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UNDERMOUNT SINK REVEAL: Negative or Positive?

Posted by Nathan Lott on 5/24/2012 to General Plumbing Info

Yesterday, I posted an article explaining Undermount Sink Reveal. Today I'd like to discuss the pro's and con's associated with the different options.

First of all, it might be a good idea to do a quick review:

  • POSITIVE REVEAL - the lip of the sink extends beyond the edge of the countertop.
  • NEGATIVE REVEAL - the countertop hangs over the edge of the sink.
  • ZERO REVEAL - the sink and the countertop are flush with one another.
Now let's discuss them one at a time...

Undermount Sink with Positive Reveal POSITIVE REVEAL - One reason people love sinks with positive reveal is purely aesthetic; the "step" created by the lip of the sink just looks good! It makes a nice transition from countertop to sink. Plus, you'll find that many undermount sinks nowadays have been designed specifically for a positive reveal. Oftentimes, they will have a brightly polished rim that transitions into a brushed bowl -- and a slight positive reveal does a great job of showing that off.

Now, a little bit of positive reveal may look nice (especially if your sink was made with that in mind), but there are also a few con's to be aware of.... First of all, installing a sink with positive reveal is kind of a delicate operation. If your countertop isn't cut just exactly right, your sink will be sitting noticeably off-center -- and even the smallest mistakes are usually quite apparent. So if you're going for a positive reveal, you'd better make sure you've hired an experienced fabricator.

Another complaint against positive reveal (although I've never actually heard if this has been confirmed or not) is the increased probability of your countertop edge chipping; some folks claim that countertops with positive reveal sinks tend to chip easier. Personally, I don't think that the amount of positive/negative reveal has any bearing on the durability of your countertop, but I have heard this complaint a few times, so I thought I'd post it.

The final complaint against positive reveal comes because there is a bit of a "step" from the countertop to the sink. Because of the additional ledge, there is a chance that crumbs and grime could collect as you wipe off the countertops. Now, you have to remember that one of the biggest advantages to Undermount Sinks in general is the fact that they make clean-up a bit easier -- so some people would argue that having a positive reveal actually defeats the purpose of an undermount sink. On the other hand, at least the cleaning area is easy to see and easy to wipe. It may take an extra swipe now and then, but I guess that's the price for beauty, right?

Undermount Sink with Negative Reveal NEGATIVE REVEAL - If you're looking for an ultra-modern look, negative reveal might be the way to go. You don't have the cascading transition from counter to sink -- there's just a crisp, clean contrast. Negative reveal is by far the easiest option for your fabricator to work with, because even if he is off by 1/8", it isn't readily apparent. In fact, you probably will never even notice! But the biggest advantage to negative reveal is the fact that there are no ledges for crumbs to accumulate!

There may not be a shelf or a step for crumbs and grime to collect, but there are still a few problems associated with negative reveal. Because the countertop hangs over the sink, there is a good chance that liquid (milk, water, juice, etc.) will splash back up and soil the underside of your countertop ledge. If you ask me, spills like this are pretty inevitable -- and because you can't usually see them, these spills can build up quite a bit without you even knowing about them. The remedy is pretty simple though:   just wipe around the rim of the sink periodically. It's really a piece of cake!

Undermount Sink with Zero Reveal ZERO REVEAL - Now you're probably thinking that a sink with zero reveal will solve all of these problems, right? You don't have any kind of a ledge -- nothing for crumbs to pile on, and nothing for liquids to splash back onto. But there are a few difficulties with zero reveal that you might have overlooked.

First of all, you'll find that some people don't like sinks with zero reveal because, depending on the shape of your sink, there is a possibility that you could get a lot of visible caulk or silicone between your sink and the countertop. If you are working with a skilled fabricator, however, the line of sealant will really be quite minimal.

And speaking of fabricators, if you thought installing a sink with positive reveal was difficult, then you're in for a real shock when it comes to zero reveal! The hole in the countertop has to be cut to exact perfection in order for things to be mounted flush with one another. There is absolutely no room for error! But again, if you're working with a fabricator who really knows what he's doing (and is willing to take the time and effort to get things done right), you really have nothing to worry about.

So when it all comes down to it, the type of reveal (and the amount of reveal) is entirely your decision. There are pro's and con's associated with each of the different options -- but at least now you know a bit more about them. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them. We'd love to hear what you have to say!

Searching for an Undermount Kitchen Sink? Search through the most popular category here at Direct Plumbing Supply - the Nantucket Sinks Undermount Kitchen Sinks, which feature some of the stylish and modern Zero Radius Sinks as well as Farmhouse or Apron Front. Check them out here!

Andre Date 8/30/2013
We did kitchen remodel and went with custom granite countertop. When everything was installed we noticed this what you call “positive reveal” of the sink and were really unhappy. We were told that is how the sink manufacturer is requiring the installation of the sink (Mont Blanc warebrooks); however, the manufacturer is saying is totally optional and we should have been consulted with. The template the manufacturer has on their website has .25 positive reveal and has some notes saying “reveal modifications is not recommended” I contacted the contractors and the store (Ikea) and both are very hard to work with and they don't like to do anything to fix the problem pointing out that the note required them to follow the template exactly. After reading some facts you posted here about positive reveal I started appreciating it a bit more but still the thought of more maintenance and possible chipping of caulk is making me uncomfortable. Do you think we should stand our grounds and request the change whatever it takes or accept this bad customer service? Thanks Andrey
Hollway Date 5/25/2014
Hi there! I could have sworn I've visited this website before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it's new to me. Nonetheless, I'm definitely happy I stumbled upon it and I'll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!
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