Bathroom Sink 101

Learn about the rainbow of styles and finishes so you pick a sink that's right for you
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By: John Riha

Bathroom sinks come in a range of possibilities, from simple, functional bowls to complete ensembles with integrated cabinets and countertops. Sometimes called "lavatories," bathroom sinks are a designer's dream, with styles that are quietly practical or wildly artistic, with prices to match.

Sinks come pre-drilled to fit various faucet configurations or undrilled for custom faucet installations.

Sink Materials

Bathroom sinks primarily are made from vitreous china and enameled cast-iron. Sturdy, heavy and durable, sinks made from these time-tested materials are built to last. Other materials include enameled steel, tempered glass, stone, wood, acrylic and solid surface.

China and enameled surfaces come in an array of colors to match most décor. Glass sinks show off swirled and textured surfaces with vivid colors or opaque, smoky whites and blacks. Metal sinks in stainless steel, copper, and bronze feature a variety of finishes, from smooth-as-silk polishes to rustic, hand-hammered textures. Sinks made of acrylic are famously contemporary and neon-colored.

Prices run the budget gamut, starting at $100 and soaring to well over $5,000.

Sink Types

Pedestal sinks have a basin perched atop a long stem or pedestal that rests on the floor. The pedestal conceals the water supply and drain pipes. Because the bowl itself offers little space for items, such as soaps and shaving equipment, compact pedestal sinks are often integrated with cabinets and shelves in half-baths. Their generally graceful appearance makes them a designer's favorite.

Architectural salvage stores are usually well-stocked with older pedestal sinks that feature one-of-a-kind designs at a modest price.

Consoles are sink basins supported by legs. The space between the legs can be fitted with shelves and bars for hanging towels and wash cloths.

Wall-hung sinks are similar to pedestal sinks—without the pedestal. They're mounted directly to wall surfaces and have a contemporary look. Some have decorative shrouds that conceal plumbing pipes. The open space underneath a wall-hung sink is ideal for those in wheelchairs.

Countertop lavatories are low-slung units with shallow bowls. Some sit entirely on top of the counter surface—bowl and all—and some have bowls that extend slightly below the countertop surface. Close cousins include vessel and integrated sinks.

Bathroom Sinks

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Hand-Painted Vessel Sink

The Conical Bell vessel sink by Kohler features a pattern of chrysanthemums, peonies and foliage on a white background, based on a 16th-century Quing dynasty design. The vibrant red and orange colors make this sink the focal point of a bath or powder room.

Sleek Undercounter Lavatory

With a simple, practical design and handsome styling, the Man's Lav undercounter lavatory by Kohler is ideal for washing up. The surface maintains its high-gloss sheen for years of reliable performance.

River Rock Vessel Sink

This vessel-style sink by Eden Bath is the perfect choice for the true nature lover. Made from natural river rock boulder, each handcrafted sink is unique in size, shape and finish, so no two sinks will look alike.

Contemporary Sink

With tall, thin side walls, a flat bottom and angular basin, the Chord Wading Pool lavatory by Kohler is perfect for a modern bathroom or powder room.

Space-Saving Corner Sink

This corner pedestal sink by Porcher is designed for small, unique bathrooms. The space-saving design features an integrated faucet and fine fire clay construction.

Petrified Wood Sink

This petrified wood sink by Eden Bath adds an organic touch to the bathroom. Although it's called petrified wood, the sink is actually stone; thousands of years of fossilization replaced the organic materials in the wood with minerals, keeping the structure of the wood but turning it to stone. Each sink is truly unique in color, shape and size.

Small Yet Stylish Sink

This self-rimming sink from Kohler's Camber collection features a plum blossom design, reminiscent of intricate Chinese patterning. The sink is paired with Kohler's Camber console table, a space-saving option that doesn't sacrifice style.

Timeless, Stylish Sink

This undercounter sink from Kohler's Memoirs collection is timeless and stylish with crisp lines and a rectangular shape.

Pedestal Sink

This square pedestal sink by Porcher has a clean and simple design that complements contemporary bathrooms. The fixture features fine fire clay construction and an integrated faucet.

Wall-Mounted Sink

Another space-saving model by Porcher, this rectangular wall-mounted lavatory features a sleek design with an integrated faucet. The open space underneath a wall-hung sink is ideal for those in wheelchairs.

