Complete Guide to Vessel Sinks

Vessel sinks are a popular choice for bathrooms and kitchens due to their unique and eye-catching shape. Unlike a standard rectangular sink, vessel sinks have a bowl that sits on top of the vanity or counter, rather than being installed underneath it. This exposed design highlights the sink and makes it a focal point in the room.

Vessel sinks come in a wide array of styles, materials, colors and sizes to complement any decor. When shopping for a vessel sink, there are a few key factors to consider to ensure you select the right one for your space. This complete guide provides an in-depth look at vessel sinks, covering how to choose the perfect one, installation, maintenance and much more.

What is a Vessel Sink?

A vessel sink is a glass, plastic, stone, metal or ceramic bowl that rests above the vanity surface and is partially sunk below it. The rim of the bowl sits on top of the vanity or counter, while the bottom portion of the sink extends below it. This type of sink became popular in the early 2000s as an alternative to undermount and drop-in sinks.

Vessel sinks have a striking exposed design that makes them a focal point. Unlike more discreet undermount sinks that sit below the counter, vessel sinks are meant to be seen and add style to the room. The bowl is reminiscent of a decorative vase or urn turned on its side.

Benefits of Vessel Sinks

There are several reasons why vessel sinks are a popular choice:

  • Unique style: The exposed bowl design stands out and makes a stylish statement. Vessel sinks come in a vast array of shapes, materials and finishes to suit any taste.
  • Easy to install: Vessel sinks don’t require extensive modifications to the vanity or countertop. The bowl simply sits on top, making installation straightforward.
  • Work with any countertop material: Whether you have a granite, marble, quartz, laminate or wood vanity, you can install a vessel sink on top of it. The exposed design lets you incorporate a vessel sink into any style bathroom or kitchen.
  • Allow for smaller vanities: Since vessel sinks don’t need to be set into the counter, they can be used with narrower and unconventionally shaped vanities.
  • Are available in many materials: Vessel sinks come in glass, metal, natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, copper and more. You can find a material to complement any design aesthetic.

Drawbacks of Vessel Sinks

While vessel sinks have many benefits, there are a few downsides to consider:

  • Higher risk of breaking: The glass or ceramic construction makes vessel sinks more prone to breaking if hit with a heavy object. Handles must be used carefully.
  • Require frequent cleaning: Due to their exposed positioning, vessel sinks show water spots and smudges more easily than undermount sinks and require frequent wiping down.
  • Can be prone to leaks: The positioning of vessel sinks on top of the counter means a leak could drip down the sides of the cabinetry. Regular maintenance helps prevent leaks.
  • Provide less workspace: Vessel sinks take up more surface area on the countertop compared to an undermount or drop-in sink. This gives you less room for toiletries and appliances.
  • Are generally more expensive: The specialized bowl shape and materials of vessel sinks make them a more expensive choice than standard sink types.

How to Choose the Right Vessel Sink

With so many styles, sizes, shapes and materials available, it can feel overwhelming to select the perfect vessel sink. Keep the following tips in mind to make sure you choose the right fixture for your bathroom or kitchen.


Vessel sink bowls typically range from 12 to 20 inches wide on average. Smaller sinks around 12-16 inches are best for powder rooms and tight spaces. For master bathrooms and kitchens, 16- to 20-inch sinks allow for more functionality.

Make sure to consider the existing vanity size – the sink should be at least 2 inches less wide than the vanity top on all sides. This allows enough of a ledge for bathroom accessories and appliances. It also keeps water contained.

Measure the area where the sink will go before purchasing to get the right proportions. An oversized vessel sink on a narrow vanity will look disproportionate and awkward.

Bowl Shape

Vessel sinks come in a variety of shapes beyond just round and square:

  • Round – The most common, versatile shape that fits with any style. Round vessels work well centered on the vanity top.
  • Square/Rectangular – A squared-off vessel brings a modern, clean-lined look. Pair with straight-edged faucets.
  • Oval – An elongated oval shape can add softness to a bathroom. Position sideways or diagonally on the vanity.
  • Asymmetrical – For a unique look, an irregularly shaped vessel adds interest. Coordinate with the vanity shape.
  • Octagonal – Eight-sided vessels have a geometric feel. They look fresh positioned diagonally.

Choose a shape that speaks to your design sensibilities and the overall style you want for the room.


Vessel sinks are available in a diverse range of materials like such metal, stone, ceramic, and glass:

  • Stainless steel – A modern look, perfect for contemporary spaces. Stainless resists stains and scratches.
  • Enameled cast iron – Cast iron coated in glossy enamel resists chipping for a timeless look. Available in many colors.
  • Solid surface – Made of acrylic-based resins, solid surface vessels are extremely durable and stain resistant. Seamless appearance.
  • Porcelain – Bright white porcelain is an easy match for any bathroom. Porcelain is less prone to staining and cracking.
  • Fireclay – Handmade fireclay has an artisanal, organic look. The dense material is very durable.
  • Natural stone – Sinks in granite, marble or travertine make a luxurious statement. Each sink has a unique veining.
  • Glass – Glass vessel sinks are eye-catching but require gentle care. Available from clear to vivid colored glass.
  • Copper – Copper develops a unique patina over time for a rustic, vintage look. Antimicrobial properties.

