As I discussed in my previous post, we have discovered that some of the stainless sinks being sold today may not be all they are advertised to be. We tested one and found that it didn’t really measure up to the typical standards that we use to judge quality stainless: sound quality, finish, bowl dimensions, gauge and steel type.
These characteristics are useful as shorthand to describe quality but really don’t tell the whole story. They say a little about materials and less about fabrication, the most important part of making a sink.
For example, steel type and gauge describe the sheet of steel prior to fabrication. Most sinks are described as being type 304 steel meaning it must have a minimum of 18% chromium and 8% nickel and no more than .08% carbon. But that alone does not tell you what other components are used or how the steel was mixed. If contaminants (called inclusions) are allowed to get into the steel they can cause defects after the sink is in use.
Better manufacturers use steel that is ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) or CSA certified. Such certification indicates that the steel maker is complying with specific standards for the manufacturing process.
Gauge is another measurement that can be deceptive because again it refers to the sheet of steel before fabrication. When steel is drawn into a sink the sheet is stretched and if not done properly the result can be walls that are thin and uneven. (I think this was the case in the sink we tested). Weak spots will be prone to dents or other damage.
Sound quality, finish and bowl dimensions should be easier to judge but unless you know what to look for you can miss important details. Finish can be especially difficult; all brushed finishes are not created equal. To be effective the finish must be worked into the sink, a surface brushing will do little more than look nice when new but will scratch easily and may be difficult to clean. When looking at bowl dimension you want to consider wall to wall but also corner radius and slope of the sides and floor. Sloping the sides and bottom allow for cheaper manufacturing but reduces interior bowl space. Effective sound proofing requires more than a coat of paint.
There are a number of things to look at when selecting a stainless sink. Top quality stainless is expensive so don’t be fooled into thinking you are getting something “just as good for half the price”. Look for certifications from ASME, CSA, IAPMO and UPC which are good indicators that manufacturers are meeting certain standards. The less information a vendor provides about a product the more likely it is that you are getting less than you deserve. There are variables that can make a big difference in price; a knowledgeable showroom associate can explain these differences clearly so you can make the best decision.