I came down with a bad case of Sink Envy the first time I used a vessel sink at my cousin’s house. The modern bathroom had a gorgeous ceramic sink resting atop the vanity rather than submerged within the vanity like most sinks. I was awe-struck.
A vessel sink is a bowl-shaped sink installed on top of a bathroom counter or vanity. Some vessel sinks go entirely above the countertop while others are half-recessed—a part of the sink is submerged beneath a countertop. Vessel sinks are made of various materials, including glass, wood, and stone.
When you think of a vessel sink, it’s likely you’ll imagine a round porcelain sink mounted on a bathroom vanity surface. However, there are many different styles, shapes, and materials, which we’ll discuss in the rest of this article. (To see the featured sinks on Amazon, click the links or images below.)
What a Vessel Sink Is
A vessel sink is a basin located fully or partially on top of a bathroom vanity or counter. You don’t see this type of sink on kitchen counters because they aren’t practical for kitchens in terms of style and size.
These sinks come in different types in terms of installation, materials, and shapes.
Vessel Sink Installation
Traditional bathroom sinks are mounted beneath the bathroom counter. These have what’s called an “under-mount” installation. There are also many bathroom sinks molded from the same slab of material as the vanity countertop and these are called “integrated” sinks.
But when it comes to vessel sinks, there are two types of installations: above-counter or semi-recessed (also called a drop-in). Each model is expressly designed for one type of installation or the other, so decide how you want to install your sink before choosing a particular model.
An above-counter vessel sink is installed on top of the bathroom vanity. For example, this VCCUCINE Rectangle Ceramic Vessel Sink has an above-counter installation:
Another type of vessel sink is “dropped in” partway to the vanity. This semi-recessed type requires precisely cutting the counter to mount the sink correctly. Some people will choose a semi-recessed (also called drop-in) installation because the sink height will be lower and the sink itself will be more stable than one mounted fully atop the counter.
This ceramic porcelain semi-recessed vessel sink by WinZo is similar to the one shown above except that this model is made for drop-in installation:
You can find a vessel sink to suit almost any taste in decor since they come in such a wide variety of materials and finishes. Choose from glass and ceramic, which are popular these days, or stainless steel, marble, and copper. You can also find these sinks made from wood, concrete, porcelain and stone. If you go woozy at the sight of a travertine chiseled stone sink (I do!), check out this beauty from Shades of Stone:
Vessel sinks come in different shapes, including the round bowl-shaped, which is quite popular. You’ll also find vessel sinks in rectangular shapes, in two types, box-like and flared edge. There are also oval-shaped vessel sinks like this solid ceramic vessel sink from InArt.
Why Choose a Vessel Sink?
There are many great reasons to choose a vessel sink, ranging from the ability to create a custom look to the fact they are great for small bathrooms.
Vessel Sink Styles
The unique design of a vessel sink enables you to incorporate high style and a custom look. Anyone can have an elegantly decorated bathroom utterly different from most. For example, imagine this unique tempered glass sink by ELITE on your vanity.
It could be a showstopper, right?
Ease of Installation
Installation is pretty simple compared to putting in a traditional sink. The main step is to cut a small hole in your countertop. These sinks are also pretty easy to remove compared to under-mount sinks.
Vessel sinks occupy less space than semi-recessed sinks in your vanity because they’re fully on top. As a result, you get a few more inches of counter space around the sink, so they are great choices in small bathrooms.
Plus, if you get a vessel sink and choose a shorter vanity to balance your sink height, the additional space between the ceiling and countertop will create the illusion that your bathroom is bigger than it really is!
Additional Considerations for Vessel Sinks
If you’re considering a vessel sink for all its great qualities, you should know how to pick the best and what you’re getting into:
Durability Depends on Design and Material
Durability is mostly about design and material.
In terms of design, vessel sinks have a lot of exposed surface area. If you use your sink often, it’s more likely to get cracked or chipped, so you’ll need to be more careful with it than you would with an under-mount.
That said, rigid materials like concrete, stone and copper can be quite sturdy. This hammered copper sink from Signature Hardware is beautiful and the double-walls provide extra protection:
Traditional sinks are completely attached to the counter, whereas vessel sinks are mounted through a small hole. Therefore, vessel sinks aren’t as stable as their under-mount counterparts. In case you have children who grab the sink to pull themselves up, this lack of stability could become a problem or even a hazard.
Semi-recessed sinks are more stable because they’re half-part inside the vanity. If you have small children who will use the bathroom consider a square semi-recessed vessel sink like the one shown earlier in this post.
Cleaning a Vessel Sink
Vessel sinks can be difficult to clean because water and dirt can get trapped in hard-to-reach areas where the sink is attached to the countertop. To solve this problem, use a long thin brush to clean the least accessible parts. Plus, if you choose a glass model, fingerprints or toothpaste marks may be visible from the outer side. Generally, glass and plastic sinks show water spots and need more regular cleaning.
Consider a Slightly Lower Vanity Height
If you want everyone to reach your sink easily, don’t forget to consider your vanity height. A vessel sink atop a standard-sized vanity (32 to 36 inches or 81.3 or 91.4 cm) could end up too tall, especially for children and shorter adults. Depending on the height of the users, vessel sinks might work better for you on a slightly shorter vanity (e.g., 30 or 31 inches or 76.2 or 78.7 cm).
Vessel sinks are usually more expensive than drop-in sinks since they’re more modern and stylish. The price ranges from around $50 for a simple sink to upwards of $250 for a glazed ceramic unit. However, the price will drop as these sinks become more commonplace.
Vessel Sink Faucets
When choosing a faucet for your vessel sink, you’ll want to select a tap tall enough for water to pour into the basin without splashing. You should also consider using swivel faucets (with one handle for hot and cold) because they give your bathroom a more contemporary look.
Swivel Faucet With Single Stream
I recommend a waterfall faucet specifically made for a vessel sink, such as the BWE Vessel Sink Faucet. It comes in brushed nickel, chrome, matte black and oil-rubbed bronze finishes, and either in a regular or tall height. (The tall height can be quite elegant!)
Also, most vessel sinks don’t have overflow drains that traditional sinks have. There are special drains exclusively made for vessel sinks. This feature causes the water to drain a bit slower when the basin is full.
Some Vessel Sinks Come with a Faucet
You can look for a sink that comes with the hardware. For example, here is a unique artistic vessel sink from Puluomis that’s made of tempered glass. (If tempered ever glass breaks–which is unlikely–it will not have sharp edges.) This sink comes with an oil-rubbed bronze faucet and drain:
Vanities That Come With Vessel Sinks
Finally, it’s possible to find a bathroom vanity that comes with a vessel sink (or two vessel sinks) if you’re persistent. For much more on the topic, read my post Do Bathroom Vanities Come With Sinks and Faucets?