Stainless Steel Buying Guide

Buying a new kitchen sink can be challenging. You need to decide on size and configuration, material, faucet, accessories, and other components. We know that you truly want the best for your kitchen, so today we’re going to complicate the process just a little bit more.

Well, truthfully, we are going to be clarifying a lot of questions that you may have regarding stainless steel sinks so that you can make an informed decision.

Vigo VG2320C
Vigo Single Bowl Undermount Sink

When you look at a description of a stainless steel sink, you’re typically accosted by several unfamiliar terms. To help you decode your sink, we’ve translated these terms into layperson-friendly explanations so that you can compare sinks and know what you’re getting.

Gauge

The word “gauge” in relation to stainless steel refers to the thickness of the steel. Most sinks use 16 to 22 gauge steel. The lower the number, the thicker the steel. For comparison’s sake, 16-gauge steel is .0625″ thick, while 22-gauge steel is .0313″ – less than half!

Elkay EFU402010
Elkay Avado Deep Triple Bowl Sink

A sink with a lower gauge is more durable and has a much better life expectancy. Thinner sinks are more prone to denting and damage and will echo when you wash your dishes. 16- or 18-gauge sinks use the highest-quality steel.

Grade

Stainless steel’s grade shows the percentage of chromium and nickel contained in the steel. 18/8 stainless, for example, contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel, an excellent ratio for stain resistance. The higher the grade numbers, the better the steel.

Blanco 440160
Blanco Niagara Equal Double Undermount Bowl

Series

The sink’s series is intertwined with its grade. Look for 300 series stainless steel; 304 is the most widely used, with 18/8 grade. Another common series is 316, also known as surgical grade or Marine grade, with 18/10 grade stainless steel.

Julien 004091
Julien Classic Single Bowl Worktop Sink

Trick of the trade: hold a magnet to the sink. If it sticks, it’s not 300 series.

Radius

This refers to the sink’s interior angles. A zero-radius sink has 90-degree angles in all corners for a sharp, modern appearance. These angles can be difficult to clean; a good alternative is a sink with a small radius (i.e. 1/2″ radius), which has flat walls and gives a squared-off impression, though the corners are slightly more curved for easier access.

To illustrate, a zero-radius sink looks like this:

Elkay Deep Single Bowl Sink with Work Surface
Elkay Deep Single Bowl Sink with Work Surface
Whitehaus Noah's Collection Brushed Stainless Steel Undermount Sink with Integral Drain Board
Whitehaus Noah’s Collection Brushed Stainless Steel Undermount Sink with Integral Drain Board

While a 1/2″ radius sink looks like this:

Lenova 1/2" Radius Equal Double Bowl Undermount
Lenova 1/2″ Radius Equal Double Bowl Undermount

Stamped vs. folded

When you see “stamped” or “folded” on a sink, that tells you how the sink was formed. Stainless sinks are created using two different methods:

  1. Stamping, in which the steel is heated and shaped using a mold, or
  2. Folding, when a sheet of steel is cut at the corners, then folded and fused to form the walls of the sink. Folded sinks are considered better quality due to uniform thickness throughout the entire sink, something that may be compromised when the steel is stretched for stamping.

See how the stamping process works here:

This sink, on the other hand, is folded:

Julien J7 Stainless Steel Undermount Double Bowl Kitchen Sink
Julien J7 Stainless Steel Undermount Double Bowl Kitchen Sink

Finish

The sink’s finish is largely a matter of preference. A mirror finish is extra shiny without a visible grain, which looks lovely but is the most prone to noticeable scratches and water spots.

Houzer Glowtone Reflection Topmount Stainless Steel Sink
Houzer Glowtone Reflection Topmount Stainless Steel Sink

Brushed and matte finishes are duller, while satin finish – most popular – is lustrous without being too shiny.

Barclay Anise Single Bowl Stainless Steel Angled Farmer Sink
Barclay Anise Single Bowl Brushed Stainless Steel Angled Farmer Sink
Elkay Gourmet Lustertone Single Bowl Undermount Sink

Soundproofing

Because stainless steel naturally produces a tinny sound and amplifies the sound of clattering dishes and silverware, many high-quality sinks are equipped with sound-deadening pads on the underside of the sink.

Rohl RSS1318
Rohl Single Bowl Stainless Steel Kitchen/Prep Sink

Now that you’re armed with this critical information, go out there and find your sink. You’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you made an informed decision.

Special thanks once again to Dov for his invaluable input. Without his knowledge, this post would be largely incomplete. Thanks, Dov!

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yael

1 thought on “Stainless Steel Buying Guide”

  1. Don’t EVER buy a stainless sink such as the Whitehaus Noah’s Collection Brushed Stainless Steel Undermount Sink. Mine has corners that are not molded and have seams. It is nigh to impossible to clean. To get into the corners you need a toothbrush or a Q-Tip. Sorry I didn’t realize that when I bought mine. Molded corners are so much easier.

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