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New for Spring: Stainless Steel Cookware Sets!

Four Bowl Utility Sinks
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Four bowl stainless steel utility sinks are ideal for commercial kitchens and other settings that require cleaning equipment or tools in multiple steps or require several people to access the sink at one time. Unfortunately, many businesses simply do not have the space to accommodate the extra bowls, making demand for them not as high as two and three bowl styles. Because of this, you'll find fewer options in this style of sinks as you browse through the selections available from retailers today.

Despite the more modest selection of four bowl utility sinks produced by manufacturers, you'll still need a thorough understanding of the many features found in sinks to interpret product descriptions and compare the benefits of similarly-priced models. We developed our Buyers' Guide to Four Bowl Utility Sinks to provide you with answers to some of the most common questions that are raised during the shopping process. Read over the guide once from start to finish for a quick education in all things related to stainless steel sinks and then keep it handy as you shop to assist you in the decision-making process.

How Do I Interpret the Dimensions of Sink Models?

The product descriptions and specifications for sinks are filled with numbers and can be overwhelming at first glance. Once you locate the dimensions for the fixtures, it's common to still have questions about precisely what each value given means. In the United States, measurements are usually given in inches; however, if you're looking at the official website of a European manufacturer or a store that is based overseas, the measurements may be in centimeters or millimeters. Online calculators are available to help you convert to inches to make the dimensions easier to interpret.

Standard Dimensions

Standard dimensions for sinks consist of two parts. The first set of dimensions represents the overall size of the sink unit and includes the size of the bowls and any drainboards or other structural features that contribute to its overall shape. You'll use the overall dimensions to determine whether or not your sink will fit into the space that you have available at your business. If you're unsure what size will fit, you can simply measure your current sink or consult the architectural drawings or specifications for your building.

All standard dimension listings will consist of three numbers. The first, sometimes denoted with an "L" is the length, which represents the measure across the front portion of the sink from the left to the right. Sometimes marked with a "W," the second measurement is the width and corresponds to the distance from the front to the back of the sink.

The height is the final number in the standard dimensions and is sometimes represented with an "H." The measurement tells you the distance from the top of the sink to the floor, including structural elements such as backsplashes.

Bowl Dimensions

The second set of dimensions found in every sink product description corresponds to the sizes of the bowls or compartments. Most sinks feature compartments that are all the same size, so you will just see one measurement given to represent all of the bowls. In specialty fixtures that have bowls of different sizes, you'll see more than one set of bowl dimensions provided.

Like the overall dimensions, bowl dimensions always include the length and width of the compartments; however, you may not see the height listed. Typically, the distance from the bottom of the compartment to the top is known as the depth rather than the height of the space. To obtain the depth measurement, manufactures start at a spot directly adjacent to the drain rather than on the drain itself. In sink product descriptions, it is not uncommon to see the depth listed separately from the length and width, but it is generally provided somewhere within the specifications.

The dimensions of the bowls tell you the maximum size of the items that can be placed into your sink for soaking or washing. Typically, you need at least an inch of space around the object to make it possible to lift the item in and out of the compartments. Because of this, if you will be washing single, very bulky items individually in your fixture, measure the items and then add 2 inches to the length and width measurements to ensure that the object will easily fit.

Do I Need a Drainboard?

Drainboards are metal surfaces that resemble slightly sloped metal counters and may be included on one or both ends of a sink. Some health and safety codes mandate that drainboards are featured on at least one end of work sinks in commercial kitchens. The code may also specify a minimum length and pitch for the drainboards. The length of a drainboard is simply the measurement from where the sink ends to the end of the drainboard, while the pitch refers to the slope of the surface.

Even if you are not placing your sink in a commercial kitchen or other highly regulated space, drainboards still offer utility. Draining water back into the sink keeps drips off of your floor and maintains a sanitary environment. The drainboards can also serve as counter space or workspace in cramped settings and cut down on manual drying time by allowing you to set washed equipment aside to air dry.

What Is the Purpose of a Dish Table and Do I Need One in My Sink?

A dish table is a metal basin that is not attached to the plumbing in a room and is used primarily to contain the mess that is common with dirty dishes. Some sinks feature a dish table set off to the side away from the bowls. Although many health codes mandate that commercial kitchens have dish tables, they are not usually required to specifically be inside of the sink and are often located on a separate fixture; however ,you may find it more convenient to have the dirty dishes piled in the sink area, depending on the layout of your kitchen and how traffic moves through it.

What Is the Gauge of Steel and Why Is It Important?

To make it easy to compare stainless steel produced by different manufacturers, plants assign a gauge or thickness to each steel sheet or bar that they produce. The gauge is an industry-wide standard and, for work sinks, is generally 14 (1.98 millimeters thick), 16 gauge (1.6 millimeters thick), 18 gauge (1.27 millimeters thick) and 20 gauge (0.95 millimeters thick). As you can see, the thicker the steel, the lower the gauge number. Because thicker steel is also sturdier, you can simply say that the lower the gauge number, the stronger your sink will be.

In most commercial kitchens, 16 or 18 gauge steel is adequate to support the load of dirty dishes and equipment; however, if you are purchasing a sink for heavy industrial use to wash large equipment, you may need a 14 gauge model. For all types of spaces, it's vital that you select a sink that has a uniform gauge across its surface, meaning that it has the same thickness and strength at the corners as it does in the center of the bowls.

What Is Type 304 Steel, and Are There Other Types?

Because it is sturdy, able to stand up well to corrosion and safe for food, Type 304 Steel is the most commonly used material for four bowl stainless steel utility sinks. The steel contains iron, carbon and magnesium or nickel and receives 16 percent of its content from chromium. You will sometimes see Type 304 steel referred to as austenitic.

In industrial settings where temperatures are very high or the materials used are highly corrosive, other types of steel are preferable because of their melting points and resistances to chemicals. Ferritic or Type 430 steel is a blend of only iron, carbon and chromium and is used for a very small number of sinks. Rarely, manufacturers may use martensitic or Type 410 steel, which contains less chromium than Type 304 and only a trace amount of nickel.

What Is a #4 Finish?

Most four bowl stainless steel works come in the #4 finish, which is sometimes called "brushed." This finish does not reflect light and is great for commercial kitchens because it does not easily show fingerprints. Some manufacturers offer utility sinks in other finishes, typically represented in #5, which is a satin finish that reflects some light, through #8, which is a perfect mirror finish. The higher the number, the more reflective the finish, and, consequently, the more obvious fingerprints are.

Do I Really Need to Pick a Sink With NSF Certification?

If you're in a commercial kitchen of any type, the answer is "yes." Many health codes mandate that all sinks be NSF certified, and if you're caught not following the code during a health inspection, you'll face hefty fines.

Even if you are not in a commercial kitchen or are in an area that does not require the certification, buying an NSF certified sink may still be the best choice. To meet the National Sanitation Foundation's standards, sinks must meet certain safety specifications, such as having a safety edge that is rounded to prevent users from getting cut while working at the sink. Since you are guaranteed that NSF certified sinks have these features, you can rest assured that your workers are protected, which can save you the cost of worker's compensation claims and lost work time due to accidental injuries.
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