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Having assisted in many bathroom remodels over the years, I’ve often been asked this age old question: Are vessel sinks still in style?
Vessel sinks are not as popular as they once were in full bathrooms. This downturn in popularity is attributed to both changes in interior design trends and a lack of functionality. They are however still a go to for the more fashionable half baths.
The vessel sink is dilemma is a classic case of Fashion vs. Function. What makes the vessel sinks stand out in certain applications is also what may cause its downfall in others. All is not lost however, the low profile semi-recessed types are on trend and much more suitable for full bathroom applications.
Before we dive deep in the alternatives, let’s take a look at why they are not currently being used in common bathrooms.
They Lack An Overflow Hole
The full above counter vessel style will typically lack an overflow hole. An overflow hole is like a mini insurance policy for homeowners in case the water is accidentally turned on and left on.
The overflow hole is located near the top of the sink and allows water to flow into a channel within the sink itself into the drain below as an attempt to head off a potential flooding situation.
Since these type of vessel sinks cannot accommodate this built in channel in order to meet state and local plumbing codes drain style limitations are put in place.
Typically to work around the lacking overflow hole, a grid drain would be one of the only viable options. By being forced to install a grid drain homeowner’s soon realize they cannot fill their bathroom sinks, limiting the overall functionality and a positive user experience.
Vessel sinks sit too high for most users
“Above the counter vessel sinks” certainly make a statement, but that statement comes at a price for overall usability.
The height of a vanity has risen over the past couple of decades resulting in standard height of 34″ as opposed to the 30″ of the 1980’s & 90’s.
This jump of four and a half inches is typically considered more comfortable by most users This extra height is great for undermount sinks that sit flush with the counter top, but not ideal for vessel sinks which often add an extra 3-6″.
If you pair the taller vanity cabinet height and say another 4″ for the vessel sink height, the result is a user experience that will be altogether too tall for most to use comfortably.
This is especially true for children and those adults that are more vertically challenged. In addition to the height of these conventional vessels take up a lot of real estate on the counter making them intrusive when trying to bend over to wash your face or reach for products residing on the counter top.
When considering the combination of a conventional vessel and a vanity at the contemporary height it is important to consider the ergonomics of all the users within the home so the best choice for you and your family can be made.
Faucet Options for Vessel Sinks are limited
Vessel sinks require either an unusually tall faucet or a wall mounted faucet. Due to the increased height, this tall faucet is required to clear the top lip of the sink.
The faucet options affiliated with this type of application are going to be limited in style and installation.
Many of the full vessel height faucets designed by plumbing companies are merely a single hole faucet ) with an extension added to the base to provide the necessary additional height. These faucets are also known as “Mono-Block Faucets”
This two piece design leaves a prominent seam in the area where the faucet and bottom mount are joined together. This is an easy way for faucet manufacturers to save money by not having to create multiple molds for the same series of faucet by casting the brass as one singular piece.
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The faucet extension to create a vessel height faucet looks piecemealed together because the assembly process makes it so.
Due to the real estate these vessel sinks take up on the counter top, this ultimately can require the faucet to be mounted on the side of the sink, typically at ten or two o’clock in relation to the vessel.
For those of us who greatly appreciate symmetry, this installation could impact the overall look and feel of the bathroom leaving the consumer less satisfied with the final product.
A wall mounted faucet is also an option to overcome the height challenge that a vessel sink creates.
Wall mounted faucets will come as a spout with a single control lever or a spout with both a separate hot and cold lever. Although this allows more stylistic options for selection purposes, not every manufacturer will offer a wall mounted faucet option in their collections
Within a manufacturer’s line there may only be one offering in each of the style families: traditional, transitional, modern, and contemporary.
A wall mounted faucet does come with it’s own set of challenges. The installation of a wall mounted faucet is much more complicated since the faucet needs to be laid out in advance of the vanity and sink installation.
