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Stainless steals hearts

Stainless steel appliances are all the rage, now sinks follow trend

Posted: February 6, 2009 9:16 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Dramer demonstrates the depth and points out the features of a stainless steel sink on display in the store's showroom. The sink, a large, single basin Elkay sink, sells for around $400 at Pacific Sales. Stainless steel sinks offer many advantages, including the variety of size and shape, durability and anti-bacterial properties.

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My kitchen sink used to be nice and white, porcelain-coated cast iron. Now there's still some off-white, but there are also large black, rusting patches where the porcelain has been chipped away.

I recently learned that those patches will one day rust through, and I'll be looking down through the holes at all the junk I have stuffed under the sink. Maybe I'll do something about that sometime, but for now I cover the patches with rubber mats - slime-growing, food-sticking-to-them, disgusting rubber mats.

How is your kitchen sink? Is it time for a replacement? Are you putting in a new granite counter top and getting a new sink to go with? Are you filling your kitchen with stainless steel appliances?

If any or all of the above are the case, you might consider purchasing a stainless steel sink.

Damian Kramer is the plumbing manager at Pacific Sales in Valencia, and when you walk into his showroom, you can't help but be impressed with the wide variety of stainless steel sinks on display. Big, small, square, curvy, single, double, with shiny or brushed finishes, there are so many choices you realize that stainless is popular.

"The nice thing about stainless steel is if you are undermounting it, as opposed to a drop-in, hopefully it will be there permanently. It won't dent, chip or crack," Kramer said.

Undermounting is when the sink goes in and then the counter surface, say granite, for instance, is placed over the lip of the sink. This provides for a neater, cleaner sink/counter top junction and allows you to show off more of the counter top. Mounted in this way, a sink is much more difficult to remove, so you want it to be permanent.

Now, this is not to say that stainless steel sinks are indestructible. They can be dented or scratched if you try hard enough. But, cared for properly, your stainless steel sink will last a long, long time.

Stainless advantages
With so many people outfitting their kitchens with stainless steel refrigerators, ovens and more, stainless steel sinks are being installed more and more to coordinate with the stainless appliances.

"Stainless steel appliances are one big reason people buy stainless sinks - to match the appliances and the faucet," Kramer said.

Beyond the look, stainless sinks offer a number of advantages.

  • Durable: As alluded to above, stainless steel is durable. You don't have the possibility of cracking and chipping, as you do with porcelain sinks and some other materials, and stainless steel won't rust or corrode. It is also highly stain resistant. Stainless is very hard to dent, especially in the thicker gauges.
  • Shapes and sizes: "There are so many different shapes and sizes available in stainless," Kramer said. You can get single sinks, large or small; dual sinks with equal sizes; dual sinks with one large and one small side or one deep and one shallow side; square sinks; rounded sinks; and sinks in "organic" shapes reminiscent of things like kidney beans or rivers.
  • Anti-bacterial properties: Not only is stainless steel easy to keep clean, it can help keep germs under control. "Stainless is anti-bacterial," Kramer said.
  • Lightweight: Compared to a porcelain-coated cast iron sink, a stainless steel sink of similar size is far lighter, even in the thickest gauges. "Stainless is way-easier to install - so much lighter than cast iron," Kramer said. He added that customers can easily hand-carry their stainless sinks out of the store.
  • Recyclable: "Stainless is recyclable, more of a green product than sinks with man made materials included," kramer said. If and when you do replace your stainless sink, it won't go into the dump.


Thickness
Stainless steel sinks are available in varying thicknesses, or gauges. In this case, the lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel. "20 gauge is thicker than 22," Kramer said. "Normal in the industry, for a very good thickness, is 18 gauge. 16 gauge is one of the thickest."

The thicker gauges of stainless steel are, as you might expect, more resistant to denting.

And while stainless sinks tend to reverberate sound from bumps and bangs and garbage disposals more than, say, porcelain or cast iron, the thicker gauges of stainless dampen sound more than the thinner gauges.

Many stainless sinks come with sound-insulating pads or foam coatings on their outer bottoms, and these can be added later if they don't come originally with the sink.

Material, finish and care
The actual type of stainless steel varies as well. Kramer said that the ratio of chromium and nickel in the material used in sinks is usually 18-10. Which translates as 18-percent chromium and 10-percent nickel.

The chromium helps provide the "stainless" properties and the nickel helps reduce brittleness.

Kramer said that, because the cost of nickel and chromium is going up, so is the cost of stainless steel.

The actual finish of the stainless varies as well. There are shiny, mirror-like polished finishes and brushed finishes. While either can be scratched by, say, tossing silverware in the sink, the polished finish scratches much more easily. Beyond that, you can often "erase" a small scratch in a brushed finish by buffing carefully with steel wool.

To help protect your sink bottom from scratches and dents you can put in rubber pads or special racks. Some sinks even come with racks.

Additionally, you should regularly wipe your sink down and use a stainless steel cleaner.

"All in all, if you take regular care of your sink and protect the bottom, you'll have many years of use," Kramer said.

Size, shape and cost
Comparing stainless with other materials, such as porcelain/cast iron, Kramer said, "Stainless is still slightly more expensive than other materials (except copper)."

Naturally, the gauge of the stainless, and the size and shape of the sink also affects price. Kramer said that an average 18-gauge stainless sink would run between $200 and $450. In 16 gauge the price might be almost double that.

Larger sinks may cost more, but the larger, single sinks allow you to wash larger pots and pans and even oven racks or cookie trays.

"Single basin sinks, with no divider, are really catching on fast," Kramer said.

While shape can affect price, it doesn't always. "The only styles that really go up in price are the square commercial look or the more designer styles," Kramer said.

Installation
Pacific Sales does not install sinks. "We have a list of installers that we can refer to that our customers use regularly.

They have a good history of customer satisfaction," Kramer said. He would not give installation costs, as these vary widely depending on the type of plumbing required, the counter top material and the size and depth of the sink.

"It's generally a little more for undermounting than drop-in but the customers feel it is worth it," he said.

You decide
Pacific Sales also has kitchen and bathroom sinks made from a variety of other materials, including porcelain/cast iron, fire clay, copper and granite composite. You can view a multitude of types in the showroom and most are in stock. Those that aren't can be ordered for you. Pacific sales is located at 29011 The Old Road in Valencia (near Highway 126). The Web site is www.pacificsales.com and the phone number is (661) 294-4400. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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