How to Choose a Countertop for your Bathroom Sink


Choosing a sink and choosing a countertop material go hand in hand because the style of the sink often depends on the type of countertop.

Plastic laminate is far and away the most popular countertop material, and for good reason. It is versatile, durable, moisture resistant, and relatively inexpensive. It comes in hundreds of colors and patterns, in different textures, and in glossy and matte finishes. Self-rimming sinks work well with plastic laminate, as do rimless sinks, because the smooth laminate surface works well with the trim ring to seal against leakage. Undermount sinks are a bit more problematic because of the seam at the rim of the cutout that can allow moisture into the substrate.

Bathroom Sink

The same features that make solid-surface materials like Corian or Surell a good choice for sink bowls also hold true for countertops: durability, resistance to stains, and the ability to be fabricated in the field. A big advantage of solid-surface countertops is the way they can be almost seamlessly joined with premanufactured undermount sink bowls of the same material. This makes it possible to build a custom-fabricated countertop to fit almost any configuration and to perform virtually like a one-piece monolithic countertop.

Tile is a traditional choice for all types of bathroom surfaces, including countertops, because it sheds water like a duck. Tile installation is labor intensive, which makes it potentially expensive, and tile prices can vary widely depending on the type. But the range of patterns and colors that can be achieved with tile is endless, from cool and classical to organic and funky…and anywhere in between. Self-rimming sinks work best with tiled countertops, although another option is to mud-in the sink. This configuration puts the lip of the sink below the surface of the countertop, making it easier for splashed water to find its way back into the bowl. But this type of installation is quite permanent because the sink can’t be removed without destroying the tile immediately surrounding it.

Many of the synthetic countertop materials available today attempt to create the look of natural stones like granite or marble. But you also might consider using the real thing instead. Because the bathroom countertop is typically relatively small compared to those in the kitchen, opting for stone in the bath might not be prohibitively expensive, even for bathrooms on a budget. However, you can easily spend five times the amount of a plastic-laminate countertop for a natural stone one. So if the budget prohibits a solid-stone countertop, consider using thin stone tiles on a substrate.

Natural stone is a beautiful material, but it’s not totally impervious to the everyday wear and tear that happens in a bathroom. Both marble (to a greater extent) and granite (to a lesser extent) are susceptible to staining, and marble is soft enough that it can scratch, too, although this is less of a factor on a countertop than on a floor. Marble can be cleaned, repolished, and sealed, but I’ve seen some surprised homeowners unhappy with the maintenance requirements of their new marble bathrooms.

Soapstone is another natural countertop material that has a long tradition of use in the bathroom. Another option with a more recent heritage of use in the home is cast concrete. Though concrete sounds cold and industrial, it is pretty forgiving to work with and can actually be stained and polished to very pleasing colors and textures, and the raw materials are almost literally dirt cheap. If you make a mistake or don’t like the results, just break up the concrete with a sledgehammer and try again.

Limestone Countertop

Wood isn’t exactly most people’s first choice in countertop material, in part because it can be vulnerable to moisture damage. But I don’t think that it should be entirely ruled out, particularly for bathrooms that see light or occasional use, like a guest bath or half-bath. One configuration that I particularly like is an antique commode or dresser retrofitted with a self-rimming sink. If care is taken to seal the edges of the cutout, to treat the top with a marine-type varnish, and to caulk the rim of the sink carefully, then this type of countertop can lend an elegant touch. I’ve also tried using undermount sinks in this situation, but I wouldn’t recommend it: The edge of the cutout is just too vulnerable to moisture, and the countertop tends to shrink and swell so much around it that cracks in the wood top inevitably start to appear.

Filed Under: Home & Maintenance

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About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.

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