Cultured marble, a man-made material created from crushed marble particles mixed with polyester resins to form a solid surface, is one option for bathroom sink installations. Another choice, porcelain, is more economically formed by taking a base of stamped steel and coating it with porcelain enamel in a heat fusion process. Each material features a unique set of pros and cons that should be considered before you choose a sink for your new or renovated bathroom space.
Natural marble is a porous stone product that stains easily and must be resealed annually to maintain its surface integrity. Cultured marble is a man-made stone formed by crushing natural marble and blending it with a slurry of polyester resins. The mixture is then compressed to form a heavy, solid surface material that is treated with a gel coat to make it stain- and water-resistant. Unlike its natural counterpart, cultured marble will last for years without the need for resurfacing.
Porcelain sinks are lighter than those formed using crushed marble, so they don't require the wooden sub-structure reinforcement that may be necessary for setting cultured marble sinks. Porcelain is resistant to corrosion, abrasion and acid and holds its color well. Open flame will not hurt porcelain but if the surface is cracked or chipped, the steel beneath will begin to rust. Sinks subjected to heavy impact forces may last longer if formed from solid surface cultured marble.
A cultured marble sink can be designed to flow seamlessly from a cultured marble countertop, eliminating the seams between the two surfaces that tend to collect dirt and soap scum and require constant cleaning. Porcelain is not recommended for countertop use because of its tendency to chip. However, a gently used porcelain sink is a stand-alone bathroom material that is more economical to install than its cultured marble counterpart.
Cultured marble is a high-end product that works well with natural marble flooring and a classical design motif. Porcelain is more suited to the retro, country-style themes found in many cottages and country homes. Both products feature a wide range of color choices designed to blend well into any decor. Consider how and where your sink will be used before deciding whether to use the crushed marble-based, cultured product, or the more traditional, light-duty porcelain option.