A kitchen remodel presents a great opportunity for designers to find out if a second sink — ideal for entertaining and food preparation — would be useful to homeowners. To determine need, most designers start by asking the homeowners how they will use the kitchen.

Debbie Kitchin asks her clients a lot of questions to evaluate their need for a second sink. But the owner of InterWorks in Portland, Ore., says the most useful information is what they don't like about their existing kitchen. “It is easier for them to relate to that — how they want to correct those issues,” she says.

Michigan remodeler Gene Pindzia says his clients are often excited about the idea of a second sink but then end up not using it. “I've gone back to various clients and you can see the sink doesn't get used,” says the owner of Riverside Custom Design & Remodeling in Grosse Pointe. He only encourages households with two or more cooks or those that do a lot of entertaining to include them, because the additional sink cuts down on cooking clutter.

Stewart Davis, design director for CG&S Design-Build in Austin, Texas, specifies a second sink in 25% of his projects. “Most clients like the idea at the beginning, but when costs begin to add up, they cut this element,” Davis says.

Debbie Kitchin places second sinks where they don't interfere with the primary sink.
Jeff Krausse Debbie Kitchin places second sinks where they don't interfere with the primary sink.

Place Setting

Once designers decide to include a second sink, they have to evaluate placement. Davis ties the preparation sink, rather than the main sink, to the cooking area. A good arrangement, he says, is to have the prep sink near the range or cooktop. “You can chop and scrape and dice while facing the cooking area,” he says. In most cases, he installs the smaller sink in the island, but he says it can work in an L-shaped kitchen with a large sink on one leg and a smaller sink on the other leg.

Having the second sink in the island allows someone who is preparing food to still be part of the cooking process. Davis cautions designers to provide enough counter space — at least 30 inches — between the cooking equipment and prep sink.

The spacing, he says, dictates the minimum size of an island that includes a second sink. “If the sink is 18 inches wide, and you have 24 to 30 inches on either side, that means the island has to have a minimum length of 66 inches.”

Kitchin acknowledges that the most common design flaw with second sinks is not providing enough counter space around it Her rule of thumb is a minimum of the width of the sink on both sides.

When Pindzia installs a second sink in an island, he keeps it on one side to give clients a large expanse of useful space, but he is still careful to provide at least 12 inches of counter space on the other side. Pindzia says many homes in his area were built with a butler's pantry. For clients who entertain a lot, he recommends a sink in this area. “It breaks up the long lines of the pantry,” he says.

When he installs a second sink in a granite or solid surface countertop, Pindzia prefers to use an undermount sink. “With a laminate or a wood top, I would use a drop-in sink to prevent water from getting to the wood,” Pindzia says.

Davis says it is easy to sweep food particles into an undermount sink. However, undermounting is not recommended in butcher block because the glued hard woods are susceptible to water damage. “If you overlap the edge, you protect the exposed end grain. It is my understanding that manufacturers of butcher block won't stand behind it once it's cut,” Davis says.

Mix, Match, and Storage Once the sink has found a spot, designers need to consider nearby storage. Davis says for clients who are willing to pay, he specifies drawer-type refrigerators. “It is handy to have fruits and vegetables near the prep sink.” On some island projects, he provides open shelves nearby to hold the blender and food processor. He also provides storage for cutting boards, or a pull-out trash drawer, and good lighting.

On one project where the second sink was primarily used for entertaining, Kitchin installed a dishwasher drawer next to the prep sink. The mini-kitchen area also has an undercounter refrigerator. Around prep sinks, she provides drawers for knives and serving utensils, and in some cases, the sink includes a garbage disposer. She prefers having a small sink that has two compartments — one shallow and one deep.

Pindzia says most of his clients choose stainless steel prep sinks that are 12 to 14 inches wide, but some choose contrasting materials like burnished copper or hammered copper.

Kitchin adds that faucet choice is crucial. “Make sure they are appropriate for the size of the sink. If you have a powerful faucet and a small sink, water will splash out,” Kitchin says.

  • Tips for Second Sinks

    Make sure dirty dishes can travel directly from the dining table to the clean-up area without crossing the path of the prep area.

  • A single, deep-bowled sink is usually most appropriate.
  • The second sink should be at least 16 inches wide if it includes a garbage disposer.
  • A good prep sink should be deep enough to handle the biggest pots and rinsing, soaking, and washing tasks.
  • The sink should be flush with the countertop or undermounted so food scraps can be easily swept from counter to basin.
  • Setting the sink at one end of an island gives you a large, continuous space for prep work.

Tips are excerpted from Kitchen Design with Cooking in Mind by Donald Silvers, CKD. To order a copy, call (800) 900-4761 or visit www.donsilvers.com.