When looking for a new sink for your kitchen, your choices will narrow down to two basic types: undermount vs drop in sink. Both products have advantages and drawbacks, and they can suit different situations and needs. Below, we will discuss all the differences between the two so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.
An undermount sink, as the name suggests, mounts to the underneath of the countertop, and it is held in place by caulk or adhesive and heavy-duty clips. It doesn’t have a lip, and this detail allows the fixture to stay out of sight. It also helps create a streamlined look. It is a perfect sink for modern homes.
Drop-in sinks are the most popular type of sinks and the ones you’ll find in most homes. Unlike the undermount that has the lip hidden underneath the countertop, the lip of a drop-in sink rests flat on the countertop.
The drop-in sink is installed by cutting a hole that follows the shape of the sink into the countertop and dropping the sink in from above. The over-edge lip helps keep the sink fixed to the countertop securely. The sink also needs metal clips to keep it in place, and these are hidden under the countertop along with the bead of caulk under the sink’s edges.
Both sinks are available in various sizes and shapes, which makes it possible to find one that will look great in any home. However, choosing between these two styles isn’t as simple as getting the one that looks best to you since there are plenty of other factors that can influence your decision.
Some of the other details that you will need to think about include price, versatility, ease of installation, durability, and your kitchen and countertop setup. Below, we will explore all of these major and minor details that can have a big impact on your decision and the usability of your kitchen.
Apart from their looks, one of the main differences between these two types of sink is the price that they’re available at. If affordability is on your mind, then the best choice for you is to get a drop-in sink since compared to most undermount models, drop-ins are around 50% cheaper compared to undermount models in the same size and made from the same materials.
Moreover, with a drop-in sink, you can also save additional money since the cost of installing this type of sink is considerably lower. Moreover, you can save even more money by installing the drop-in sink by yourself since the process isn’t that complicated.
DIY installation is not possible for undermount sinks unless you have experience in this field. That’s because, with an undermount sink, it is very easy to damage the countertop if you don’t install it correctly.
However, people who prefer making their countertop look stylish and unique will have to be prepared to spend a little more money since, as far as looks are concerned, it is hard to compete with what undermount sinks have to offer. They provide the aesthetic seamlessness that avid kitchen lovers appreciate.
Thus, when considering the price, the drop-in style has the upper hand since most models are available at a significantly lower price point than comparable undermount sinks. However, depending on the brand, material type, quality, and the place you’re purchasing from, the price difference between products may become negligible.
If the price point is one of the primary factors that can influence your decision, make sure to take the time and compare multiple products. Don’t look just at the price. You should also consider what features you get for the money.
You shouldn’t go straight for the cheapest option available, but instead, you should look at the quality of the materials, the design, and features. Your goal should be to get a product that offers the best value for its price.
Another difference between these two types of sinks comes from the versatility that each one offers. While drop-in sinks can be installed on all types of countertop materials, such as tile, laminate, solid surface, natural stone, and composite, undermount sinks have one small problem.
You can install undermount sinks on most countertop materials except for laminate. This compatibility issue comes from the fact that the underlying base of laminate countertops can’t hold the clip fasteners required by this sink. Moreover, the underlying particleboard base is also susceptible to moisture damage.
You can bypass this problem by covering the sink-hole edge, but the problem is that the seal needs to be flawless since otherwise, even the smallest amount of water getting to the underlying base can lead to disastrous results.
Thus, make sure to research and see if the materials that your countertop is made of are compatible with your undermount sink. If you plan to get a drop-in sink, then you can skip this step, considering that this product is compatible with all types of countertop materials currently available on the market.
Ease of installation
The installation process for these two types of sinks is completely different, and out of the two, the drop-in sink is the easiest to install. The process is very simple, so much so that even people without experience can install the sink on their own.
To install a drop-in sink, you only need to put down a layer of caulk, set the sink in the countertop hole, center it, and then secure it with the provided clips underneath the countertop. The process is foolproof, and installing the sink by yourself will help you save the money that you would have otherwise spent on a professional.
With an undermount sink, the installation process is very complicated and hard to do by inexperienced homeowners. There’s no room for error when installing this type of sink since holes must be drilled in the countertop, and the sink must be fitted in place with millimetric precision.
Since installing an undermount sink requires more work and skill, the cost of having it installed by a professional is also marginally higher by as much as $50 compared to the cost of installing a drop-in.
Cleaning and maintenance
One advantage that undermount sinks have compared to drop-ins is that the lack of a lip between the sink and the countertop makes it very easy to clean food particles from the countertop and swipe them directly into the sink. This is not possible with a drop-in as the lip gets in the way.
However, there are some types of drop-in sinks that come equipped with low-profile rims. These lower lips may not provide the same seamless experience, but they make it easier to swipe bigger food particles from the counter into the sink. Enameled cast iron drop-in sinks have the tallest lips, while stainless steel drop-in sinks have the lowest lips.
The advantage that undermount sinks have can turn into a disadvantage when it comes to cleaning the sink itself. When you install an undermount sink to the countertop, there’s a small gap between the top of the sink and the counter. This gap is filled with silicone caulk, but it usually isn’t filled up to the top.
This leaves a small depression that becomes a magnet for food, and it is very difficult to clean it efficiently. This is why it is recommended to dig out the old caulk and replace it with a new one every 3-5 years.
Conversely, drop-in sinks have all the areas visible and easily accessible, and this makes cleaning them more manageable. The seam formed by the lip and the countertop can indeed fill with sticky food waste as well, but the difference here is that drop-in sinks offer better access to this area to make cleaning a breeze.
If you have a small kitchen and you want to make the most out of the room you have available, then purchasing an undermount sink might be the better choice. That’s because, with this sink, the countertop extends to the edge of the sink, allowing owners to use every square inch of it.
Most drop-in sinks don’t offer this advantage with one exception: the drainboard drop-in sink. This type of sink comes fitted with an integrated drainboard that extends around 8-10 inches beyond the side of the sink basin. The drainboard can be used to dry dishes and as a food preparation area.
Which one should you get?
As is the case when purchasing any type of product, the answer to this question depends on your expectations, goals, and situation. If you are on a tight budget, drop-in sinks are the cheaper options. If aesthetics matter and you’re looking for the best-looking sink for your kitchen, then an undermount sink will fit your needs better.
Want to get a sink that you can install yourself? The drop-in sink will serve you best in this situation. By reading and learning more about the advantages and disadvantages of each product, you should have a better idea of what type of sink might suit your needs.