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Undermount sinks verses inset sinks

Updated: Jun 17, 2023

In this article we’re going to look at what the advantages and disadvantages of inset or undermount sinks are. Both inset and undermount sinks come in different materials and we will go into the pros and cons of this in another article but for now what’s the best one to have and more importantly which suits the worktop you have chosen for your kitchen.

Let’s start with how each one works and is fitted.

An inset sink fits on top of a worktop. There is a hole cut in the worktop and is typically about 20mm smaller than the sink and the sink sits there and covers the hole. The seal for this type of sink is generally either silicone trapped between the sink and worktop, or the sink has a small integrated rubber seal between the sink and worktop. These can be slimline sinks as shown or a thicker profile but, in both cases, you can’t see the cut-out in the worktop, and this makes this type of sink work with all common worktops. The sink is held in place by either a clip under the worktop or a compression clip on the edge, either way the clip is hidden. The big difference with this sink is that you have a fully integrated draining board. See figure 1.

Figure 1 Inset Sink

Figure 2 Undermount Sink

Undermount sinks as the name suggests sit below the worktop. The seal in this case is usually silicone trapped between the top of the sink and the bottom of the worktop. Fitting the sink is usually done by presenting the sink to the bottom of the worktop and then it is temporarily wedged in place until the silicone sets. This does raise the question of what happens if it falls off when it’s full of water but with modern silicones this is extremely unlikely to happen. This type of sink differs from inset in the fact that you can see the cut-out in your worktop when the sink is fitted, and the sink has no draining board. See figure 2.

Let’s now go through the advantages and disadvantages of the two different sinks and I’ll give you my thoughts after experiencing both fitting and using these types of sinks.

Advantages of inset.

Inset has one big advantage and a few small ones. First off, at no time is the seal between the sink and worktop ever in direct contact with the water from the bowl, not only that but the only time it ever gets wet is when there is a splash outside the sink but the seal is so small water can’t get in. The gap is easy to wipe and will look great for a long time, probably the life of the kitchen. Some smaller things to consider is that all the draining board is sloped so water runs off into the bowl meaning less standing water. The sink is easy to remove and re-fit if required. The tap usually mounts into the sink directly so is easier to change and clean. Remember when you’re washing the pots or using the sink with wet hands, every time you go to use the tap some water drips off your hands and falls on to the sink and drains into the bowl rather than just sitting on the worktop. This is a major problem for undermount sinks and particularly Belfast sinks that are not fitted in granite or quartz. The inset sink comes in all material types and colours, although inset is less modern looking than undermount, it’s still has huge benefits when it comes to durability. It’s important to remember when choosing your sink that it’s the messiest part of the kitchen. Sinks in kitchen showrooms don’t get used as we always tell our customers when guiding them through the design process. The kitchen must look great on the day it’s fitted but also give a great user experience going forward. Your new kitchen isn’t a shot in time, it’s a working part of your home that must look beautiful, be practical and have longevity.

Advantages of undermount.

Now you’ve read about inset sinks, then it’s obvious that inset sinks are more reliable than undermount, but does that mean it’s not a viable option for some situations? The answer is no. It’s a perfectly good option and if it’s an undermount sink you want then you should get one but read on and we’ll talk about the correct situation and worktop we need to make it happen successfully. As we said before the undermount sink sits below the worktop and is stuck in place with silicone. Silicone itself has come on a long way over the years and the silicone our granite contractors use is so strong it will not only keep that thing stuck in place, but I can guarantee you won’t be getting any leaks any time soon! That said if you need to get the sink out at any time then it’s going to be very hard to do, maybe impossible without damaging the worktop. The seal is also in direct line of the water in the bowl and although this won’t leak it will become a bit messy going forward and because it’s under a lip it’s tricky to clean and can potentially harbour germs. Because the sink doesn’t have a draining board, it’s only suited to granite, quarts or a solid surface/polymer top, and I wouldn’t recommend fitting undermount sinks in laminate or solid wood tops. Undermount sinks mean that as you are using the edge of the granite or quartz to form the edge of the sink opening then even top-quality quartz can be chipped if something strikes the edge. We’ve had this happen to some clients and had to go into their home and re-polish the edge of the granite sink opening to remove a chip. It can solve the problem, but this can realistically only be done once and although our granite contractors are usually prepared to do it for free, it can sometimes involve a charge. As you can see from figure 2 the tap fits into the worktop rather than the sink so drips from your hands do land on the worktop. Forming a draining board for an undermount sink can be as simple as some draining grooves in the worktop surface or a much better solution is recessing the whole area around the sink into the worktop, see figure 2. This is a technique that has become very popular in recent years and it forms a catchment area for any water spills and drainage from the draining board and when we do this on our own kitchens we extend the recessed area to encompass the tap base to help with drips around that area too. The recessed area is cut into granite or quartz when cutting and polishing the worktops in the factory and can be cut into any shape, this gives the freedom to have your draining board on one side or both and at any size. We then put draining grooves in the bottom of the recess. The ability to do this has been a game changer for undermount sinks. It brings real practicality and makes the whole sink merge into the worktop and looks stunning.

As always when designing your kitchen, think about how it looks upon your fit completion but also how it will look in 5 or 10 years. It’s a big investment and the ongoing look and user experience is what matters.

If you would like more information about this, then call us or pop into Kinder Kitchens and we’ll be happy to help.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to talk about your kitchen project with us, then please contact us at:

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