Fixing a design flaw that’s also an industry standard

7 June 2021

We recently replaced the countertops in our kitchen and so naturally, we also installed a new sink. After some research, we went with a ledge workstation sink from Create Good Sinks.

a stainless steel undermount kitchen sink with a built-in ledge that holds a cutting board
Not my sink, but you get the gist!

They’re pricey! But your kitchen sink is something you will likely never replace again (especially if it’s undermount) and it’s the tool in your kitchen you use the most. So we splurged.

The ledge workstation features are nice, but what made it worth the extra money is it fixes an almost universal kitchen sink design flaw (at least in the US).

Chris Coyier actually describes this design flaw nicely in a recent blog post:

It shouldn’t be so hard to replace the rubber splash guard on sink garbage disposals. You need to be a friggin master plumber to get at that thing, and yet it’s the thing that gets gross and needs replacing the most. It’s a conspiracy.

It’s true! But it’s also the standard.

Our new sink was designed to eliminate the permanently-puttied sink ring that catches all the gunk.

comparison shot of typical, gunky sink drain and a clean, seamless design

And it makes the splash guard easily removable so you can wash it by hand or put it in the dishwasher. 🙀😻

person removes splash guard from sink and rinses it under faucet

Believe me when I say I sometimes just stand in my kitchen to admire this. It’s a perfect example of asking “Why the heck is it like this?” and making a much needed improvement.

But changing an industry standard has consequences!

The sink comes with a special drain kit that enables attachment to the most popular brands of garbage disposals. The plumber we hired (a lifelong tradesman) had to read instructions to install our disposal. This is something he could normally do with his eyes closed. He said he appreciated the challenge, but I can imagine not everyone would.

There’s also the problem of future problems. If something goes wrong or breaks, I can’t roll down to Home Depot and pick up a replacement. It’ll take a special order from this specific company and what if they eventually go out of business? What then?

And if I ever sell this house, the next person won’t know the sink’s features (and potential issues) unless I leave them some documentation.

Fixing this design flaw (and changing the standard) affects the people who interact with it and the other tools that integrate with it. There’s absolutely risk in moving away from what people have been trained to expect.

For this decision, the ripple of influence felt small as I weighed the tradeoffs. Can I convince a plumber to try a new technique or am I prepared to do this myself? Am I willing to bet on the future of a random sink company in Ohio or to buy extra parts in anticipation of needing them?

In the end I was ready to risk these things. Popping that splash guard out to clean it is so nice. And the seamless drain pleases my design sensibilities every single day.

Ideally this design fix and selling point becomes the standard. Kitchen sink users, we deserve better. Kitchen sink designers, it’s not too late to improve a lasting design.

Back to Thoughts