Is a Stone Sink Right for Your Kitchen?
Stone is becoming a more popular option for those tired of the standard stainless-steel sink. The material adds Old World style and strong-as-a-rock durability to any kitchen.
You might have to go back in time to find a greater use of stone than in today's new and remodeled homes. Already a classic countertop, backsplash and flooring mainstay, stone is now morphing into the most utilitarian tool in the kitchen — the sink. The same characteristics of strength and beauty that make stone a best-selling countertop material also make it a natural for sinks.
Form and Function
According to Jack Healy, of www.StoneSinksOnline.com, the increasing popularity of stone sinks is part of a larger design trend toward Old World style natural materials, such as stone, wood and copper, and away from man-made materials like stainless steel. Jack, who's been selling what he terms "functional art" for more than 10 years, says that people want utilitarian objects to be beautiful, and stone is a good way to have both form and function. And, he notes, your kitchen won't look like your neighbor's, because every piece of stone is intrinsically different.
Stone Sinks 101
Usually, stone kitchen sinks are carved out of one solid piece, either farmhouse style or small round prep sinks. The front of a farmhouse sink can be left in its rough, natural state or it can be polished and even carved. The other option is a boxy sink fabricated from granite or other slabs — the best choice if you want to match your chosen countertop. Regardless of the design, though, your cabinets will require some extra reinforcement to support a stone sink, says Joe Percoco of Percoco Marble and Tile in Denver, Colo. He strongly recommends that the sink cabinet be reinforced to hold the extra weight, which can total more than 300 pounds. Joe says that one of their block sinks can require "four guys to get it into place." Make sure your cabinets have similar strength.
Soapstone has been used to make sinks for hundreds of years. It's called soapstone because it feels soft to the touch, but don't let that fool you. It's the densest of the stones used for sinks; it won't stain or etch, and it's heat-resistant. It does require oiling to maintain an even, dark charcoal color, but that's the only thing you have to worry about.
Granite's beauty and durability have long made it a favorite for countertops — and now it's a favorite for sinks, too. You can buy a granite sink carved from one piece of stone or, if your motivation is to match your beautiful new granite countertop, have one made from the same material. A large block of stone is needed to carve a farmhouse sink, says Joe, and most granites aren't quarried in the 40" x 20" x 10" blocks necessary. However, you can get some granite types, such as Uba Tuba and Absolute Black, in solid carved farmhouse sinks. Check with your granite fabricator to make sure he or she has experience with making granite sinks.
Before you gasp at the thought of using marble in the kitchen — let alone for the kitchen sink — remember that marble has been used in kitchens for centuries. Joe Percoco, who grew up in the stone trade, says, "people say that marble stains, but that's a fallacy." Joe says that marble is denser than many of the granites sold as countertop material today, and so will hold up even to coffee and wine spills. Acidic foods, like lemon juice, will etch marble, but this shine-dulling effect is much more noticeable if the marble has a polished finish. Etching on marble with a honed finish won't be noticeable and can be smoothed with a green scrubber pad. As with other stones, a good sealer makes the difference.
Written in Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock, which accounts for the fossils that are often visible in its surface. Its burnished beauty can resemble petrified wood, making a standout design statement in your kitchen. It's more porous than the other stones mentioned here, so sealing is a must.
Travertine is a metamorphic stone that is formed from limestone near hot and cold mineral springs and can be cream, yellow or a light to near-brown beige. It's long been used for floors and even buildings, and its warm tones will add to your kitchen.
Seal the Deal
Like any stone countertop, stone sinks should be sealed to prevent stains. There are several good stone sealers on the market today, but Jack Healey likes a wax sealer for sinks. Sealing, he says, simply makes cleaning your sink much easier. You'll need to reseal your sink periodically; how often depends on the density of the stone.
"People have been afraid of stone in the kitchen because of the many myths about it and its fragility," Jack says. But, he notes, that's just what they are: myths. "If you know how to care for your stone sink, it will last for a hundred years."
Vermont Soapstone, www.VermontSoapstone.com
Green Mountain Soapstone Corp., www.GreenMountainSoapstone.com
Stoneman Tile & Marble, www.Stoneman-Tile.com