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Five Things You Should Know Before Upgrading To A Vessel Sink

Vessel sinks are becoming a popular option for bathrooms of all sizes – from petite guest bathrooms to big, sprawling master suites. And it’s no wonder: vessel sinks have a glamorous, striking appearance, and are available in a nearly infinite variety of colors, patterns, materials, shapes, and styles. Vessel sinks offer an easy way to add a little signature touch to your bathroom, no matter the size of the space or your budget. But vessel sinks are fundamentally different from traditional sinks in a few small but crucial ways. It’s important to take these differences into consideration during the early planning stages of your remodel to make sure you get the most of your new sink.

You Can’t Upgrade To A Vessel Sink Without Replacing Your Vanity Top

Bamboo UltraGlass Vessel Sink GV101SFB from Ryvyr
Bamboo UltraGlass Vessel Sink GV101SFB from Ryvyr

The most fundamental difference between vessel sinks and most other types of bathroom sinks is that the sink is installed on top of the vanity top rather than in or under it. This leaves the whole sink visible, which is part of why this trend is so desirable, but it also has a few other implications that might not be so obvious. Standard sized undermount and drop in sinks are fairly interchangeable with each other and with most pre-cut vanity tops, but the hole those sinks sit in is too big for a vessel sink to sit on, meaning that if you currently have a standard sink, in order to upgrade to a vessel sink, you’ll have to replace your vanity top, too, which gives this project a bigger scope and budget than most sink replacements. Even as part of a larger remodel, you want to make sure you’re getting a vanity top that’s cut properly to fit your new sink.

But You CAN Install Them Yourself

Ceramica Vessel Sink CA4322 from Caracalla
Ceramica Vessel Sink CA4322 from Caracalla

That said, vessel sinks are probably the simplest bathroom sinks to install. Because they’re held in place primarily by their own weight and the drain pipe, installing a vessel sink is only slightly more complicated than simply setting the sink down on the counter. You won’t need to remove the vanity top or worry about caulking: simply line the hole at the bottom of the sink up with the hole in the vanity top and insert the drain pipe. You’ll need basic tools and materials – like a good wrench, plumber’s putty, and teflon tape, but the traps of vessel sinks are typically very straightforward, and hooking up water lines is easier when the underside of the sink isn’t in the way. As an added bonus, this means that once you have a vessel sink, it’s amazingly easy to change out that sink, either as part of a smaller bathroom facelift, or if you’re especially crafty, you can even change out different style or colored sinks seasonally.

Vessel Sinks Don’t Use Normal Faucets

Reflex Metallic Copper Vessel Sink RVE180MCO from Ryvyr
Reflex Metallic Copper Vessel Sink RVE180MCO from Ryvyr

Because vessel sinks sit above the vanity top rather than inside or under it, they require faucets that are a little taller than standard faucets, and because vessel sinks themselves can come in varying heights, it’s crucial to make sure you choose a faucet that matches the height of the sink, both for accessibility and to prevent splashing. This is one reason that it can be wise to buy a sink and faucet together, though paying close attention to measurements works just as well. It’s also worth noting that while it’s possible to find vessel sink faucets with a traditional three-hole installation (that is, with a hole for each handle and one for the spigot drilled into your vanity top), they are fairly rare. More likely, you’ll end up with a tall, post style faucet with a single lever handle that controls both temperature and flow, so this is also something important to consider when having your vanity top cut.

They Offer More Space Under The Sink

Zefiro Vessel Sink 8207 from Scarabeo
Zefiro Vessel Sink 8207 from Scarabeo

Having to get a new countertop is a pain, but the fact that vessel sinks go on top of your vanity instead of inside of it means there’s actually more room left inside the vanity, which can be a huge bonus. On a normal bathroom vanity, the area directly beneath the vanity top has to be left open to accommodate the bottom of the sink. The size of the sink and the length of the plumbing means that about 20 inches of vertical space in your vanity are rendered basically useless. But vessel sinks eliminate the intrusion of the sink and streamline and reduce the size of the plumbing, making it possible to build drawers around the pipes. This makes for a more efficient, accessible vanity that provides more (and better!) storage in the same amount of space.

On A Standard Vanity, A Tall Vessel Sink Might Be Uncomfortable To Use

Parsons 24" Bathroom Vanity With Adjustable Height Legs From Sagehill Designs
Parsons 24″ Bathroom Vanity With Adjustable Height Legs From Sagehill Designs

This is probably the one thing about vessel sinks that’s the easiest to overlook, especially if you spend the early stages of your design planning looking at pictures rather than browsing in-store. Most bathroom vanities are designed to be a comfortable average height… with a traditional sink. That means doing a one-to-one swap can put the vessel sink at a height that’s uncomfortable to use, especially if you’re on the shorter side. That’s why the vanities you see that come prepackaged with vessel sinks are often wall mounted: so you can compensate for the height of the sink. If you want a more traditional vanity with legs, look for models that have legs that can be adjusted for height, or that come with removable “stilts” that allow the same vanity to accommodate a higher sink. After all, once you’ve got a beautiful signature sink, you want to be able to use it comfortably!

Where are you planning on installing a vessel sink? In a primary bathroom, guest bath, or something else? Let me know in the comments below!