While not the first thing you'll necessarily think of when building your home or renovating your current one, the prep or bar sink is a very important addition to any room and likely something you will use every day. Being that there is such a broad spectrum of choices available on the market, it may take a bit of effort to get everything right. Keep the following questions in mind before you start shopping:
- Why would you want a prep or bar sink?
- What material is going to best suit your needs? (Don't worry, we go into detail on this later.)
- In what way would you want the sink to be mounted? (We'll cover this in a more in-depth way as well)
What are some of the best things about prep and bar sinks? You can install your garbage disposal under them, many manufacturers offer convenient accessories such as sink baskets and cutting board covers, and they can be placed nearly anywhere in the kitchen, making the functionality of your kitchen even more easy for you.
If you're looking to put a little sink somewhere other than your kitchen or bathroom (such as a breakfast nook, rec room, or snack center), then these are the perfect choice as well. While bar sinks were originally quite small, their purpose have recently been pushed beyond just fruit and veggie preparation. Sizes vary from 9-1/2” round to 18” square, and they can be made to fit anywhere – kitchen islands, a bar sink in a bedroom or den, or even your family room.
It is important to find the right kind of sink to suit your needs. Because it will ideally be in your home for many years, you will want to make sure you choose something that is both pleasant and practical. Bar and prep sinks can come with one or two bowls, and in two different styles:
- Self-rimming: Also known as drop-in and over-mounted sinks. These sit within holes of the appropriate shape cut into the top of your counter or base material. Once a hole has been cut to allow the sink to be placed within it, the rim forms a close seal with the surface. Very easy to install and tends to work well with most countertops/surfaces.
- Undermount: With these sinks, the edge of the countertop material is exposed and finished to flow seamlessly into the sink beneath it with the aid of a waterproof sealant. This is a very contemporary style that makes wiping spills into the sink from the counter a breeze. Some of these models may offer matching covers that will essentially turn them into even more counter space while not in use.
While most sinks are available in many types of materials, some (such as undermount sinks) can only be made from specific materials or will require extra support depending on what is used to craft them. This is an important part of the decision-making process, as picking the right material is both practical and aesthetic.
- Acrylic: This is becoming a more common material, especially since they resistant stains and some even have built-in antibacterial properties. They tend to be highly durable and have a glossy finish. On the other hand, they can be a bit loud and are not as heat-resistant as most of the other types of sinks.
- Bronze: Not only beautiful but durable with the right care, these sinks will acquire a dark brown patina with age. Take care not to use harsh chemicals or abrasives when cleaning them – just hot water and gentle soap will do the trick.
- Cast Iron: This traditional choice is very heavy and durable! Typically, these are coated with enamel or porcelain and they tend to be quieter than other sinks. They are resistant to most damage, but can scratch easily, so you may wish to purchase a sink rack to protect the finish. Porcelain coating in particular can hold stains, and too much abrasive cleaning will unfortunately dull the finish.
- Composite: This is a hybrid of several compounds. Most commonly they are made from enamel-grade metal, porcelain, resins and other structural materials. Once they are bonded and the shape is formed, they are a long-lasting choice with a huge color palette – scratches (assuming you can even manage to scratch them) can be buffed right out by using a sand cloth.
- Copper: Primarily these are hand hammered from extremely thick copper, giving them a rustic feel – and they age naturally into a gorgeous patina. This is a durable material that will resist impact damage, and bacteria cannot grow on it.
- Stainless Steel: Perhaps the most economical choice due to its price and ease of cleaning. Like copper, they are impact resistant. These are the ultimate cook's sinks, durable and tough. They do tend to scratch easily (a satin finish will help to prevent this) and can be louder than most other types of sinks (by intensifying the sounds of water and the garbage disposal). You might wish to be sure which gauge of steel you are getting before you choose your new sink. The lower the gauge, the thicker material; the thicker the material, the quieter and more sturdy they are.
- Stone/Granite: As you can probably guess, these are a heavy option and may require some additional support when installing them. Granite in particular is even more durable than stainless steel, as it is resistant to scratches and heat. However, due to their porous natures, these sinks can stain easily – you'll want to clean them frequently with warm water and soap. Also, they will not be as forgiving as some materials if a glass dish or cup are dropped in them.
