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Drop-in vs. Undermount Sinks: What to Know

Drop-in vs. Undermount Sinks: What to Know

Homeowners may be surprised to discover the number of varieties among kitchen sinks. Not only do they come in a range of colors and materials, but they also vary in style. Many homeowners narrow their options to two styles: drop-in and undermount. When choosing between these two, it helps to understand key differences in the style and installation of each — and what that means for the remodeling project.

Drop-in Sinks: Classic, Yet Versatile

Drop-in sinks — also called top mount or self-rimming sinks — have been around almost as long as indoor plumbing. These sinks have a rim around the edge that rests on the top of the counter and holds the sink in place. The rim frames the sink, and the caulking around the edge forms a seal to prevent water and food debris from sliding into the cabinet below.

Homeowners can find drop-in sinks in just about every material imaginable, including:

  • ceramic
  • enameled cast iron
  • engineered stone
  • porcelain
  • stainless steel
  • stone

Pros and Cons of Drop-in Sinks

Drop-in sinks have several things going for them. First, they're versatile and easy to install. They work with every countertop material, including laminate, tile, and stone. You may even be able to reuse the countertop you have as long as the sink fits in the opening. These sinks also tend to be less costly than undermount sinks, and if you’re the handy type, you may be able to save even more money by installing the sink yourself.

For all their simplicity and versatility, drop-in sinks aren’t perfect. Keeping the sink and surrounding area clean can take some extra work. The rim that holds the sink in place also lets food and water build up around the edge. It also stops you from wiping debris from the counter directly into the sink. On top of this, you lose counter space.

Undermount Sinks: Sleek and Modern

Undermount sinks have gained plenty of attention, thanks to their modern, seamless design. These sinks attach underneath the countertop from inside the cabinet, supported by anchor posts. The result is a seamless finish along the countertop. Compared to drop-in sinks, they tend to require more work to install, but installation methods have become easier as the pros have learned how to work with them. Many homeowners also tackle this installation on their own without issue.

Undermount sinks also come in multiple materials, including:

  • copper
  • enamel
  • fireclay
  • stainless steel
  • stone

Pros and Cons of Undermount Sinks

Undermount sinks tend to be more sanitary than drop-in sinks, thanks to the rimless design that lets you push food particles and other debris directly into the sink. The missing rim also frees up space on the countertop. However, one of the top reasons homeowners choose this sink is its appearance. It simply looks good in most kitchens.

Unfortunately, undermount sinks don’t work in every kitchen. They need sufficient support under the cabinet, which means tile and laminate countertops are out. The plywood or MDF usually used as a base doesn’t give the support these sinks need. These sinks also can sag or leak if the undermount or caulk fails. This can lead to more extensive repairs in the future.

What to Consider When Deciding Between Drop-in and Undermount Sinks

Homeowners who are deciding between drop-in and undermount sinks should consider more than the look of the sink. Of course, appearance