Ask the Contractor: All about stainless steel sinks

Once a stainless steel sink is scratched, it stays scratched, so use protective rubber grids

We have a stainless steel sink and the bottom has been scratched from pots and pans. Are lower gauge stainless sinks harder than higher gauge stainless and can the scratches be removed?

— Glenn, Prescott

I phoned a “friend lifeline,” Kim Gagnon owner of The Plumbing Store, and Kim said that all stainless steel sinks, regardless of the gauge, will scratch. And once scratched, a stainless steel sink will forever and always be scratched. Kim recommended that homeowners with stainless sinks should be using the rubber protective grids that fit into the bottom of the sink and for that matter, homeowners with porcelain sinks should also using protective rubber grids. Now porcelain sinks can be repaired and scratches removed.

A stainless steel sink’s gauge is its thickness; the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Consequently, a 16-gauge stainless steel sink is made of stainless steel that is thicker than that used to make an 18-gauge sink.

Stainless steel is an obvious choice for a kitchen sink because it cleans up quickly and has a great pro look. But once you get past the key design questions, such as one compartment or two, under-mount or over-mount, you should then base your buying decision on other, less obvious factors that affect quality and value. We talked with several local plumbers and asked for tips.

Every plumber we called said you should not lose sleep over 16 gauge vs. 18 gauge; however when you get up to 20 gauge and higher, the metal is more prone to denting and vibrating, and less able to handle a garbage disposal.

Another word of caution is that high-gauge drop-ins can be especially thin around the edges, making them ill-equipped to support the heavier weight of a quality faucet.

Six-inch-deep basins are inexpensive to make, they splash and can’t hold much water. A 9- or 10-inch sink, on the other hand, is much larger and holds more. Keep in mind that an under-mount ends up another inch or so lower. As with anything nowadays, shape matters as well. You get more volume with square corners, straight sides and a flat bottom, but soft angles allow for easy cleaning and good drainage.

DID YOU KNOW?

A sink made of stainless steel can be noisier than a sink made of some other materials. If you opt for stainless, choose a model with a sound-absorbing pad underneath.

Always look for rubbery undercoatings and pads, which deaden the sound of running water and clattering silverware, and also reduce condensation in the base cabinet. If the sink sounds like a steel drum, it’s either lightweight, has no under coating or pads or both.

Stainless steel is ranked to reflect its contents. You want 300 series, or about 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel for optimal corrosion- and stain-resistance. The sink should also have a lustrous satin finish, which will develop a better patina over time than matte-finish stainless steel. Tip: If the sink holds a magnet, it is not 300 series.

Stainless steel is a hugely popular kitchen sink material. Remember, in today’s market, you’ll find basic, cheap stainless steel sinks as well as complex models that cost a lot more. You’ll find sinks in varying thicknesses, from around 23 gauge (thinnest) to 16 or 17 gauge.

Pros for stainless steel: It’s often the least expensive option. Resistant to rust and stains. Durable and easy to clean.

Cons: The industrial look of stainless steel doesn’t appeal to everyone. Hard water and fingerprints can leave marks, and scratches cannot be removed.

Selecting a Size

How wide should your sink be? The most popular width is 30 inches; 25 inches is a sensible minimum. However, those who live in cramped quarters may find a 15-inch sink more appropriate.

As for depth, it is advisable to not go with anything less than six inches deep. A sink that’s nine or 10 inches deep provides plenty of capacity while remaining comfortable.

Top-mount sinks are known as a drop-in. This type of sink is fitted through a hole in the countertop and secured underneath. A lip protrudes around the edge of the sink. It rests on top of the counter to prevent liquids from entering the cabinet below.

Under-mount sinks have no lips and finish either flush with the countertop or beneath it. Installation of an under-mount sink requires precision. With under-mount sinks you have more counter room and under-mount sinks are best suited for solid surface countertops which use materials such as marble, soapstone, concrete or granite.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or 95.5 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. It is a perfect way to start your day.