Above-counter sinks and below-counter sinks both go by a variety of names in the industry. Self-rimming, drop-in and top-mount sinks are all “above counter.” Under-counter, recessed and under-mount sinks are all “below counter.” Different sink manufacturers favor their own terms to describe their products.
Sinks that are mounted above the counter are rimmed; below-counter sinks are rimless. Aesthetically, below-counter sinks blend into the countertop because the eye doesn’t notice a rim. Above-counter sinks are more noticeable because the outer edge sticks above the surrounding surface. If your countertops are laminate, below-counter sinks are not an option -- the particleboard under the laminate would be obvious. Both below-counter and above-counter sinks are an option for stone, solid surface and other countertop materials.
Homeowners can wipe food directly into a below-counter sink, thanks to the rimless design. A grimy film may accumulate in the crevice between the counter and the sink, which takes more cleaning time. No such crevice exists with above-counter sinks. However, grime may tend to build up around the outside rim. While drop-in sinks are very stable, the seal can loosen around a recessed sink, causing the sink to fall. For this reason, recessed sinks require careful installation.
Above-counter sinks beat below-counter sinks in price. Above-counter sinks simply “drop in” and require less time to install. The countertop edge does not have to be specially finished by a fabricator. The sink hole and the sink size can be off by an inch or two. Conversely, below-counter sinks must be precisely melded and matched to the sink hole. A fabricator must carefully finish the exposed edges. Expect your fabricator to charge $200 or more to finish the edges and install a recessed sink, as of April 2011. Beyond the added fabrication cost, the sink itself can cost several hundred dollars more than its drop-in counterpart.
After time, you may wish to replace a sink ruined by discoloration or chemical stains. Manufacturers offer self-rimming sinks in an array of colors and materials. Because the sink hole and the sink dimensions do not have to match precisely, many replacement options exist. However, replacing a recessed sink poses some problems. Your choices are limited to what’s available on the market. Manufacturers may no longer produce the size and style that you need or prefer.
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