Complete Guide to Vessel Sinks

White vessel sink with wooden cabinet next to hanging towel and houseplant

The Spruce / Faith Provencher

One of the main benefits of a vessel sink is that it can be a visually striking focal point in the bathroom, adding a touch of style and personality to the space. The vessel sink is separate from the counter and can be easily wiped down. Some people may prefer vessel sinks for their unique appearance, while others may choose them for their practicality and ease of use.

With vessel sinks, personal preferences do vary and opinions can be divided. Some like the sleek, modern, and highly unusual look, while others may prefer the traditional look of an embedded sink. Some may like vessel sinks for their easy maintenance and cleaning, while others may find them inconvenient because they require the use of a separate faucet and because the countertop is more difficult to clean.

What a Vessel Sink Is

A vessel sink is a basin that sits on top of a bathroom vanity or counter, rather than being inset like traditional drop-in or under-mount sinks. Vessel sinks are found only in bathrooms, not kitchens, as their size and style would not be practical for the kitchen environment.

More specifically, vessel sinks tend to be found in decorative bathrooms, such as powder rooms or guest bathrooms, where the sinks are used less often.

Vessel Sink Materials

The vessel sink basin can be any material, but the most popular materials are porcelain, glass, metal, stone, and synthetic materials.


Ceramic vessel sinks are most often made from fired clay, or porcelain, a material known for its durability and economy. Porcelain vessel sinks can be glazed in a variety of colors and patterns, making them a popular choice for homeowners looking to add a decorative touch to their bathrooms. One downside of using porcelain for vessel sinks is that porcelain is prone to chipping or cracking.


Tempered glass vessel sinks are known for their sleek, modern appearance. Whether clear, frosted, or tinted, glass vessel sinks are eye-catching and easy to maintain. One downside of glass vessel sinks is that they are not as durable as other materials, as they can crack or scratch if subjected to heavy use or impact.


Metal vessel sinks made from copper, brass, or stainless steel can be polished to a glossy shine or left with a more matte finish, depending on the bathroom style. Metal vessel sinks are generally easy for do-it-yourselfers to install, as they can be mounted with a simple mounting ring. Metal vessel sinks may eventually scratch or dent, but they will never shatter or crack, as with glass or porcelain vessel sinks.


Stone vessel sinks are made from composite materials such as granite and marble, with additives such as resins. Few stone vessel sinks are carved from blocks of stone; most are made from stone composite material. Stone vessel sinks can be quite heavy, so they may require additional support when installed.

Synthetic Materials

Resin or acrylic vessel sinks offer the basic look of porcelain or stone, but at a lower price point. These sinks are generally lightweight and easy to install, but may not be as durable as sinks made from other materials.

Types of Vessel Sink Installations

There are two distinct types of vessel sink installations, above-counter and recessed:


The vessel sink basin rests completely on top of the counter or vanity. When people think of vessel sinks, above-counter just might be the version they have in mind. After a drain hole of 1-5/8 inch to 1-3/4 inch is drilled, no additional cutting of the countertop is required.


Recessed installation allows for greater basin stability. A hole greater than the diameter of the drain hole, but smaller than the sink diameter, is cut into the countertop. This allows the sink basin to rest about halfway down.

Pros and Cons of Vessel Sinks


  • Style: Add panache to your bathroom for relatively little money.
  • Changeability: Because vessel sinks are not stuck in place (as drop-in sinks are), they can be changed out fairly easily.
  • Space: You can gain a bit of extra counter room because the vessel sink basin takes up less space than recessed sinks.
  • Installation: Avoid costly and difficult sink cut-outs. You need only one hole cut out for the drain pipe.


  • Durability: Because of the exposed edges of the basin, glass and porcelain vessel sinks are prone to chipping and breakage.
  • Stability: Vessel sinks are secured only at one point, rather than the entire perimeter. A recessed vessel sink, which sinks about halfway into the vanity but not as far as a drop-in sink, adds greater stability.
  • Cleaning: Difficult to clean around the area where the vessel sink basin meets the vanity or countertop.
  • Overflow: Vessel sinks do not come with overflow relief drains.
  • Higher: The higher rim can be an issue for some users.
  • Unique style

  • Easy to change out

  • Gain a little countertop space

  • No counter cut-out, so easier to install

  • Some materials are not durable

  • Less stability

  • Counter difficult to clean

  • No overflow relief drain

  • High rim

Vessel Sink Considerations

Over time, the vessel sink you purchased may no longer be available and, if it breaks, you may not find an exact replacement. This would require altering the existing top.

You still need separate holes in the top for the faucet, unless you are installing a wall-mounted lavatory faucet.

Depending on the material of the top, you may need a professional to cut or drill the openings for the sink. In addition, if you decide to replace the sink in the future, the holes may need modification, which isn't always an easy task.

Installing a Vessel Sink

Within the category of sink installation, on a scale of one to 10, installing a vessel sink ranks around a three or four. In other words, vessel sink installation is decidedly not a mandatory professional-only installation. As a homeowner with little DIY skills, you can install your own vessel sink.

For the installation process for an above-counter vessel sink (rather than the recessed variety), it is important to note that your sink should come with a connecting ring that acts as an interface between the rounded bottom of the basin and the flat countertop. If not, then your sink basin may have a flat bottom that requires silicone caulking between the basin and counter.


When installing a glass vessel sink, you must have a connecting ring. Silicone caulk applied to the bottom side of a glass vessel sink will be visible through the top and will be unsightly.

Faucets for Vessel Sinks

One advantage of traditional drop-in sinks is that the aprons of these sinks have pre-drilled holes for the installation of faucets and handles. But how do you handle the matter of fixtures when it comes to vessel sinks?

  • Faucet configuration: Holes are drilled into the countertop or vanity to accommodate the faucet(s). It is entirely up to you whether you choose a single- or double-hole configuration.
  • Choose "vessel-sink" faucets: Faucets are often advertised as being specially made for vessel-sink faucets. What these manufacturers are advertising is that their faucets clear the high rim of the vessel sink basin. Faucet heights of 4 inches or greater should clear most vessel sink basin rims with plenty of room to spare.

Vessel Sink Cost

Not long ago, vessel sinks were exclusively high-end designer products. Now, with the surge in popularity of vessel sinks, homeowners at nearly any budget level can afford a vessel sink.

Prices for name-brand vessel sinks range from just around $120 to about ten times as much, or $1,200. These prices do not include installation, faucets, or vanities.

The average cost of vessel sinks is around $235.