There is very little if any room for error on the calculations for the layout and installation. Some faucet manufactures will provide a rough in valve unit that will need to be installed in the wall as part of the initial rough plumbing.
Other manufacturers will require the hot and cold supplies be in the wall at the height you want the faucet mounted and the faucet will attach directly to the supplies.
Homeowners do not have the luxury of selecting a faucet at the tail end of their project. For this application, the faucets must be selected before or simultaneously with the vessel and vanity that are also going to be installed.
Cleaning a Vessel Sink is a challenge
Cleaning a bathroom is probably one of a homeowner’s least favorite chores, but adding a vessel sink in the mix will take this chore from a necessary evil to a challenge very quickly.
A true above counter bowl shaped vessel is tapered by nature, which can look nice but how do you plan to get at the bottom of the crevice that is created where the drain and the bowl meet?
Additionally with the sink being completely above the counter wrapping your hand around the back of the sink can be a challenge especially if there is a faucet sitting at the edge of the sink and your hand cannot squeeze through.
You cannot clean what you cannot see and vessel sinks are very good at obstructing from view the counter area that resides behind them. Still not convinced?
Let’s add a material challenge to the mix. For example sake you choose a glass vessel to install in your home. Every time you turn on the water droplets of water that have either splashed up or not made it to the drain are now left behind.
When that water dries, it leaves a residue what most would call water spots. If you know every time you go to use your sink you will create water spots that you will then need to clean or your sink will look perpetually dirty would you be keen on using it?
An additional consideration pertains to installation. When vessel sinks are mounted above the countertop some will require a silicone or caulking bead at the edge for installation and waterproofing purposes.
This seam overtime with exposure to water, cleaning products and with general age can discolor and require the silicone or caulking to but cut away and reinstalled. This is a maintenance item that homeowners should be aware of in addition to the lacking cleanability of vessel sinks.
Why a vessel sink might belong in your half bath instead
As highlighted throughout the article, it is important to consider how your sink will be utilized on a daily basis.
For a full bathroom and the typical activities that take place within that space a conventional vessel sink may not be the wisest choice.
However, if you are still itching for that dramatic statement within your home, the perfect place for a vessel sinks could be your half bath.
- The Powder Bathroom is an ideal place to get creative with a vessel sink
- This room is limited to quick visits.
- It’s in a prominent space in the house.
- This is the bathroom most frequented by outside guests
A half bath can sometimes be an overlooked design opportunity. This is the bathroom that will be most utilized by guests that visit your home, so it is a perfect space to show off your personality!
Since the primary activity in the half bathroom sink is handwashing you do not have to emphasize the ergonomics and multiple sink uses as heavily in this space.
The same limitations with cleanability, faucet selection, and possibly drain restrictions will still apply, but this is a space where you can afford to chose fashion over function
Semi-Vessel Sinks: A User Friendly Alternative
For consumers and designers eager to utilize an above the counter vessel style sink for their bath designs, all hope is not lost.
There is an abundance of sink options on the market today still allowing the sink its stylistic prominence on top of the countertop without sacrificing a quality user experience.
These sinks are typically lower in profile, have an integrated overflow hole and have faucet holes pre-drilled onto the deck of the sink to mount the faucet to.
Since the sink itself is lower in profile the user experience and the type of user for the sink drastically improves. With the presence of an overflow hole restrictions on drain style are no longer a consideration. This means that a traditional pop up drain is permissible.
By utilizing a pop up drain the user can fill their sink for such activities as face washing or handwashing delicates greatly improving upon the conventional vessel sinks usability within the full bath.
By incorporating a vessel sink with faucet holes pre-drilled the faucet selection essentially becomes limitless. The low profile cousins of the conventional vessel sinks will typically have options for single hole, wideset, and no drill (for a wall mounted faucet) options all within one sink style.
By mounting the faucet directly to the deck there is no sink lip to clear and therefore additional faucet height is no longer a consideration. This style sink is a perfect example of the most important element of good design: functionality.
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