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You can buy a stainless steel sink at just about every home center, hardware store and even some “we have everything from cow feed to tv’s store” So how do you buy? What should you buy? What manufacturers are best? Read below as we give you answers to the aforementioned questions and our thoughts about one of the most popular materials used in the kitchen, lavatory, foodservice, and institutional sinks.
Standard Double Bowl Drop-In Stainless Steel Sink
What are the Types of Stainless Steel Used to Manufacture Sinks?
This is probably the most important dynamic is buying a stainless steel sink for any use. Sinks are most commonly made using two (2) types of stainless steel.
- 1The first is T-201 stainless steel contains between 16% and 18% Chromium but the nickel content is only 3.5%-5.5%, sinks made of this material are cheap and much less durable. Household cleaner detergents tend to be aggressive to this metal. Steer clear if possible.
- 2The other is T-304 stainless is made with between 18% and 20% Chromium and between 8% and 11% nickel. In layman’s terms it is way more durable, doesn’t discolor or stain except under extreme heat, it will not rust and is naturally resistant to most household chemicals. To be fair we don’t know of any major stainless steel manufacturer here in the US that uses anything other than 304. Watch for cheap imported stainless steel sinks.
Stainless Steel Wall Thickness is Important
Although metal thickness is important for durability especially with regards to dents and dings it is not nearly as important as spray-on sound deadening. We’ll explain that in a second. Suffice to say the thicker the sink the more durable and/or expensive it will cost. However, there are some 20 gauge sinks with fine finishes and 16 gauge sinks with coarse finishes so gauge does not necessarily mean you’ll have a better finish. The below is a brief description of the common thicknesses you will find online and in the stores.
- 16 gauge – this the thickest stainless steel offered “off the shelf” for lavatories and kitchen sinks. When buying a sink of this gauge you can expect the best finish and the sink typically has very good sound deadening.
- 18 gauge – this is the most popular gauge for high-end kitchen and lavatory sinks. Very nice satin finish very good sound deadening qualities. This is also the preferred thickness in most commercial stainless steel sinks; kitchen sinks this thick can handle even the heaviest pots and pans in the busiest commercial kitchens. Manufacturers produce sinks in this gauge in every size and shape you can imagine. As a side note manufacturers that can produce fine finishes usually offer them on this gauge.
- 20 gauge – this gauge of the sink is what you typically see in the home centers. Its finish is usually OK but it tends to be a little rougher, the grains coarser. Your range of sizes and shapes begins to get limited in this gauge but there is still a wide variety to choose from.
- 23 gauge – this is the thinnest gauge of metal offered and the thinnest we would recommend you buy. Its finish is what you would expect in a very cheap sink. It is typically manufactured in a very limited range of sizes and shapes. This a “builders special” sink.
Undercoating is Super Important
One of the stainless steels inherent drawbacks is its ability to transmit sound. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment which I’m assuming most of our readers have at one time or another you know first hand what it sounds like to drop a glass or mug in a cheap stainless steel sink. It sounds like a gong and usually scares the crap out of you.
Sound dampening undercoating
Not all sound deadening or dampening is created equal, Mark Hird from Elkay USA was nice enough to go over their proprietary sound deadening which as you can imagine gets better with each price point. These different levels of undercoating are by no means universal amongst stainless steel manufacturers. So this is something you can ask your plumbing professional or supplier about. Please also be advised that the undercoating also serves a secondary purpose, it insulates the bowl lessening condensation. So here are Elkay’s levels of sound damping:
- Entry Price Point – undercoating is just sprayed on the bottom of the sink. It isn’t much but it’s something.
- Mid Price Point – Undercoating is sprayed under the entire bowl; bottom and sides. This is a very popular starting point with stainless steel.
- High-End Price Point – Undercoating is sprayed under the entire bowl; bottom and sides but it is sprayed on with a thicker coating, so you never have to worry about scaring your neighbors each time you accidentally drop your dishes while washing them. Stainless steel sinks at this price are beginning to get pricey, think $400.00+
- Premium Price Point – At this point, Elkay sprays a thick layer of undercoating as well as places vibration isolation pads in strategic locations under the sink for maximum sound deadening properties. With this level of detail, you can expect to pay premium prices from $600.00 to $1,300.00+ depending on the size and shape of the bowl.
Things to Help You Decide Which Stainless Steel Sink is Right
Aside from functionality, there is no doubt you’d also want to add a little of beauty to your kitchen by installing the right kitchen sink. Fortunately for you, there are several types of sinks to choose from; you will never run out of options. True, granite sinks look exquisite, but with the number of world-class manufacturers competing to provide the best value for consumers, you’ll find that even Home Depot stainless steel sinks are capable of giving your kitchen that gorgeous look.