- Vitreous China: Ceramics are fired at a very high temperature to form a non-porous surface, and then are coated with an additional ceramic glaze. The same process is used with toilets and bidets. These can be damaged by heavy impact, but they are resistant to abrasion, very durable, and easy to clean.
Two handles or one lever, oil rubbed bronze or satin nickel…. There's one thing that bar faucets have in common that distinguishes them from all others: that elegant, arched, swanlike neck. Even more modern, segmented faucets echo the traditional style seen in these faucets since their creation.
Compared with their more commonplace counterpart, the kitchen faucet, bar faucets are smaller simply so that they are easier to work with at the bar or prep sinks they are usually paired with. It could be especially useful to have a bar faucet with a corresponding sink next to the stove, and could even tie in with a pot filler.
Bar faucets can utilize anywhere from one to four holes depending on the design, and are often matched in style to the kitchen faucet. The following are the types of faucets offered most commonly on the market today:
- Single Handle: When you're juggling things at the sink, this is one of the best faucets to have on hand! The single handle makes it easy to adjust the temperature while you hold on to a piece of fruit or a heavy pan. They are usually ADA compliant.
- Two Handle: Traditional style and total control make the two handle faucet option a popular one.
- Side-Mount Sprayer: These faucets feature a separate retractable head mounted to the side. They will always require one extra hole for installation.
Handles for bar faucets come in two different types – lever and cross are the standards, with even further variations upon these. If you prefer a more minimalistic look, you might want to consider a single-handle option, but two-handle faucets are much more user-friendly in that they allow you to customize the temperature of the water you use.
One other thing to keep in mind is that many manufacturers offer handle accent color finishes in addition to the standard hardware finish, which is not only a perfect way to draw attention to their styling, but also allows a greater degree of personalization. You can read more about finishes further in the guide.
Spouts can be either aerated or nonaerated. Aerated spouts use a screen and resistor in combination with air to create limited water flow in addition to better overall pressure. Nonaerated spouts do not have that screen, and therefore water can flow more quickly and freely.
Another important detail to note is spout reach. Water should be able to go directly from the spout into the center of the sink; a faucet too small for your needs could spell disaster, and a large faucet might be a bit messy... not to mention get in the way.
Four different valve types used in the construction of faucets today. While they won't make much of a difference in your day-to-day use, some are easier to repair than others.
- Ball: These were the first type of washerless faucets. These valves use a slotted, rotating metal or plastic ball for flow regulation and have the unfortunate tendency to leak more than other faucet types. They are durable and reliable, but can be used with single-handle faucets only.
- Cartridge: Easy to repair, the cartridge valve uses rubber o-rings inside a cylindrical cartridge to control water flow. They are as long-wearing as the ball valve, but can be used in single or two-handle faucets.
- Ceramic Disk: While the most expensive option by far, this method uses two fire-hardened ceramic disks - the upper moves and the lower is fixed - that move against one another to sheer the flow of water. within a cylindrical body. To offset the cost, they are maintenance-free and come with excellent warranties. They can also be used with single and two-handle faucets. These are very responsive and work well for people with arthritis.
- Compression: These feature rubber (or similar) washers to stop the flow of water, but they eventually wear out and can start to drip over time. On the flip side, washers are really cheap to replace! Some newer types actually lift the washer vertically instead of grinding it against the valve seat, so it will generally last longer.
The sheer variety of finishes available makes it very easy to find something to coordinate with your current décor. Brass, the rust-resistant alloy, is the material most commonly used to create faucets in modern times, but that's just the basic material. Here are a few of the more popular options available:
- Brass: While it may scratch, tarnish or corrode, a clear-coat will go a long way to keeping your brass fixtures looking beautiful and easy to clean. Also offered in polished and antique sub-finishes. Believe it or not, these faucets are coated with nickel plating before another layer of brass is then applied.
- Chrome: Brushed, matte or polished, chrome is both durable and economical, as well as being gorgeous and highly versatile. Unlike brass, chrome does not need a clear coat protection to be easily maintained.
- Gold: Leaning towards the expensive side, gold will not tarnish, but being a softer material it is not as durable as some of the cheaper alternatives.
- Nickel: This easy-to-clean finish is not only durable but stylish, offered most often in satin and brushed styles.
- Stainless Steel: As the name implies, one of the largest draws for stainless steel is its ability to keep water spots from sticking around. On the other hand, they do tend to need special cleaning due to repeated smudging by hands. One of the more moderately priced options.