Not All Stainless Steel Sinks Are Created Equal

Stainless steel sinks are still a top choice with consumers, but knowing why gauge matters and how noise is dampened keeps a sink from becoming a washout.

We all hear it: occasional grumbling about boredom with stainless-steel appliances as alternative finishes enter the market. But when it comes to kitchen sink selection, functionality is still the key driver and stainless remains king.

That’s not to say designers are not using other materials. Of late, Jennifer Gilmer, CKD, eponymous principal of a Chevy Chase, Md.–based kitchen and bath design studio, has been specifying granite and marble sinks to complement countertops, and quartz models continue to have their following. But “stainless steel is here to stay,” Gilmer notes, as “it’s the most practical.” Not surprisingly, the material dominates the market, accounting for 70 percent of all sales, says Cassy Osborne, product manager, Moen. Furthermore, claims of weariness with stainless appliances are exaggerated. According to Kelly Morisseau, CMKBD, interior designer and author of Kelly’s Kitchen Sync, clients still prefer them and request that they match their sinks.

Select a granite, quarts, or marble sink instead of a stainless steel sink

But not all stainless steel sinks are created equal. Inexpensive imported models and/or unknown brands may appeal to those on a tight budget, but lower cost could mean lower quality, a lower grade of steel and a sink that may eventually rust. Morisseau recommends choosing product from a reputable manufacturer, as most use higher-grade stainless steel, which is anti-rust. Also pay attention to thickness. Stainless-steel sinks in the residential market can range from 23 to 16 gauge in thickness, with 16 being the thickest and 18 the most popular, according to Osborne. “We encourage people to choose a thicker-gauge material because it is more durable and it helps with sound deadening,” she says.

Thickness alone, however, is not enough to prevent a noisy sink. If you’re in the market for a new sink, check the underside for sound insulation, Osborne advises. “At Moen, our stainless steel sinks feature SoundShield™ to reduce vibration and noise caused by clanging dishes and the drumming sounds produced by running water.” Standard on all Moen stainless steel sinks, “it’s really high-tech and works very well,” Osborne says.

Select a sink with 16 to 23 inch gauge thickness or SoundShield technology

Of course, there’s more to sink functionality than material. No less important are size and bowl configuration. Finding the perfect fit on both fronts can hinge on everything from food prep and cooking habits to how you clean up and the kind of dishwasher you own. Large, single-bowl designs are convenient for washing oversize cookware and are increasingly favored in the luxury market. Morisseau says, “We’re going past the 36-inch-wide sink to where the cabinet needs to be 42 inches or 45 inches.” Moreover, Gilmer noted, newer dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing dishes by hand, which, for some consumers, eliminates the need for a secondary bowl.

Nevertheless, dual-bowl sinks still have their fans, as they allow for quick wash-ups, notes Morisseau. The same is true of models with one bowl larger than the other. However, when purchasing one, you may want to try putting both hands in the smaller bowl to ensure ease of use.

Single bowl or double bowl kitchen sinks

While consumers may differ on bowl preference, many are choosing undermount styles. Unlike drop-ins, they make cleanup a breeze and are the ideal complement to popular natural stone and solid surface countertops. Both Osborne and Gilmer see growing interest in undermounts with 90-degree corners, which have a crisp, pro-style look that works well with contemporary kitchens. But some consumers, noted Morisseau, like rounded corners for their ease of cleaning.

Whatever one’s fancy, today’s kitchen sinks offer something for everyone while doing what they do best — work

Install an undermount sink with rounded or straight corners