The benefits of metal over wood and laminate have brought stainless steel top tables from strictly commercial settings to use in residences as kitchen and work tables. The popularity of the metal is owed to its durability, easy-to-clean surface, and its hygienic nature, which does not allow bacteria to linger. To meet the varied needs of home and commercial cooks, manufacturers produce steel top tables in a variety of sizes and styles. Although this gives you a wide variety of choices, it can also complicate the shopping process.
Use this Buyers' Guide to Kitchen Tables and Work Tables with Stainless Steel Tops to determine what products are best for your home or business.
Before you begin shopping for a table with a metal top, think about how you will use the piece. Ask yourself the following questions to determine what purpose or purposes your table will serve:
- Will the table be used for preparing food or for seating primarily? Will you ever need the table to serve as extra seating for a large gathering? If so, how frequently?
- Where will the table be used and situated? Will the table be replacing anything that is currently in your kitchen other than an existing table? If so, will you lose storage space because of the replacement?
- If you are replacing your current table, why? Is it strictly for appearance purposes or is there a particular need your current table does not meet?
- Where will you store the table? Will the piece be in the same spot in your kitchen consistently, or will you be keeping it in another area, such as a work room until it is needed? For extra seating, would the table be moved into a dining room or other space outside its normal resting place?
- Are you generally in need of extra storage space in your kitchen? If so, what types of items do you want more space for?
- How do you work as you prepare food? At what level do you like to keep your hands? How important is it to you to have your equipment and tools within easy reach?
Most stores organize their tables according to size, so deciding what dimensions are needed for your table is the ideal starting place. To get you started thinking about size, use masking tape to outline the area, where your table will be situated. Even if you are replacing a table, move it aside and create the outline; this allows you to see what your "dream" table would be.
Once you have your table diagram in place, you're ready to think about the three major size considerations with tables.
Refers to the measurement of a rectangular table from left to right.
Tip: For kitchen tables, the length is crucial for determining how many people can fit comfortably. Generally, a table with 5-foot-long sides can seat up to six people, while a 6-foot table is ideal for seven to eight people. When you measure the length of the sides in your diagram, keep in mind the size of your family to make sure you leave enough room for everyone.
Refers to the measurement of a table from front to back.
Tip: For work tables, the width greatly affects how much room you will have for large appliances and complicated projects. Generally, tables with 21 inches of width are the bare minimum for an adequate workspace. The largest pieces can have widths of 36 inches or more.
Refers to how tall your table sits from the floor. The ideal height of a table is dependent on its use.
Most work tables have a working height of 36 inches (about the same height as your kitchen counters), but if you are tall or prefer to keep your hands slightly raised as you work, a higher table may be beneficial. Having someone measure the position of your hands while you perform a task like chopping food can assist you in determining the ideal height of table.
Stainless steel kitchen tables that will be used for seating with regular chairs are usually closer to 30 inches tall. Low bar stools and some dining chairs with very high seats or cushions usually require 34 to 35-inch tables, while standard bar stools are ideal for 36-inch pieces. If you plan to use existing chairs, keep in mind that 8 inches of space from the top of the cushion to the bottom of the table is necessary for comfort.
Materials and Construction
The first decision you'll need to make after choosing the size of your table is whether you want an all-steel construction or a steel and wood mix. If you opt for a wooden table with a metal top, a variety of finishes are available to match your existing kitchen cabinetry.
When comparing the steel used in tabletops and legs, you will encounter some specific terms, which are related to steel construction. Understanding these terms makes it simple to compare different types of steel tables.
Thicker stainless steel adds additional durability to your table. Steel thickness is measured in terms of its gauge. Each gauge of steel corresponds to an industry-wide standard measurement. The smaller this number, the thicker and stronger the steel. The most commonly-used gauges for steel top tables are:
- 14 gauge - 1.98 millimeters thick
- 16 gauge - 1.6 millimeters thick
- 18 gauge - 1.27 millimeters thick
- 20 gauge - 0.95 millimeters thick
All steel contains some amount of iron along with other metals called alloys. Steel companies classify their products in types based upon the types of alloys and their quantities. There are three main types of stainless steel.
The majority of tables are made with austenitic or Type 304 steel. Around 16 percent of Type 304 steel is made up of chromium with either nickel or magnesium as a secondary alloy. Its surface is completely safe for foods and durable against corrosive materials. You may sometimes see Type 304 steel referred to as "food-grade steel."
A small number of work tables are ferritic or Type 430 steel. In this type of steel, chromium is the primary alloy and more of the composition comes from iron. Because it is free of other alloys, ferritic steel can withstand higher temperatures than Type 304. This is beneficial in industrial settings, though some specialty commercial kitchens may also require this level of heat-resistance.
The third major type of steel is martensitic or Type 410, which is 12 percent chromium with only trace amounts of nickel. This type of steel is rarely used for tables.
The finish of a steel tabletop refers to how it reflects light. Finishes are described with numbers, and Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 8 are the ones used for tables. The No. 4 brushed finish is the most common for steel tables as it does not reflect much light, making it less easy to see fingerprints and smudges on its surface. As the finish numbers increase, the reflectiveness also increases with No. 8 being a perfectly reflective, mirror-like finish.
Backsplashes are vertical panels that rest against the wall and protect it from messes. Backsplashes are only used on work styles that will be positioned against a wall, rather than for steel kitchen tables where people will sit on all four sides or for tables that will be positioned in the center of your kitchen.
Casters are wheels that make it easy to move your table from one room to another for storage or seating purposes. Always look for locking casters to keep your table from shifting once in place.
If you need storage space from a table, you have many options available to you. The type of storage you select is affected by what you plan to store and your individual work habits and preferences. Some of the options include:
Open storage allows you to easily retrieve tools and appliances on demand. The drawback to open storage is that the stored items are completely visible and can look cluttered. Two types of open storage are available for tables:
- Shelves or, surfaces below the steel tabletop with open sides, are common features for tables; however, smaller objects sometimes fall off through the open spaces.
- Open enclosures, or shelves that have built-in sides, are found in a limited number of steel tables.
Closed storage keeps your utensils and supplies hidden from view, but requires an extra step to access. Three major types of closed storage are available in steel top tables:
- Drawers are small compartments mounted on tracks that slide in and out of tables. Perfect for storing small items, drawers are often paired, though some pieces offer just one drawer.
- Hinged cupboards have doors that open outward, requiring you to back away from your work area to open them. Many steel tables feature hinged cupboards.
- Sliding cupboards have doors that move from left to right and usually do not require you to step away from the table top for access; however, sliding cupboards only allow you to access half of your stored items at one time.
Hanging storage consists of rods and hooks that allow you to organize and hang tools like spatulas and spoons under the steel tabletop.