Your kitchen sink is one of the most used plumbing fixtures in your home, relied upon for everything from drinking water to soaking water for dishes, pots and pans. Stainless steel kitchen sinks have long been used in commercial settings due to their hygienic surfaces, their high degree of food safety and their ability to resist corrosion while still remaining easy to clean. As more homeowners have discovered the beauty of stainless steel appliances, matching sinks have become increasingly popular in home kitchens, where they offer the same benefits as their more commercial counterparts, but in a variety of attractive styles.
We developed our Buyers' Guide to Stainless Steel Kitchen Sinks to assist you in selecting the perfect fixture to enhance the look and utility of your kitchen. Using the tips and suggestions below to quickly narrow down the options available in today’s plumbing fixtures on the market today so you can focus on those that will best suit your needs and aesthetic tastes.
To make your shopping as simple as possible, you need to know precisely how you will use your kitchen sink. Because it's likely you've never really considered your preferences and needs, use the following questions to begin exploring them.
- Are you replacing or upgrading your current sink? Will you be updating your countertops as well? If not, what condition are your countertops in?
- Will you use your kitchen sink for drinking water, or do you typically use your refrigerator to dispense water or reach for bottled products? If you do get water from the tap to fill your glass, will you be using any type of water softener or freshwater drinking system in conjunction with your current plumbing?
- Will your sink include a built-in garbage disposal?
- What is your process for washing dishes? Do you prefer a sink specifically for scraping off food? Do you like a surface or bowl for letting items air dry? When you cook, do you typically wash dishes as you go or save them until you are finished preparing or enjoying meals?
- What size are your pots and pans? How often do you use stock pots, large roasters and other over-sized equipment?
- When you wash your dishes, how important is it for you to have soap within easy reach? Do you prefer to use a sprayer, a sponge or both?
- As you wash your dishes, do you prefer to have small utensils within easy reach at the front of the sink?
- How much time are you willing to spend wiping down your sink to remove fingerprints? Do you prefer to use a wet dishcloth every time you clean your countertops, or do you use paper towels or dry cloths as much as possible?
- How visible is your sink from the rest of your kitchen? Do you frequently entertain guests in the room, or do you have a separate dining room for seating?
- Would cooking be simpler if you had a separate area to quickly rinse items and obtain water for recipes?
- How much counter space do you have? How does your sink impact your existing space?
If your new sink is part of new construction or a remodeling project that involves replacing all of your counters, knowing the size of your sink is easy; building specifications will detail precisely what size opening will be featured in your kitchen cabinetry to accommodate your new fixture.
When you are simply upgrading or replacing your current sink, knowing its size is vital. To save yourself the cost of adjusting your cabinets and changing your plumbing, select a sink that has the same basic dimensions as your current model.
To obtain the most accurate measurements possible, find the shape of the outer form of your sink (not the inner bowl or bowls) by using the following instructions:
Place the tip of a tape measure at the front left corner of the sink and extend the tape to the front right corner. This measurement will be both the width and the height of your sink.
1. Perform the measurement as described for square sinks to obtain the length of the fixture.
2. Turn the tape measure and extend it from the front left corner to the back left corner to ascertain the width of the sink.
Select any spot on your sink as the starting point for the tape measure and then extend the tape across the circle to the point directly opposite it. This will give you the diameter of your fixture.
1. Lay the tip of your tape measure on the widest point on the left side of your sink and extend the tape across to the widest point on the right hand side to determine the length of your sink.
2. If the widest point is clearly visible on the front of your sink, measure from that point to the widest point on the back edge of your sink to obtain the width.
3. In oval fixtures where the curve is so slight on the front that you cannot easily determine the widest point, halve the value of the length obtained in Step 1 and then measure across the front of the sink that number of inches to find the starting point for your tape measure.
Whether your sink is for new construction, remodeling or a simple replacement, the dimensions of the bowls are not typically determined by the size of the hole in your cabinetry. This gives you flexibility to select a bowl or bowls that are deep enough to meet your needs. When considering the options available, keep in mind that deeper sink bowls hold more water and are better suited for washing larger items. For sinks where you will only be washing small utensils, a shallower bowl is often ideal.
Three measurements represent the various dimensions of sink bowls. In general,
- A greater depth holds more water than a smaller one. The depth is the measure from the lowest point of the sink directly adjacent to the actual drain to the top of the bowl.
- A greater taper holds more water than a smaller one. The taper of a bowl tells you how steeply it slopes from the top to the bottom of the bowl.
- A smaller radius holds more water than a larger one. The radius of a bowl represents how much space is lost due to the rounded corners where the sides of the bowl meet the bottom. The dimension is obtained by measuring from the corner to the spot where the curve ends and the bottom edge of the bowl becomes straight.
Comparing Your Options
Once you determine the size of the frame and bowl that you need for your space, you will need to make a variety of other choices to select the perfect sink model. We have arranged these choices from the most important decisions to the smaller details, allowing you to quickly narrow down your choices.
Topmount sinks are dropped into your countertop and feature lips that cover over the surrounding cabinetry, while undermount sinks are installed from the bottom up and have no parts to cover your counter. For replacements, topmounts are often best to hide imperfections in countertops. Undermount sinks offer a cleaner look, but are only suitable for solid countertop constructions like stone tops and cannot be used for laminate and similar materials. If you prefer to dust debris from your counter into your sink, undermount sinks make the tidying process easier since you can simply wipe away particles into the open bowl without the interference of a lip.
Special styles of sinks are available to suit specific decors, tastes and preferences:
- Apron sinks feature exposed fronts and complement country kitchens.
- Vessel sinks look like attractive pieces of pottery and are ideal for areas where the sink is highly visible or in a space often used for entertaining.
- Prep sinks are shallower bowls intended for quickly dispensing water and rinsing small tools and are typically found in kitchenettes and as companions to larger sinks.
- Drainboard sinks have metal surfaces with gentle slopes that lead into their bows and are designed to hold air-drying utensils, tableware and cookware.
Bowl Number and Configuration
Stainless steel kitchen sinks are available with one, two or three bowls. The ways in which you use your sink and your preferred methods for washing dishes determine which style is best for you. If you plan to purchase a two or three bowl sink, you will have additional choices concerning the sizes of the bowls. Manufacturers produce sinks with identical bowls as well as with combinations of larger and smaller bowls to maximize counter space and suit specific functions. Two and one-bowl corner sinks are also available and are oriented on a diagonal to be used in corner cabinetry that is often wasted space.
If you are buying a topmount fixture, you will need to consider how many predrilled holes will be featured in its surface. Most topmount stainless steel kitchen sinks have one to four holes to accommodate faucets, sprayers, hot water dispensers, soap dispensers and freshwater drinking system and softener spouts.
For new construction, you typically have the option to select whether you want the drain in the front, middle or rear of your sink bowls. Keep in mind that the area of the drain is the deepest portion of the sink and is typically where smaller utensils float to as you wash them.
Stainless steel kitchen sinks come in a variety of finishes, each of which is assigned a number from 4 to 8. No. 4 steel has the least reflective surface and is the easiest to clean, while No. 8 steel has a mirror finish and shows more fingerprints.