When you are thinking about purchasing a stainless steel sink think about the size of the cabinet you are putting the sink in. Elkay has a ridiculous variety of sizes and bowl types, by far the most extensive of any of the stainless steel manufacturers.
What will you be doing in the sink? We know that sounds like a silly question but how functional do you want your sink to be? Do you have big pans you need to clean? The radius of the sink makes a huge difference in usable space inside the sink. A sink with vertical zero radius corners or small radius corners has more usable space. The bowls have no or very little curve to the bottom of the bowl. In addition, the horizontal radius is can be more important because glasses/stemware won’t tip over or slide towards the center of the bowl because it is basically flat.
Make sure you take a look at the depth of the bowl. A bowl that is 6” deep isn’t super usable in a non-ADA residential application. 9” – 12” is a more desirable bowl depth in a residential application. Are looking to buy American? For some, it isn’t important but for others, it’s a big deal. There are only four domestic manufacturers of stainless steel sinks in the US and they are Elkay, Just, Moen and Franke. Please don’t chime in that you know of others, there are plenty of job shop manufacturers of stainless steel sinks but they are specialty manufacturers and they do not have a full line of sinks.
Pay attention to the sinks finish. Domestic finishes are different from European finishes i.e. Moen, Just, Elkay vs. Franke, Oliveri, Blanco. The domestic finishes are left to right while the European are circular. Which is better? That’s for you to decide. So get off the fence, you ask? Which is the best stainless steel sink? That question has many answers and we will attempt to be as clear as possible with our explanation.
Caring for Your Stainless Steel Sink
The kitchen sink is where we wash our dishes, fruits, and vegetables. It is therefore crucial that we keep it clean and sanitized all the time. However, not all cleaning solutions and material are suitable for cleaning your stainless steel basin sink.
What Do You Use to Clean Stainless Steel Sinks?
To preserve the beauty and quality of your sink, only use stainless steel sink cleaner designed specifically for stainless steel. A specially-formulated stainless steel cleaner will help keep your sink looking new longer. Additionally, avoid using abrasive pads and cleaning solutions that contain bleach. It is also best to wipe your kitchen sink dry with a soft towel each time you finish washing the dishes as allowing water to air-dry form dull-looking water deposits on the surface of your sink.
How to Remove Stains From Stainless Steel Sinks?
It may sound tempting to remove stains and disinfect your stainless steel sink and countertop with chlorinated bleach and a scouring pad, but realize that this method will likely ruin the sink. Try using a paste of baking soda and water instead, and, using a soft brush, rub on the stain until it fades away. Rinse it off with vinegar to naturally disinfect your sink and countertop. You might want to leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing it off with your faucet rinser. If you wish to keep your sink looking new for a very long time, try to find a good stainless steel sink protector specially created for this purpose.
FAQ About Choosing the Best Stainless Steel Sinks
The kitchen sink and countertop are not only the most functional areas in your kitchen; they are also the most noticeable. The way they look, therefore, can add so much aesthetic value to this important part of your home. Below are more tips to help you find the best stainless steel sinks that suit your needs and preferences.
Which Brand Is Best for a Custom Kitchen Sink?
If we were advising a homeowner that was building an 8 million-dollar home and they wanted custom sinks you, can’t beat Elkay. Their finish is as nice as any and they have the largest variety of sizes and shapes. Elkay is the leader in commercial, industrial and institutional type sinks but doesn’t get the respect it deserves for making some of the best sinks in the world. If we were advising a home/condo owner on putting in a premium sink for their kitchen you can’t do any better than going with Franke.
Which Brand Offers the Best Value for Your Money?
If a middle-class family wanted an upscale look and a ton of value for the money we would suggest Oliveri out of Australia. Very nice stuff at a mid-price point.
Which Kitchen Sink Offers Both Beauty and Affordability?
If we were advising a building owner on a rehab or new building and they were buying many sinks and wanted to stay in the upscale end of stainless we would suggest Kindred (Franke) They tend to be very competitive on job quotes and it’s a very nice sink. If a plumbing contractor was going to do the plumbing for a 500 home subdivision and they wanted quality but at a super affordable price we would suggest Just.
What Type Of Sink Is Easiest to Install?
If you are looking into installing the sink yourself, overmount sinks, also known as top mount sink, are the best option. But if you wish to utilize every inch of your countertop, opt for stainless steel sinks undermount that you attach to the underside of your kitchen cabinet. This option can also be nice to look at and will make countertops easy to clean, but it is likely that you’d need the help of an expert in installing this type of sink.
We certainly hope you enjoyed the article and hope it helps you buy the perfect stainless steel sink for you. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask.