Ideas for a home's plumbing essentials

Kya deLongchamps sinks into the nerdy, design world of a household staple and teases out the bewildering range of choices offered in this one, simple item. 

Even with the comforting throb of the dishwasher taking away the dreaded task of most washing up jobs, the kitchen sink is the single most regular port of call in every kitchen.

Add boiling taps, chopping and food prep’ detailing, perhaps even a waste disposal — it’s the room’s best servant.

As a fixture plumbed through the counter top, in all likelihood, its choice is a ten-year commitment with a bewildering choice of configurations, materials, sizing, mounting and placement potential.

Position, position

The working triangle of cooker, sink and fridge has been elasticated, and superb sink-systems have redefined the role of a formerly dull washing and wet area, pushing it closer to a commercial prep station with a closer relationship to the cooker.

Sometimes the hob will be set in the island, a super fridge-freezer may be relegated closer to the utility room, and a sink may be two sinks.

* Start with your working habits in the kitchen and use CAD technology with a supplier when designing your workspace. Place the sink where it is genuinely most useful — moving through the space, talking to the family, and take into account turning safely to and from the cooker and so on.

* Choosing a placement a few steps from the stove top just makes sense, but no sink should be closer than 30cm to a hob or electrical outlet on the same counter.

* Large systems bristling with add-ons like sliding chopping boards, baskets, steel counter and extra large draining boards, can eat up over 1,500mm of top-side real estate, straddling three base 60cm units. Have the configuration and available counters of your kitchen in mind before you stage it, to the split centimetre.

* When renovating, don’t move the sink’s situation unless it really egregious to a good working layout.

Figuring configuring

Splitting a sink into two parts, in a ratio that works for you, increases its usefulness, allowing simultaneous tasking such as food preparation and draining, while washing up as you work.

* A 50:50 split that retains a useful bowl size and drainer will be a big unit but in terms of symmetry, it’s aesthetically pleasing on a deeper counter with the lesser width of the drainer running along the counter, not into it.

Examples:

Häfele Double Belfast bowl sink used in a break front counter.

Rangemaster Atlantic Kube KUB4040.

* Go square or rectangular in the bowls- there’s plenty of choice, but rounded corners in polymer, steel and ceramics are easier to clean. Consider what mms comes off the primary bowl to serve the second.

* A genuine 60:40 with the primary bowl kept square and pushed as far back to the back of the counter as possible is compact but improves the role of the misleading ‘bowl and half’ beyond a mere drainer.

The width of the smaller bowl is pulled back from the counter’s back edge leaving room for the tap position/soap/tools.

Example: Cooke & Lewis Ampère 1.5 Bowl. €250, B&Q.

* Consider which is your dominant hand to choose a left/right installation. Reversible (REV) sinks allow you to flip them either way. LHD or RHD – found on the spec’ with the sink, describes whether the drainer on the sink is found to the left or to the right of the main bowl.

* The depth of the bowl is immaterial if you longest handled pan doesn’t fit. Size matters.

* Drainers do more than drain, but limit the size if all you do is rinse foodstuffs and the odd large pan. Under-mounted sinks can be served by a drainer detailed into a resin or stone counter.

Beyond the bowl

It’s easy to be seduced by system sinks with sliding covers, baskets or more, but is the day-to- day worth potentially doubling the unit price?

* Fishing out the colander from a base unit, it’s easy to see why a drop-in drain basket and a shallow wire basket to raise and hold cutlery or prepared vegetables is a useful baseline in add-ons.

IKEA do a line in generics including stainless steel colanders at just €19.99 which slides along the edge of a standard sink, and Boholmen chopping board to sit over a busy bowl. €9.

* What’s practical and what’s an obstruction to the standard sink? If a piece has to be regularly removed for cleaning and stored or slid out of the way of other more pressing tasks, or is just for show — think twice.

* Keen for sink bejewelling? Throw that money at the more visible function and form of the tap, a blessed bit of vertical jive in all those flat plains.

Pull down taps that can snake over two bowls with ease, boiling water units and touch technology that frees your hands (Franke), may really improve your culinary and clean up performance.

* If you prefer dedicated accessorising by brand, in the mid-range (€300-€600) Blanco and Franke offer colanders, chopping boards, soap dispensers and baskets.

Material matters

Stainless Steel:

Pros:

It strongs against all materials, is highly stain and heat resistant and offers some of the most affordable designers sinks. Linen finishes reduce the appearance of scratches and the shine will bounce light.

Cons:

It cuts, it scratches, and no amount of dressing up by the manufacturers can change a riven patination with use.

Sharp, internal corners are a pain to clean.

Best buy:

Pyramis Dione undermounted bowl and a half, €155, kitchenfittingsdirect.ie

Polymer/stone mixes:

Pros:

The new generation of tough composite quartz and granite sinks blow the old polymers out of the water for durability, 535F heat resistance and a hefty, cool feel. Colour choices with mica flecks have improved immensely from the days of racing green and oatmeal.

Black resinous sinks are leading the market and hide water marks and food smears. Look for sinks with an anti-bacterial coating.

Cons:

Only available in matt, dulls with harsh use.

Best buy

: Franke Maris Fraganite in Onyx, €411, plumbingproducts.ie

Ceramic:

Pros:

Available in contemporary and classic shapes with the deep Belfast style sinks perfected by RAK and Carron Phoenix (see their glossy drop-in Waterford line from €385).

Cons:

Stains, and can chip with heavy abuse. Be careful wtih fine dishes, always using a plastic bowl for washing up.

Best buy:

The single Domsjo from IKEA €170 set in a breakfront (deeper) counter.

Toughened Glass:

Pros:

Gorgeous and relatively unusual with an inset of stainless steel to the bowl, another good alternative to screamingly expensive solid stone.

The glass sparkles and the tension of the two materials set in the right counter colour looks fabulous.

Cons:

Water marks — less obvious in composites.

Best buy:

Lamark in black, single bowls from €245. B&Q.


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