Master Bathroom With Trough Sink

A modern trough-style sink is the perfect addition to make the most out of a long, narrow bathroom. Sleek vanity cabinets add to the room's streamlined, sophisticated look. 

Contemporary Bathroom With Sculptural Sink

The focal point of this neutral bathroom is a sculptural sink that allows water to trickle down a slide-like structure into the shower drain. The design gives the appearance of a waterfall.

Photo By: C. Roberto Estrada

Floating Sink

This floating sink adds to the contemporary look of this sleek gray bathroom.

Photo By: Kohler

Glass Vessel Bathroom Sink and Tiled Countertop

A green glass vessel sink is complemented by a modern curved silver faucet and a glass mosaic tile countertop in this bathroom.

From: Trish Beaudet

Elegant Console Sinks

These elegant console sinks stand out against a gorgeous marble backsplash.

Contemporary Vessel Sinks

The bathroom's double vanity houses white vessel sinks, which add interest to the clean space and provide contrast against the dark walls.

Contemporary Concrete Sink

The concrete vanity countertop and sink is the perfect contrast next to all the white subway tile and brings out the grey grout lines.

Brown Corner Sink and Shelf in Powder Room

This clever sink and shelf give a tiny, awkward bathroom a totally stylish vanity. 

From: Nancy Leffler Mikulich

Terra Cotta Sink

This neutral bathroom features a rectangular terra cotta sink with exposed plumbing and chrome fixtures. 

Photo By: C. Roberto Estrada

Arced Onyx Sink

This tranquil yet positively elegant powder room features a brown tiled accent wall, freestanding vanity with Shoji-style doors, arced onyx sink and Asian decor throughout.

From: Jackson Design and Remodeling and Jackson Design and Remodeling

Luminous Sink in Modern Bathroom

A modern vanity features a luminous sink, as seen on HGTV's Bath Crashers.

Apron Front Farmhouse Sink in Retro Bathroom

Typically reserved for the kitchen, an apron front sink makes a striking appearance in this guest bathroom designed by Christina Tello.

Ice-Blue Sinks in Modern Bathroom

Oversized basin-style sinks in an icy blue hue are almost transparent, creating an interesting effect in this modern guest bathroom from HGTV Urban Oasis 2012.

Glass Sink & Countertop in Guest Bathroom

A glass sink basin is suspended from a floating glass countertop in this modern guest bathroom. While the absence of a vanity cuts down on storage, the glass countertop and shower door make the bathroom feel spacious and spa-like.

Kid's Bathroom With Lime Green Sink

This children's bathroom was designed by Melanie Morris and features a neon green sink (can you hear your kids cheering?), white subway tile, and cute, colorful artwork.

Vessel sinks are decorative bowls that sit on top of the countertop, so the outer surfaces are visually prominent. As part of an overall scheme or a stand-alone statement, vessel sinks are eye-catching centerpieces, and finishes include polished stainless steel, hand-painted porcelain, carved stone and spun glass. Because vessels are tall, they require tall or wall-mounted faucet fixtures.

Integrated sinks have wide, flat edges that are designed to fit flush with countertop materials—typically tile—to provide a smooth transition between the sink and surrounding surfaces. Some are available pre-made from manufacturers of solid surface materials, and a solid surface sink is seamlessly combined into a countertop of various lengths.

Self-rimming sinks are a common sink style with a bowl that fits into a countertop cutout hole, and a rolled rim that rests on the countertop surface and supports the weight of the sink.

Under-counter sinks fit directly under countertop cutout holes and are supported by clips that hold the bowl in place. That means the exposed inside edge of the cutout hole is exposed and must be finished. Under-counter sinks work well with countertops made of stone and solid surface materials.

Vanities are basically sink and faucet arrangements installed on cabinets. As a unit, all components reflect a specific style, such as contemporary, traditional and transitional, and surrounding accessories—shelves, mirrors, etc.—usually are available as parts of a holistic vanity suite. With its furniture DNA, the bathroom vanity becomes a strong design element that sets the tone for the entire bathroom.

Vanities have the illusion of being freestanding pieces, but of course they're tethered to water supply and drain pipes. A vanity usually has drawers, cabinet doors and legs, although some models are wall-hung. Many vanities are compact, which makes them ideal solutions for small baths. Prices range from $300 to $2,500, but custom vanities will cost much more.

Next Up

How to Pick Bathroom Faucets

Think of faucets as bathroom bling and choose one that suits your style, needs and budget

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