Vessel Sink Designs
DEAR TIM: I saw a vessel sink in a powder room over the weekend while attending a party. I can see now why they are so popular. How do vessel sinks differ from traditional sinks that drop below the surface of the countertop? Are there special plumbing connections that are required for a vessel sink that will cost more money? Would you install one in your home, as I don’t want to make a mistake? Susan M., Clarkston, MI
DEAR SUSAN: Bathroom vessel sinks or even in a powder room are indeed the rage. I remember when they first started to get attention about ten years ago. My oldest daughter and I were attending a national kitchen and bath convention and we saw a gorgeous solid-glass vessel sinks in a specialty booth.
I was stunned at how sleek it was, even though, in my opinion, the sink was imitating what people used to have in bedrooms before there was indoor plumbing! Go back to the 1800’s and you’d discover in the bedrooms on a wash stand decorative bowls and pitchers of water to wash your hands and face.
These new sinks are radically different in design than traditional sinks because both the inside and outside surfaces of the sink need to be finished. Because the underside of a traditional sink was always below the countertop and out of site, the manufacturers could save time and money by not finishing it.
The engineering of the overflow channel is different because this hidden conduit must be contained within the sides of the vessel so you can’t see it easily. The overflow should be able to handle the flow of water if the drain stopper gets closed and the faucet is on.
You also have to keep in mind the height of the cabinet that the vessel sink will rest on. The height off the ground of the top edge of the sink should be no less than 31 inches and certainly no higher than 36 inches off the floor. You’ll have to see how high your sink is and then do the math taking into consideration the thickness of the finished top to know what the cabinet should be.
A vessel sink faucet is a specialty item because it must be tall enough so the spout makes it over the top of the vessel and projects far enough into the bowl so that you have room to get your hands under the flow of water. Don’t think for a minute that every faucet will work well with every sink design.
Your existing plumbing connections will work with just about any vessel sink. If anything, the plumber will have to install an extra-long tailpiece from the bottom of the sink to connect to the P-trap under the fixture. This item is a commodity and not expensive at all. The water supply lines will connect to the new faucet with ease using flexible supply hoses that are wrapped with braided stainless-steel wire to keep them from bursting.
I installed a copper vessel sink in the house I used to live in. Actually it was a copper pan that my wife saw in a catalog, and she asked me if I could turn it into a sink. The only thing it’s missing is an overflow tube. I was able to punch a hole in the bottom of the pan large enough for the drain assembly, so it looks like it was a sink from the beginning. It works very well, and people who saw it loved it. The vessel sink faucet we used for this has a bamboo theme and it’s stunning.
You’ll discover that the costs for the vessel sink and faucet may be a little high. Part of this is the extra material they have to use because more of the sink and faucet must be finished as they sit above the counter. Another part of the cost is the popularity. That’s where the old economics law of supply and demand kicks in. You should see in the marketplace that a ceramic vessel sink may offer you the best bang for your buck.
Be sure you or the plumber really takes the time to do the math so that your sink does not end up too high. I would also highly recommend taking a piece of scrap plywood and do the necessary cutouts on it to make sure you have the sink at the correct height and the faucet hole in the right location so that the two fixtures work together.
You want to make sure that there is enough room for the faucet so it doesn’t hit the backsplash, your hands fit under the faucet in the sink and the vessel sink lip doesn’t hit the wall. It only takes a few minutes to create this simple plywood template. Now is the time to determine if all the parts work and the measurements are correct. Taking a chance with an expensive piece of granite or marble is not prudent.