked a slight positive reveal on undermount sinks for aesthetic reasons. I don't see how they even begin to look like a drop-in. I've posted a picture of my sink and counter just after installation. The reveal is "slightly positive".

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:41AM
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I have no experience with undermount sinks, but I can say with extensive authority that keeping the rim of a drop-in sink clean is not an issue in the least, with two notable exceptions:

1. if I don't keep up with it gunk does build up but is still not hard to wipe away; there is just more of it to wipe.

2. If the rim of the sink is too close to the wall or backsplash it makes it very difficult to get back there and clean up with sinks whose rims stand up higher that a standard "flat" ss rim.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Circus Peanut

JZ -- I just schnorfled around GW history and found old shots of my undermount prep sink with positive reveal and cutting boards we made for that sink -- behind the sink in second photo you can see the half-board with wine bottles on it:

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:53AM
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I think the average American will take the "free" SS sink provided with purchase of their granite, so there is probably some truth that sinks in many homes are Chinese steel. Don't know if it's true, but I have read that the Chinese use recycled steel, which contains impurities that are prone to rust.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:02PM
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I have had all different styles of sink except a flush mount sink and they all have the potential for gunk somewhere! I find it just as easy to clean the rim of my drop-in as I did my undermount with positive reveal and easier to clean than my undermount with negative reveal, mainly because I couldn't see the gunk, so out of sight, out of mind. I think it is just a matter of personal preference, I chose to drop-in my sink this time around because I like the look of the sink deck and I am very happy with my choice. If at some point in time I decide I want to undermount it, it can easily be done, but I seriously doubt I will ever go that route. But I will certainly tell potential buyers when we sell that it is an option!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:25PM
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I've always liked a slight positive reveal on undermount sinks for aesthetic reasons. I don't see how they even begin to look like a drop-in.

To my eye the flat horizontal surface of the visible rim mimics the flat horizontal surface of a drop in. With a total undermount there is not horizontal element outlining the sink. I didn't say I didn't LIKE positive reveals just that it has an aesthetically different look than the undermount.

CP, I remember that kitchen. Who's going to even notice the reveal when they see that spectacular countertop!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:20PM
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I have always loved an undermount sink. Personally I feel it is more practical, and going back to your initial post- practical should be a trend that never goes out of style!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:40PM
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As far as sink failure, I have personally never witnessed a sink of any kind fail. We just took out the cheap builders grade steel sink out of our old kitchen that was 20 years old, still looked the same as the day it went in. Grandmothers house has a porcelain sink installed in 1960 that still looks new, no stains or chips.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:02PM
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I love my flush mount sink and the seam between counter and sink is just as tight as a normal seam, so no gunk. Jerzee, have you confused the look of a stainless flush mount with that of a positive reveal undermount?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:13PM
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I would have loved a flush mount sink, but our granite guy didn't offer it. I guess it's very difficult to do correctly. I like the positive reveal undermount because visually it is very appealing to have that line around the sink. The three reveals all have different looks. It's a visual thing-not a practical thing. None of them are bad or good - just different. I am sure if a person doesn't clean properly he or she will get gunk no matter what.

We are currently getting ready to do our bathrooms and I honestly would prefer a drop in sink there considering all the toothpaste that goes down the sink and where that's likely to end up!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:42PM
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I don't understand the fact that some fabricators do not offer flush mount sinks. That is the way we have done sinks for 20 years at my company with few exceptions. They are very easy to maintain that way. If they don't offer flush mount find one who will.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 6:58PM
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The bathroom sinks in three of our bathrooms were undermount. They had been there for over 30 years with no failures. By that time, the accumulated scratches were making the sinks hard to clean. (The previous owners may have used too harsh a cleaner.) My DH was able after some research to find the same sink model since they were an unusual size.

Once he had the new sinks, he loosened the clamps, supported the sink from below, cut away the sealer and undid the drain pipe. That allowed the old sink to come out and be replaced with the new one. As long as the cabinet door is wide enough and has no stile in the way, an undermount sink mounted with clamps can be replaced.

Our kitchen sinks would be more difficult to replace because they are sandwiched between a plywood underlay and the countertop. But they are stainless steel and I don't expect them to need replacement.

I love the undermount sinks because it is so easy to sweep stuff off the counter into the sink - one can't do that with an overmount. Our kitchen undermounts have a slight positive reveal. To me that doesn't look anything like an overmount. The counter is one continuous level.

The positive reveal is a small fraction of an inch of curved steel showing below the opening - it blends into the sink side like in CP's picture.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:57PM
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When we put in new soapstone counters last year, I put in a drop in sink because I wanted the integrated drain board option that came with it. I guess I don 't understand the concern about "gunk". My fabricator put a tiny, invisible caulk strip along the edge. There is no place for gunk.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 4:12PM
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" Liquid Nails will hold it - a nice thick glob of it going all the way around the perimeter."

This is incorrect. Liquid Nails is not recommended for undermount sink installation by any top or sink manufacturer that I'm aware of. Pure silicone is best.

I've re-installed at least 30 improperly installed undermount sinks. The most common fabricator error is assuming that blocking adhered with polyester is waterproof. It is not.

Sinks must be mechanically fastened; the silicone between the flange and bottom of the top is waterproofing only.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:30AM
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I've had undermount and overmount and undermount wins hands on for me. I am renting my current home and I have to live with a drop-in sink. The inability to sweep stuff is causing me endless grief. Almost every time I wash something at the sink, water gets on the floor. Hopefully, I'll move to my own house in a few months and the first thing I do will be to make sure all sinks are undermount.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 5:05PM
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This post was edited by Trebruchet on Thu, Sep 18, 14 at 23:11

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 11:07PM
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I have an Oceana glass undermount sink waiting to be installed in DH's bathroom (remodel). I've had an Oceana sink in my bathroom for 7+ years. My husband's vanity is 36" wide. His current drop in sink takes up 19 of those 36". The bowl width is 16". His new UNDERmount sink has a bowl width of 17 5/8". So, he is gaining 1.5" in counter space and a 1.5" in bowl size (width). It's going to be much easier for (me) to clean too. More counter space, larger sink bowl and easier to clean. Oh, it's glass made in the USA so there will be no rusting! ;) Mine is a positive reveal. His will be a negative reveal. My 12 year old cast iron kitchen sink is also a negative reveal undermount. MIGHT do a positive reveal if I had to do it over again because of the chipping of the granite edge (not a problem in a bathroom). Cleaning the edge of the sink with a negative reveal isn't an issue. In fact, it's less of a fuss than a drop in rim/edge.

It will be nice to just sweep those whiskers (that aren't going to show due to the granite) right into sink. I'm excited :)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 2:11AM
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