Buying Guide for Stainless Steel Sinks
When we consider that the kitchen sink will probably be the most used and abused appliance/fixture in your kitchen, selecting the correct stainless steel kitchen sink is a decision that should not be taken lightly.
If you have already made the decision to buy a stainless steel sink, you are on the right track, as stainless steel is by far the most durable and easy-to-maintain material available for kitchen sinks.
True--it is not for everybody ... and it has its drawbacks. The surface can scratch, water spots can appear and it tends to be a little noisier.
By taking considerable care and maintenance of stainless steel sinks (LINK
), all of those issues can be minimized.
SELECTING A COUNTERTOP
The first step in selecting a kitchen sink is selecting a countertop. Depending on your choice of material, you may be limited to a specific type of sink.
For example, if you are installing a solid surface countertop, you do have the option of selecting a self-rimming (drop-in) or an undercounter sink.
However,if you are installing a Formica top, you will be limited to self-rimming sinks only which limits your choices even more since there aren't many choices available in self-rimming sinks.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT GAUGE
The next important decision is choosing the gauge.
Stainless steel sinks come in thicknesses ranging from 24-gauge to 16-gauge (16-gauge being the thickest gauge used for residential sinks).
If you elected to purchase an undercounter sink, choosing the right gauge becomes of paramount importance since replacing an undercounter sink becomes a very expensive and time-consuming proposition.
If you can imagine, having a thicker gauge will make a difference in how much it can tolerate abuse.
It also makes a difference in how the sink sounds.
If you are looking for a self-rimming sink for a rental unit, a 22-gauge will be appropriate for that type of installation.
The price diffference between the different gauges is exponentially higher as the numbers go lower.
In the last three years, the 16-gauge has been used as a marketing ploy by importers.
In reality, a true 18-gauge sink will be more than sufficient for residential use.
Some manufacturers will use 18-gauge material on the deck and a lesser gauge on the bowl. This brings us to another important criteria when selecting your stainless steel sink.
Most 18-gauges use a three-piece construction process, that is, each bowl is punched from one piece of stainless steel and the deck from a separate piece.
Since sinks are punched using punch presses exerting thousands of pounds of pressure, these presses will have to stretch the metal far enough to form a bowl out of a flat piece of stainless steel. The stretching process will make for a thinner final gauge.
SOUND ATTENUATING SYSTEM
Another important component in the construction of a stainless steel sink is the sound attenuating system.
There are two types of sound attenuating systems used by sink manufacturers: (1) Sound deadening pads and (2) sound deadening spray coatings.
By comparison, the two are similar. No type is better than the other. The sound deadening pads generally cover the bottom of the surface of the sink (the sides, in some cases), but still leave some blank spots.
On the other hand, the sound deadening spray coatings covers all the surfaces. Although it is not as effective as the pads, it greatly reduces sound.
There are a few brands that will play it safe and combine both methods. Kingston Brass makes their sinks one of the best when it comes to sound deadening.
LAYOUT AND DISTRIBUTION
After selecting the gauge and the type of sound attenuation system, we should talk about the actual layout and distribution for the sink.
Historically, a two-bowl configuration has been the most widely used type of sink.
With that configuration, there are more choices to be made as far as the proportion of each bowl. The most common is the 50/50 configuration but because people's particular cooking styles vary, some people prefer a 60/40, a 70/30 or even an 80/20 configuration.
In this case there is no right or wrong answer. It is more a matter of personal preference.
As lifestyles change, people depend more on dishwashers. The single bowl sink has become very popular as it allows you to wash large pots and pans, even a baking sheet.
Aesthetically, we have gone from standard bowl to D-shaped bowl to zero radius sinks.
The decision will be based more on aesthetics than function. As of late, there has been a new popular style (or resurgence of an old style) known as farmhouse sinks.
Farmhouse sinks were popular in England and France back in the latter 19th-20th Century.
The look of the farmhouse sink is exposed on the front part, better known as an apron.
While it serves no functional purpose, and a bit difficult to install (as it requires special preparation of the cabinet), it is the type of decor that will evoke that country style feeling, a home style charm.
In closing, selecting a stainless steel sink is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It is recommended that you ask questions. But more than anything, assess what aesthetic values and functional qualities you feel is important. Try to combine both of these parameters into one to find the perfect sink for you.