Let This Sink In

By Steven V. Philips –

Cerana Apron Front Sink

As a wee tyke, in the summers I’d get to stay at Grandpa Philips’ farm in northern Connecticut. They lived in a late 1800s farmhouse. It had an outhouse, but the kitchen was inside. Equipped with a cast-iron wood (really) burning stove. Ceiling grates allowed heat into the bedroom overhead, which allowed hearing what the adults might ambush me with tomorrow. I was a true frontier child.

In the kitchen, the sink and the drainboard were soapstone. The rest of the counter was wood. Bleached regularly. The hand-powered water pump pulled fifty-two degree water straight from the well into the sink. A mystery as to how that two-foot deep and three-foot wide sink was held together but it seemed fearsomely spacious to me.

Grandma would sit me on the Clorox-permeated kitchen counter and wash my dirty feet in the kitchen sink. Clearly this explains one of my problems today, fear of getting dirty feet while drowning in cold water. And I did have the whitest tushie on the farm.

Farm Sink
Farm Sink

A generation later, what do you kids now want in a sink? Yup, the trend is back to a big, single compartment and deep sink. Was I there first or what?

So, let’s define what-is-what in du jour sink installations: One piece means the sink is melded with the counter surface leaving no separation. So it’s virtually all-in-one piece though two colors may be used. It’s usually in a solid surface material (Corian). Under-mount means the sink is adhered to the underside of the counter surface. Usually under-mount involves a stainless basin and the counter is another material, but not always. Drop in”means a hole is cut into the counter and the sink is (ready for this?) dropped in. In snootier circles, you might refer to these as “top-mount” and amaze the unknowing with secret trade talk.

Drop In Sink
Drop In Sink

Then there’s the farm sink (or apron front) which has a chubby overhanging front as you can see in the photo. It may be set as a drop-in (top-mount for the knowing) or as an under-mount. And if you don’t want to be marked as a clod in the more refined sink circles, one could also call this a self-trimming apron front sink.

Most popular sink installation today? Number uno desired is the under-mount. Followed by the farm sink, usually as an under-mount.  Third choice is my favorite, the one-piece, as I am a neurotic twit and hate the little valley between counter and sink where fearsome insects could camp out. And in oh-so fourth place, the drop-in sink, which you never admit to owning at your book club. But I digress.

Farm Sink
Farm Sink

No matter what type of sink you choose, opt for an oversized, deep single bowl. Much easier for washing big pots, pans, cookie sheets or your Malamute in one. Then if you have the space, add a small or even a standard sink. And not necessarily next to each other, if two of you are seriously working in the kitchen.

If you go against my explicit orders and foolishly opt for a double, at least look for a lower center divider so you can work with larger pans. And then maybe split it at 60/40.

Finally, what material? Stainless, porcelain or solid surface? If you’re apt to drop iron pots and knives into your sink, go to stainless as both porcelain and solids might nick/chip. But porcelain has some great colors and you know my prejudice for solids.

Now it’s your decision, along with your designers’ advice. But if you don’t pick a single bowl, you’ll be cut out of my will.

Under Mount Sink


  • Drain talk, usually only available in the stainless sink world. If the drain is to the rear of sink, or to the side, piping ends up toward back (or the side) of cabinet allowing for more useful under-storage. And look for a slight pitch towards any drain. Dead flat bottoms gather moss and small fish.
  • FYI: 16-gauge stainless is thicker than 18-gauge. Chrome and nickel, added to the steel, prevent oxidation and rust by neutralizing salt. So a lower gauge of stainless with higher proportions of chrome/nickel (such as 18/10) should mlre durable in long run. And always look for insulation on the underside to minimize noise and condensation.
  • Skipped the composite-sinks of polyester/acrylic here. They seem to be not so tough, with some experts quite leery, so maybe OK at the summer cottage with lower use?
  • Finally, Professor Thompson of All Things Naturally Firm at Vermont Marble, Granite, Slate and Soapstone, tells me that chances are my Grandpa’s soapstone sink was fabricated in Virginia (or Vermont) and was built of slabs. Pine pitch and a steel type screw were used to put it all together. Learn it here kids. Pine pitch was the 19 century epoxy! Super-Glue for ships and sinks! Work this into any conversation. You can thank me later.


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