A "drop-in" sink is a sink that drops into a precut hole in the countertop. Also known as a top-mount, over-mount or self-rimming sink, it has a rim that sits on the countertop and supports the weight of the sink. It can be used on any bathroom vanity, kitchen counter or bar that is structurally able to support its weight, which can be considerable if it's made of a heavy material, such as porcelain or cast iron. The drop-in used to be the only type of sink you could get, and it's still more common than its more stylish counterparts, the undermount, farmhouse and integrated sink for two reasons: It's usually the least expensive option, and it will work with any type of countertop.
Pros of Drop-In Sinks
If you're shopping for a sink, you're almost sure to consider a drop-in as an option, so it's a good idea to keep the following advantages in mind:
- Availability: The drop-in style is ubiquitous. Every plumbing outlet that sells sinks is guaranteed to offer several drop-in models, and you'll always find a choice of colors, sizes and materials.
- Adaptability: Drop-in sinks work with any type of countertop material, including laminates. Undermounts and some farmhouse sinks work only with solid materials, such as stone, composite, solid surface material, or solid wood.
- Cost: Drop-ins are the least expensive sinks on the market, costing as much as 50 percent less than an comparable undermount.
- Installation: Drop-ins are the easiest sinks to install, requiring no support other than the countertop on which they rest.
One Important Disadvantage
Although there isn't much to dislike about drop-in sinks, there is one definite problem, and that's the rim. It forms a border around the sink opening that prevents you from wiping debris from the countertop directly into the sink. The rim also collects debris, and if it isn't properly sealed, it allows water to seep between the sink and countertop and into the sink cabinet. It can detract from the appearance of the countertop while reducing the available working space.
Styles and Materials
Drop-in sinks come in a variety of materials, including:
- Stainless steel: These are common in kitchens and on bars, but you also find one occasionally in the bathroom.
- Enameled or porcelain-coated cast iron: Durable and easy to clean, enameled cast iron comes in white as well as a variety of colors.
- Composite: Composite sinks are fashioned with acylic resins blended with bits of real stone, such as quartz or granite, which makes them extremely durable. They are usually black or gray, but one innovative product combines jute with concrete to produce a smooth, white material similar to porcelain.
- Solid-surface material: This material is made from a blend of different acrylic or polyester resins, and it can be formulated in a variety of colors and styles, often intended to look like natural stone. Solid surface sinks are often white, although many other colors are possible. The color is uniform throughout the body of the sink and won't chip off. Solid surface sinks are often integrated with countertops, but stand-alone drop-in sinks are also available.
- Fired clay: Traditionally used to manufacture farmhouse sinks, fired clay is an extremely durable, smooth and somewhat heavy material akin to porcelain.
- Copper: Copper is as lightweight as stainless steel, and although it's more commonly used for farmhouse and undermount sinks, it's a great choice for a drop-in for your designer kitchen, bar or bathroom.
- Stone: If you aren't on a tight budget, you can purchase a real a drop-in sink for upscale bathrooms made of solid granite, quartz or marble.
Some of these materials are heavy, but that usually isn't a problem, because the rim provides plenty of support, even when the sink is full of water. When circumstances call for a light material, the best choices are stainless steel and copper.
Although most drop-in sinks are square or rectangular, shape isn't a limiting factor. It's easy to find an oval or round one for the bathroom and dual kitchen sinks with basins of different sizes. As far as utility and ease of cleaning are concerned, any shape works as well as any other, as long as the hole in the countertop can be cut to fit the sink. If you buy a counter with a precut hole, you have to use a sink with that shape and size.
Overview of the Installation Procedure
Installation of any sink necessarily involves some plumbing tasks, including installing the drain and the faucet, and if plumbing isn't your thing, you're going to need a pro for those jobs. When it comes to dropping in the sink, the toughest part of the job is cutting the hole for it. Most sinks come with a cutting template to make this job easier, but cutting through some materials, such as stone, composite material, or laminates is a job best done by someone with the right tools and the skill to use them properly.
Just before you drop the sink into place, manufacturers recommend laying a bead of silicone caulk around the circumference of the hole. This helps prevent water from seeping under the rim. You'll also want to caulk the outer edge of the rim after installation is complete and you've tightened all the clamps to keep dirt and water from getting underneath.
The sink has to be level, or water will pool in the bottom and won't go down the drain. Check the level of the countertop and make any necessary corrections before installing the sink. Once you've done this, all you have to do to level the sink is to make sure the rim sits flush against the countertop on all sides. If there's a wider gap on one side than the other, this usually means that the hole is too small and needs to be widened slightly.
The amount of energy needed to clean and maintain a drop-in sink is minimal. Most materials need little more an occasional wipe-down with warm water, some dish soap or baking soda, and occasionally a little vinegar for disinfecting. But with copper, avoid using baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice or anything similarly acidic or caustic, or you'll ruin the patina.
Because the rim forms an edge on the countertop, dirt and water tend to collect there, and if you let water stand, it eventually softens and degrades the caulk, allowing mold to form and water to seep under the rim. It's easy to prevent this. Just wipe down around the edge of the sink with a sponge or rag often, preferably every day. While you're at it, wipe around the base of the faucet. Sometimes water collects there and seeps through into the cabinet below.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.