DEAR TIM: I’ve always liked the look of a pedestal sink. Can you tell me the pros and cons of pedestal sinks? Are the hard to install? Have you had personal experience with these sinks? I don’t want to make my decision based on my emotions. I know they look great, but are they practical? Amy H., Lexington, KY
DEAR AMY: I believe I can help you, as I’ve had lots of experience with these elegant sinks. I grew up with a traditional cast-iron bathroom pedestal sink (sometimes spelled pedistal) in my childhood home. One of the things I hated about that particular sink was the fact that the hot and cold water had their own faucet. You couldn’t get warm water. Your hands either were under the cold faucet or the hot one. That problem was long ago overcome with faucets that had only one spout.
Let’s start with all of the positive characteristics I can think of about pedestal sinks. Perhaps the biggest one is the styling. These sinks offer a classic look and one that, in my opinion, dominates the bathroom area. The colors, styles, and shapes of pedestal sinks are such that you can almost always find one to fit any decorating theme or time period no matter if it’s Victorian, ultra modern or somewhere in between.
I’m also a fan of how easy they are to care for. Keeping them looking brand new is very easy if you just periodically wash them with liquid dish soap and water. Never use any abrasive cleaner on the glazed finish you find on almost every one of these plumbing fixtures.
The faucets for these sinks also are a favorite of mine. I don’t know how to say it, but pedestal sink faucets are some of the most gorgeous ones I’ve ever seen on any sink. The spread faucets that have separate hot and cold valves and then the center spout can take your breath away. As you might imagine just about every metallic finish you could want can be found whether it be polished nickel, bronze, brass, etc.
I feel there are disadvantages to pedestal sinks, especially if you choose to use one in a bathroom. There’s simply no space to put things on top of the sink. Many pedestal sinks have a flat rim around the sink basin, but it’s usually only a few inches wide and rarely flat. This is not enough room to put much more than a tooth brush.
Traditional bathroom vanity cabinets that have a flat countertop not only provide lots of storage space on the countertop, but you can hide things inside the cabinet. Pedestal sinks offer none of this storage space. You can often create this space easily with a 12-inch-deep wall cabinet that you install over the toilet.
To install a pedestal sink like a pro, you need to do some planning. Since there is no cabinet to hide the drain line and water supply lines, it takes a little finesse to rough in the piping so that all of the connections are hidden as much as possible. This means the drain line must be perfectly centered and the water supply lines installed at the right height and very close to the centerline of each of the faucet valves.
I happen to have several pedestal sinks in both of the homes I currently own. The ones in the powder rooms are fantastic, but the ones in the bathrooms get frowns and thumbs down from all the women in the house. They have to put all their personal grooming things on the floor and toilet seat while they use them. That’s not very popular.
From a purely functional standpoint of using them to deliver water and get rid of it, these sinks are fine. I’ve never had a problem except in the ancient sink I used as a kid. If you want to wow your house guests at a party, then a pedestal sink in a powder room is a no-brainer. They look fantastic in these small half bathrooms.
Be sure to read the installation instructions that come with these sinks. Typically you have to bolt the actual pedestal to the floor. The sink itself is almost always bolted to the wall. This means that it’s a fantastic idea to install blocking in the wall so the bolts go into solid wood.
Be careful about applying too much pressure when you tighten the nuts that attach the drain and faucets to the sink. Most pedestal sinks are vitreous china and you can crack this clay material if you get too aggressive with your wrench and elbow grease.