Select a material based on the overall look you want to achieve and your bathroom’s needs. For a family or busy bathroom, a durable option like enameled cast iron, fireclay or porcelain is ideal. Glass or natural stone make better choices for lesser-used spaces since they require more careful handling.


Vessel sink prices vary greatly depending on the material, quality, brand and size. Here are average price ranges:

  • $100 – $300: Budget-friendly sinks in materials like glass, porcelain and enameled steel. Best for powder rooms.
  • $300 – $600: Mid-range choices in higher grade materials like ceramic, stone resin or natural stone. Good quality for everyday use.
  • $600 – $1,000: Premium designer sinks in materials like copper, wood, natural marble or granite. For luxury master bathrooms.
  • $1,000+: High-end designer sinks in the best quality materials. These are investment pieces.

Remember that you’ll also need a vessel sink faucet, which starts around $100 for basic styles up to $500+ for high-end options. Get the best sink you can afford while keeping the overall budget in mind.

Vessel Sink Installation

Installing a vessel sink takes careful planning and precision. Since the sink rests partially above the counter, getting the height and position exactly right is crucial for proper drainage and use.

Installation Considerations

  • Vessel sinks do not mount under the counter like a drop-in sink. The bowl sits on top while the drain assembly mounts underneath inside the vanity cabinet.
  • Most vessel drains have a height of 3 1/2” to 4” from the bottom of the sink to the top of the drain. Make sure your sink choice will accommodate your drain height.
  • The sink should sit squarely on the vanity. Overhang is typically 1-3” on the front and sides.
  • Building code requires 4” maximum overhang for ADA compliance. Check your local codes.
  • The sink must be installed level and at the proper height for comfortable use.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Vessel sink
  • Vessel sink drain kit (with drain, sealant, and mounting hardware)
  • Tube of clear silicone caulk and caulk gun
  • Rags, bucket, scrub brush and cleaning solution
  • Pencil and tape measure
  • Level
  • Hacksaw (if cutting any PVC drain pipes)
  • Screwdriver

Installation Steps

  1. Disconnect supplies and drain – Turn off the water supply valves and disconnect the supply lines. Unhook and remove the old sink drain. Cap off the drain temporarily if needed.
  2. Dry fit sink – Temporarily place the vessel sink on top of the vanity to check the overhang. There should be 1-3″ of overhang on each side. Adjust vanity placement if needed.
  3. Mark drain hole – Trace a circle around the sink drain hole location with a pencil. Set the vessel sink aside. This marks where to drill the opening for the drain.
  4. Drill drain opening – Use a hole saw bit sized for the drain pipe (usually 1 1/2″) to drill down through the vanity top at the drain mark. Go slowly to avoid cracking the vanity. Remove any debris.
  5. Install drain – Apply plumber’s putty around the drain flange. Insert the drain up through the hole. Tighten the locking nut underneath while aligning the drain straight. Wipe away excess putty.
  6. Mount drain hardware – Under the vanity, attach the drain pieces like the tailpiece, P-trap, and shut-off valves per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Apply sealant – Run a thin bead of clear silicone caulk around the edge of the drain hole. This seals any gaps between the sink and vanity for waterproofing.
  8. Set sink – Carefully lower the vessel bowl into position over the drain. Press down firmly to adhere to the sealant. Immediately wipe away any sealant squeeze-out with a rag.
  9. Connect supplies – Attach the supply lines to the faucet and turn on the water. Check for leaks at all connections and tighten if needed.
  10. Seal sink – Apply a thin bead of caulk around the bottom edge of the sink where it meets the counter. Wipe immediately to smooth out the caulk. Allow to fully cure for 24 hours before use.

Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for safe installation. Taking the time to position and seal the vessel sink properly prevents leaks and damage down the road. Enjoy your unique new focal point!

Caring for a Vessel Sink

While vessel sinks make a gorgeous design statement in the bathroom, their exposed positioning means they show water spots, mineral deposits, and soap scum easily. Taking proper care of a vessel sink keeps it looking pristine.

Cleaning Tips

  • Wipe the bowl dry after each use with a soft towel dedicated just for the vessel sink. Microfiber cloths work well.
  • Clean the sink at least once a week using a gentle soap or all-purpose cleaner safe for the sink material. Avoid abrasive cleansers.
  • For hard water stains, use a 50/50 vinegar and water solution. Spray and let sit, then scrub gently and rinse.
  • Glass, marble, and copper should be cleaned with specialty non-abrasive cleaners made for those materials.
  • Use a toothbrush or soft scrub brush to gently clean hard-to-reach spots near the drain.
  • Rinse away any cleaner residue thoroughly. Wipe down with a dry towel.
  • Polish the bowl occasionally with a microfiber cloth and glass cleaner or mineral oil depending on the material.
  • Check/tighten connections regularly to prevent leaks leading to stains.

