This article will lead you though the steps of installing a vessel bathroom sink, with special consideration to glass vessel sinks, to help ensure a long, happy relationship between you and your sink.
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Guidelines for Installing a Vessel Sink
A vessel sink can be installed on the countertop (above counter mount) or sunk into the counter at varying heights (drop-in mount). Semi-recessed vessels are a hybrid of drop-in and vessel and are designed to sit so that the bottom of the bowl is below counter height, while the rim is several inches above the counter top.
Figure 1 – Above counter mount installation
For an above counter installation, you will need to cut a hole in the counter large enough to accommodate the entire drain assembly as shown in Figure 1, but small enough that it is hidden by the base of the sink. If the bottom of your vessel is flat, the installation is straightforward. For this type of sink we recommend applying a bead of silicone under the vessel and around the edge to prevent water on the countertop from working its way underneath the sink.
If the sink has a rounded bottom, as with most glass vessels, you have two installation options. You can either use a vessel mounting ring as shown in Figure 1, or you will need to cut a custom fit mounting hole directly in the countertop as shown in Figure 2.
Mounting rings are available at most home centers, or online, and come in several finishes to coordinate with your faucet and drain. A ring elevates and helps to stabilize the sink.
Figure 2 – Drop in, or Semi-recessed installation
To mount the vessel into the countertop in a semi-recessed installation, you will need to cut a beveled hole 3” to 4” in diameter in the countertop. If the vessel is larger the hole should be 5” to 6” for greater stability. To lower the level of the sink, simply enlarge the hole.
To determine the hole size, use a piece of cardboard. Cut a hole 3” in diameter in the cardboard and place it under the sink for a rough visualization of where the sink will sit. Cut larger holes until you find the perfect placement for your sink. Be sure to keep the height of your faucet in mind during this experiment.
Whichever mounting method you use, you must attach the drain to the vessel before installing the sink in the counter surface. (See Figure 3)
Figure 3 – Attaching the drain to the vessel
Drains for vessel sinks come in overflow and non-overflow types. If your vessel has an overflow you will need a standard drain. However, most vessels do not have an overflow and require a vessel drain. Vessel drains come in many styles and finishes. The grid drain has a grid finish plate which lets the water flow out of the basin while preventing larger objects from heading down the drain. Pop up drains allow you to fill your sink with water and can be used with most vessel sinks. However this drain type is not recommended for glass sinks.
A SPECIAL CAUTION FOR GLASS VESSEL SINKS
When installing a glass vessel there are two special techniques you must follow.
First: be sure to provide a cushion between the glass and the counter. This can be a bead of silicone, or a specialized rubber liner placed between the hole in your counter and the bottom of your sink. If you choose to use silicone, allow the bead to dry before installing the sink. The bead will act as a cushion between the sink and the countertop material. Once the sink is in place, seal the joint from the top and the bottom with another application of adhesive.
Second: you must not over tighten the drain assembly when you attach it to the sink. Tighten the drain by hand only, never use a wrench. Over-tightening will subject your glass sink to stress and very likely cause cracking, if not immediately, then at some time in the future. The breakage we see with glass vessels is almost always associated with an improper installation of the drain or as a result of thermal shock due to a rapid change in water temperature.