Why Low Profile, Undermount Sinks Are In – And Vessel Sinks Are Out

For a long time now, vessel sinks have reigned supreme as a must-have designer focal point of any luxury bathroom worth its salt. But while these big, bold sinks certainly make a splash in terms of style, their welcome has started to wear off now that people realize they aren’t always the best sinks to actually use. As the sun sets on beautiful-but-inconvenient vessel sinks, trusty undermount sinks are starting to make a comeback.They’re rarely as showy, but tend to have exactly what vessel sinks lack.

Easy To Clean

Oval Undermount Bathroom Sink CA4008 from Caracalla
Oval Undermount Bathroom Sink CA4008 from Caracalla

The main selling point of vessel sinks is that they stand out. They come in a huge variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and styles, and literally sit on top of your counters, making them highly visible and an attractive, signature feature for your space. But the big problem with that is that they’re hard to clean – both the sinks themselves, and the cramped area where the bottom of the sink sits on top of the counter. Undermount sinks, on the other hand, mount beneath the counter and form a seamless line with it, making it incredibly easy to wipe down your countertops and clean out your sink, without any gross seams or grime-catching gaps.

Durable

Rectangular Undermount Bathroom Sink CA4070 from Caracalla
Rectangular Undermount Bathroom Sink CA4070 from Caracalla

Vessel sinks also lack long-term durability. Being placed above the counter makes them uniquely vulnerable to being chipped or cracked, and many inexpensive, low-quality glass vessel sinks have proven to be prone to shattering. Undermount sinks are typically made of porcelain, fireclay, or metal, without any exposed fragile edges, which makes them a much sturdier choice.

Increased Counter Space

Panorama Undermount Sink 724311 from GSI
Panorama Undermount Sink 724311 from GSI

In theory, a vessel sink with a small, pipe-sized drilling should help you maximize your counter space, but functionally they can be a little bit awkward. The space around the sink is usable but cramped, and often taken up by soap pumps and faucet hardware that’s harder to use because the sink itself is elevated. Undermount sinks require a larger hole to be drilled in your counters, but leave a wide, open surface all the way to the edge, giving your vanity an uncluttered feel.

No Splash Sinks

Wide Rectangular Undermount Sink CA40236 from Caracalla
Wide Rectangular Undermount Sink CA40236 from Caracalla

One of the most insidious drawbacks of vessel sinks is that unless the height and placement of your faucet isĀ just right, there’s a good chance water is going to splash when you turn it on. A big part of the problem is that vessel sink faucets are installed separate from the sink, where most drop-in and undermount sinks are pre-drilled to have the faucet installed with them. That plus the variety of heights and basin shapes available makes it hard to get the positioning just right. Undermount sinks, on the other hand, not only come with a standard sized faucet, but are deeper than either vessel or drop-in sinks because of the added thickness of the countertop. That means any flyaway water stays where it’s supposed to: in the sink.

Decorative Options

Promenade Undercounter Lavatory Sink LT533 from Toto
Promenade Undercounter Lavatory Sink LT533 from Toto

It might sound like I’m pitching undermount sinks as the boring, utilitarian alternative to big, beautiful vessel sinks, but while it’s true that many models are simple ceramic, if you’re looking for a decorative undermount sink, they’re certainly out there. Beautiful metal sinks – whether gold, brass, steel, or copper – are great for adding a regal touch to your space, frosted glass can give your sink an alluringly bottomless feel, and you can even find uniquely shaped or hand-painted undermount sinks that offer plenty of style with all the same benefits.

Integrated Sink And Counter

Tux 24" Bathroom Vanity EVVN511-24ES from Eviva
Tux 24″ Bathroom Vanity EVVN511-24ES from Eviva

If you like the look of a vessel sink, but don’t want to deal with the drawbacks of having one, sinks that are integrated directly into your vanity’s counter top offer a nice middle-of-the-road compromise. Like undermount sinks, they have a smooth, seamless surface that’s pre-drilled to fit with your faucet, but like vessel sinks they’re much larger, sit on top of the vanity, and often have uniquely shaped basins that give them a little extra designer feel. Not all vanities are available with this type of integrated top, but many designer models have themĀ  as an option if you’re looking to transition to a trendier, more functional (but still beautiful) bathroom sink.