“There really is not much difference between indoor and outdoor sinks, but higher quality products will perform better and for longer than less expensive ones,” explains Mitch Slater, president of Danver, a manufacturer of outdoor kitchen cabinetry. Prices tend to increase with the size of the sink and the thickness and quality of the steel. But the price of the hardware normally is only a fraction of what it costs to run the plumbing.
Cost range: $100-$500 and up
Likely additional costs: Faucet, sink strainer, plumbing
Average life span: 5-10 years
Material of choice
“Sinks live in water all the time, so there really is no restriction on the types used in outdoor kitchens,” says Slater. Although he sees everything from hand-hammered copper to ceramic farmhouse-style sinks in ritzy applications, the overwhelming material of choice is stainless steel.
But all stainless steel is not created equal. Slater urges buyers to look for sinks built of grade 304 stainless, also called 18/8, because of the alloy’s higher resistance to corrosion. Less expensive sinks will be made from grade 430 stainless, a ferrous metal more susceptible to pitting and rust. “Try the magnet test,” he suggests. “If it sticks to the sink, it’s not 304.”
“Sinks will increase in dollars as they move from thinner to thicker gauge stainless,” says Slater. With steel, the lower the gauge, the more substantial the metal. Thickness is largely a matter of cosmetics rather than performance, he adds. Lower-cost 20-gauge sinks will have a “tinny” sound and feel when items are placed into the bowl.
In contrast, hefty 16-gauge bowls offer pleasant resistance to the weight of heavy objects. To save some money while still enjoying some peace and quiet, shoppers should seek out 20-gauge sinks that have been sprayed with an undercoating of sound-dampening substance.
Size and style
Size and style will often be dictated by the layout and design of a homeowner’s outdoor kitchen. Bar sinks are the smallest category, requiring little more than a foot in either direction and about half that for depth.
Single-bowl sinks are the next larger size, featuring 20- to 25-inch widths and 10-inch depths. Double-bowl sinks generally run the same depth, but their widths balloon to around 33 inches. Popular styles include round, oval, and zero radius—sleek square or rectangular sinks with 90-degree corners.
Stainless steel sinks come in a highly polished mirror finish or the easier-to-maintain brushed satin. Fans of undermounted sinks, those installed below the countertop, should select a model designed for that application.
Homeowners can expect to pay as little as $100 for a single-bowl 18-gauge stainless steel sink. For a double-bowl 16-gauge steel sink, the price would more than double, to around $250. A roomy, top-of-the-line, zero-radius undermount sink can jump to $500 and higher.
If you enjoy the timeless appeal of a weathered copper basin, expect to pay up to $1,000 for a large farmhouse-style sink. While many of these sinks come with a limited lifetime warranty, Slater notes that these warranties may not apply to outdoor use. It’s important to examine the fine print before the purchase.
The most expensive part of an outdoor sink is going to be tying it into the home’s plumbing system. Hot and cold (or just cold, depending on the sink) water lines must be run from the house and thoroughly insulated to protect against freezing.
Also, the sink’s drainage must be routed to the municipal wastewater system. Prices will vary widely based on distance from the house, access to the sewer system, and even the locality. A licensed plumber can charge anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for a typical job.
Outdoor sinks need to be cleaned more frequently than their indoor counterparts, especially stainless, which can discolor if leaves or other debris are allowed to linger. Before winter, homeowners in cold climes must shut off the water supply and drain the lines to prevent the freezing and bursting of pipes. A good-fitting cover will protect the sink from rain, snow, and debris, extending its life.
This budget-friendly category ($100 to $200) of outdoor sinks is largely comprised of portable plastic carts outfitted with a plastic basin. Ideal for the garden enthusiast, these rigs can be wheeled from garage to patio as needed, or simply left in place all season.
More expensive—and attractive—units priced around $500 are constructed of weather-resistant woods like teak and, while still portable, are designed to have a more permanent place in the landscape. Water for both types is supplied from a basic garden hose that is fed up through a cold-only faucet.
Drainage on these sinks must be carefully considered. Every municipality has its own rules regarding the disposal of greywater, the non-hazardous drainage from tubs, showers, and sinks. Some require that the runoff be diverted into the home’s wastewater system rather than onto the lawn. Catch basins beneath the sinks are often used to contain the limited amount of water that is discharged.
As in the case of sinks, faucets used in outdoor applications are no different from those installed indoors. Look for faucets constructed of solid brass as opposed to plastic or chromed metal, as the latter will wear out in a shorter time.
Avoid compression faucets that employ rubber washers or seals, as they fail quicker in outdoor installations than those that feature polished ceramic discs. Finishes run the gamut from polished chrome to weathered bronze, and designs range from low-profile faucets to high-arching spouts with pull-out spray heads. Prices start around $30 for a chromed metal faucet and climb to $400 for an elegant high-arching model with pull-out spray head.