Preventing Damage

  • Always use a sink grid or tray. This protects the sink surface from getting scratched by things like jewelry or bottles.
  • Avoid letting soap, shampoo or cleanser bottles touch the sink surface when setting down. Chemicals can etch ceramic over time.
  • Wipe spills up promptly with a dry cloth to prevent staining. Don’t let liquids pool near the drain.
  • Use trivets and hot pads when setting down extremely hot pans and tools from the stove. Thermal shock can crack ceramic and glass.
  • Select grooming products carefully if the sink is located in a bathroom. Hair gels and skin creams can discolor certain materials like marble.
  • Don’t pour used coffee grounds or food waste down the vessel sink drain. Over time, debris buildup can stain light colored materials like glass or porcelain.

With routine cleaning and gentle use, your vessel sink can stay looking like new for many years! Taking a little extra care protects your investment.

Common Vessel Sink Problems and Solutions

Even with proper care, vessel sinks may encounter minor issues over time. Many problems can be easily fixed with basic troubleshooting. Here are some common vessel sink problems and solutions:

Problem: Sink has a slow drain or clogged drains slowly after use.


  • Remove and clean the sink strainer/stopper completely. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Check for debris lodged in the drain opening under the strainer and remove if found.
  • Use a sink plunger to forcefully plunge the drain. Cover the overflow holes first with a rag if present.
  • Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup vinegar. Cover the drain. Let fizzing reaction work 15-30 minutes then rinse with hot water.
  • Use a drain snake to remove stubborn clogs or hair buildup.
  • Take apart the P-trap and clean out any debris caught there.

Problem: Sink is leaking from the drain connections.


  • Check that the slip nuts and gasket at the drain are tight enough. Snug with a wrench if loose.
  • Remove the P-trap and check for cracks. Replace if damaged. Make sure it’s properly aligned when replaced.
  • Verify the drain tailpiece from the sink is inserted correctly into the drain assembly below. Reattach if disconnected.
  • Apply plumber’s putty around the strainer drain flange and tighten the strainer assembly underneath the sink.

Problem: Sink bowl is cracked, chipped or broken.


  • Small chips on ceramic, porcelain or glass may be repairable with specialty glue or epoxy made for that material. Follow product instructions.
  • Contact the manufacturer – sinks may be covered by a warranty if the damage is from a defect.
  • For more extensive damage, the sink bowl will need to be replaced.

Problem: Sink leaks where it seals to the countertop.


  • Apply fresh clear silicone caulk around the edge of the sink where it meets the counter. Allow to fully cure overnight.
  • Remove old caulk completely with a plastic scraper before reapplying. Make sure the area is completely dry first.
  • If leak persists, water may be overflowing the sink bowl and needs to be sealed better on installation.

Following these troubleshooting tips can help resolve common vessel sink issues and get it back to looking great. Contact a professional plumber for any complex repairs.

FAQ About Vessel Sinks

How difficult is it to install a vessel sink?

Installing a vessel sink is intermediate in difficulty compared to other sink types. Vessels don’t mount inside the counter and involve installing separate drain plumbing underneath. This requires some moderately advanced DIY skills. Hiring a professional plumber is recommended if you don’t have experience altering drain lines.

Do vessel sinks require a specific faucet?

Yes, vessel sinks require a vessel sink faucet. These have a higher arched spout designed to clear the tall sink bowl walls. The faucet must also have the right reach to sit over the basin. Look for a faucet 8”-16” high rated for vessel sinks.

Can I put a vessel sink in place of any old sink?

Possibly, but the existing drain position may not work. The vessel sink drain mounts much farther back. You’ll likely need to break the counter to move the drain unless it already lines up. Reusing existing supply lines works if they are long enough to reach up to the new faucet location.

How do I avoid condensation on a glass vessel sink?

Use an anti-condensation faucet that keeps the water stream inside the sink. Make sure the water temperature isn’t set too high. Room ventilation helps, so keep bath fans running sufficiently after showering. Dehumidifiers also reduce ambient moisture that causes condensation on cool surfaces.

Should I seal the vessel sink to the countertop?

Yes, sealing with silicone caulk is strongly recommended to prevent leaks between the sink and counter. Use a continuous thin bead of caulk around the bottom edge of the sink rim where it meets the counter. Let cure fully before use.

How do I clean hard water stains in a vessel sink?

Hard water mineral deposits come right off with white vinegar or lemon juice. Spray deposits with either and let soak 5-10 minutes. Scrub gently with a soft brush and rinse clean. For tougher stains, use a 50/50 vinegar water solution. Never use harsh chemical cleaners on vessel sink surfaces.

With their stylish design and exposed positioning, vessel sinks make an eye-catching focal point in any kitchen or bathroom. By choosing the perfect size, shape, and material for your space, you can install a vessel sink guaranteed to draw admiration. Follow proper care techniques, and your vessel sink will stay sparkling and damage-free for many years of beauty and convenience.


Vessel sinks are a unique alternative to standard sink styles, offering tons of aesthetic appeal. With proper selection and installation, they can be the crowning jewel that brings your bathroom or kitchen decor