Introduction to Bathroom Sinks

Hand washing may have begun by dipping hands in running water and, later, by pouring water over the hands into a basin. But since Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor, realized and proved during the late 1840s that washing hands could save lives, a great deal of science and design has been involved in creating the well-known setting in which most of us wash our hands today: at a sink equipped with hot and cold running water which is supplied with soap and fresh towels.

Bathrooms sinks (sometimes also called lavatories) are used for washing hands and faces, brushing teeth, shaving, and sometimes for washing hair. The sink with a mirror above may also serve as a staging area for putting in and taking out contacts, hairdressing, and putting on and removing makeup. People also cleanse wounds at the bathroom sink, wash babies in the sink, and some couples have matching sinks so they can commune in the bathroom while getting ready for the day or for bed. But even with all of this focus on utility sinks and their accoutrements—pedestals, faucets, fixtures—they can be beautiful as well as useful.

Sink Variety

Gone are the days when all bathroom sinks were white. Not only are there an assortment of pastels and some darker colors of porcelain enamel sinks available, the kinds of material used in sinks has broadened, and those who don’t wish to have a white china sink have many other choices available. Sink materials include:

  • Vitreous China—the most common material for bathroom sinks and toilets, this earthenware-based material has a high-gloss finish that is stain resistant. It comes in a variety of colors, and the material can be etched and carved to produce a more ornate product.
  • Porcelain Enamel on cast iron or steel—available in a variety of colors.
  • Painted Terracotta—this is a less common option.
  • Fireclay/Ceramic—called by both names, this material has been used since the nineteenth century. Similar to vitreous china, it is smooth and non-porous, and will not fade or discolor, however, it does not have the high gloss finish that vitreous china has.
  • Stone—materials used to make sinks include granite, marble, onyx, limestone, and travertine.
  • Metal—sinks may be made of brass, copper, hammered copper, and nickel. Stainless steel sinks are available for most any use, but are generally used in kitchens and bars, and not in bathrooms.
  • Cast Resin—solid cast resin is buffed; some can be either cantilevered or mounted below the counter.
  • Proprietary Material blends that differ slightly by manufacturer.
  • Glass—colored, textured, and available with custom designs, glass sinks range from delicate to durable works of art with warranties against breakage. The colors may either be embedded in the tempered glass or affixed to the surface, so check to find out which technique has been used.

Sink Mounts

Sinks all come with drains, but there are other features that they may or may not have, including faucet cut-outs, faucets, and overflow holes. The presence or absence of these features will be governed by the sink design. Another factor influenced by the design is the mounting possibilities. There are four main ways to mount a sink. A pedestal sink sits atop an attached pedestal; a wall-mount sink is affixed to the wall with special hardware; a console sink either has leg supports or is set on a countertop that has legs; a vanity-mounted sink is supported by a cabinet. There are four different ways that the sink and vanity may interact:

  • An undercounter sink is mounted beneath a hole in the vanity counter, and the counter forms a rim.
  • A self-rimming or “countertop” or “drop-in” sink is set into a cut-out hole in the counter from above and forms its own rim above the counter surface.
  • The sink and countertop may be a single piece, called a vanity top or “one-piece” surface with integrated lavatory.
  • An above counter sink rests atop the counter surface.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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