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Stainless steel is the most popular kitchen sink material. Because of this popularity, stainless steel kitchen sinks are available in a wide range of prices, sizes, and styles. However, the differences between types of stainless can be a bit of a mystery until you learn a few simple facts.
The most basic fact about stainless steel sinks is probably also the most misunderstood. The lower the gauge, the thicker the sink. Generally, depending on other quality factors, a thicker stainless steel kitchen sink is a better sink. An 18-gauge stainless steel sink is probably most common, and our consultants tell us that this is usually fine for household use.
If you want an economy kitchen sink, perhaps for a second home or an apartment building, you can go with 20-gauge to save a bit of money. And if you want premium quality or you plan to put your sink through a workout with kids, dogs, or hobbies, our experts recommend going with the heavier duty 16-gauge sink.
When you shop for a stainless steel sink you will usually see some form of the words “Series 304 18/10”. Sinks available for residential purchase will almost always be in the 300 series, which indicates good corrosion resistance.
What about those numbers? The grade label also refers to the amount of chromium and nickel contained in the product. (Stainless steel is usually alloyed with other metals to improve its properties.) So, for example, 18/8 means that the stainless steel from which a product is fabricated contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel. The higher the numbers, the more corrosion-resistant the material.
While composites, enamel coated steel and cast iron, and other kitchen sink materials offer a wide color range, the common belief is that stainless steel is only available in one finish. While different stainless steel sinks are the same “color”, different surface appearances such as polished (shiny), satin, or brushed (textured) provide a modest level of choice. Different manufacturers' versions of these two basic finishes may also vary.
Learn more about how to choose your kitchen sink.