Stainless Steel Basics

About Stainless Steel Sinks

Gauge – There are a few terms that you will hear over and over when you are shopping for stainless. The first is “gauge” and refers to the thickness of the steel used. For residential use you will typically see gauges ranging from 22g to 20g, 18g and 16g. The number is derived from counting how many sheet of steel it takes to make a stack to a pre determined height. The thicker the sheet the few sheets it takes thus 16g is thicker than 18g.

Type – Before I started in plumbing I thought all stainless steel was the same. Not so, not at all. Stainless steel is an alloy, a mixture of metals that must include a minimum of 10.5% chromium. Different ratios of the various metals give each type of stainless steel different characteristics and qualities. For residential sinks type 304 or 302 is most common although some manufacturers have introduced type 316 for outdoor use as it is more corrosion resistant.

18/8 and 18/10 – This refers to the chromium/nickel content and is sometime confused with the gauge. Sinks with higher nickel content may have a more “brushed” finish than those with more chromium.

Finish – Very generally speaking stainless sinks have brushed, satin or polished finishes produced through machine and hand polishing. The finish is important both for the look of the new sink and for how it wears over time (that is, how resists scratches and surface damage).

Radius – By radius I am referring to the interior of the bowls. If corners and the transition from wall to floor are not drawn to a tight radius you will lose interior bowl space. This makes a big difference in functionality.

Finally I just want to say a brief note on stainless. There is sometimes an assumption that stainless indestructible but like any good tool it needs proper care and maintenance. Harsh chemicals may discolor or stain the finish (this includes bleach). Using steel wool on a stainless sink may cause rust as minute fibers from the steel wool become embedded in the sink surface and later rust. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning.

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