Tips on Shopping for a Stainless-Steel Sink

Go for Quality & Value

Stainless steel is an obvious choice for a kitchen sink because it cleans up quickly and has a great pro look. But once you get past the key design questions—one bowl or two, undermount or overmount—you want to base your buying decision on other, less obvious factors that affect quality and value. So we canvassed the experts for their tips on buying a stainless-steel kitchen sink. Read on for five ways to see beyond a shiny surface.

Gauge Its Metal

You want the strong, silent type, which is characteristic—counterintuitively—of the lowest and thus best gauges. No need to lose sleep over 16- versus 18-gauge, but when you get up to 22-gauge the metal is more prone to denting and vibrating, and less able to handle a garbage disposer. High-gauge drop-ins can be especially thin around the edges, making them ill equipped to support the heavier weight of a quality faucet.

Get a Back-Friendly Depth

Six-inch-deep basins are cheap to make, but they splash and can't hold much. A 9- or 10-inch sink, on the other hand, holds lots—a big plus when countertop space is limited. Keep in mind that an undermount ends up another inch or so lower, which could strain your back—at which point you might consider investing in a basin rack. Shape matters too. You get more volume with square corners, straight sides, and a flat bottom, but soft angles allow for easy cleaning and good drainage.

Give it the Thump Test

Look for rubbery undercoatings and pads, which deaden the sound of running water and clattering silverware, and also reduce condensation in the base cabinet. If the sink sounds like a steel drum, it's either lightweight or naked—or both.

Study the Ingredients

Stainless steel is ranked to reflect its contents. You want 300 series, or about 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel for optimal corrosion and stain resistance. The sink should also have a lustrous satin finish, which will develop a better patina over time than matte-finish stainless steel. Tip: If the sink holds a magnet, it is not 300 series.

Add Points for a Brainy Drain

Some sinks come with drain assemblies and baskets, and some don't. There's location and design to consider too. Toward the back means more usable space in the base cabinet and better drainage when dishes are piled in the sink. A rear drain to the left or right—as seen here—is better yet.

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