For decades, stainless steel utility sinks have been standard features of residences and commercial buildings. Today's models have the same basic appeal as the ones used years ago, such as durability and an easy-to-clean surface, but modern sinks are equipped with many new features and technologies not seen in earlier models.
If you havenít shopped for a sink since you first built your home or established your business, or if you have never purchased one before, it's normal to feel overwhelmed by the number of models available on the market today. That's why we have put together our Stainless Steel Utility Sink Buyers' Guide to help you through the process. The guide contains all of the major terms used to describe metal sinks and establishes a step-by-step approach to selecting the perfect model for your home or business.
Knowing precisely what size of a sink your space can accommodate quickly narrows down the options and allows you to focus on only what will fit. How you determine the desired size for your sink will vary based upon certain factors.
If your sink purchase is part of a remodeling project or if you are simply upgrading your current sink, you can typically use your existing sink to determine the size. To measure your current sink:
- Place the tape measure along the front left corner of your sink and then extend the tape measure along the front edge. This measurement is the "length" of your sink.
- Pivot the tape measure and measure from the corner back toward the wall. This measurement will give you the "width" of your sink.
- For a sink on legs, measure from the bottom of one of the legs to the top of the sink to obtain the height. If you have a wall-mounted sink like a hand-washing station, measure from the bottom of the sink to the top, not from the floor to the top.
Typically, the building specs given to you for new construction projects will have the dimensions that are allowed for a sink, making it easy to determine the appropriate size. If your plans do not include specs for a sink, talk to your contractor about what would best work in your space.
Adding a New Sink
To add a sink in an area where you have not had one before, use masking tape to mark off the maximum size that will fit into the intended space. Then, let the tape represent the sink and measure the length and width as described in the replacement section. To determine the height, you'll need to consider how tall the people who will be using the sink are and what items might need to be lifted or placed into it.
Bowls and Compartments
Stainless steel utility sinks may contain round bowls or flat compartments. Bowls are generally considered more aesthetically pleasing, while compartments offer the maximum amount of space for washing larger objects. The number and dimensions of the bowls and compartments in sinks are another major factor that distinguishes models.
Number of Bowls and Compartments
How many bowls or compartments are needed in your sink is determined primarily by how you will use the fixture. For most uses, one or two bowls is adequate, though some sinks have as many as four bowls. To determine what will suit your needs, consider the following:
- What tasks will be performed at the sink? To hone your focus, make a list of the possible uses for the sink. In some settings, such as inside of commercial kitchens, this is a simple task, but if you are purchasing a sink for a workroom in your home, you may use the sink for a variety of purposes.
- How many tasks will you be completing at once? For example, if you will need to soak and scrub items and then rinse them, two bowls is preferable. For a single-step task, like hand-washing, one will generally suffice. Most commercial kitchens benefit from three bowls.
- How many people will need to use the sink at one time? In some commercial settings, several employees may need to clean supplies or access the sink area simultaneously. Having three or four bowls can make this process quicker, decreasing the amount of time that employees spend on cleaning or hand-washing.
- How much space do you have? If you are limited for space, you may, unfortunately, have to settle for fewer bowls even if three or four are ideal.
Bowl and Compartment Sizes
The depth of the bowls and compartments in your stainless steel utility sink will ultimately determine its usefulness; the bowls must be large enough for the size of the equipment that will be washed in the sink. Bowl depth is typically divided into three categories:
- 10 inches or less - The shallowest bowls are generally reserved for stainless steel hand-washing stations or for washing small, delicate equipment.
- 12 inches - For most home uses and many commercial uses, 12-inch bowls are the perfect fit.
- 14 inches - The deepest sink bowls are perfect for washing larger equipment, such as big, commercial pots.
Tip: You should also keep in mind the dimensions of the objects that you will be washing in the bowls and ensure that the sink you select has adequate length and width space to accommodate them.
Faucets and Accessories
Once you have selected the perfect sink to meet your needs, you'll need to select your faucets and accessories. Many different styles are available, including:
- Shelves allow you to store soaps and cleaning products directly above the sink area for added convenience.
- Foot and knee valves start the flow of water easily and are ideal to maintain sanitary conditions while hand-washing or to begin to fill the sink before placing heavy items in the bowls.
- Pre-rinses are ideal for commercial kitchens as they allow you to remove the outer layer of food with a separate faucet or sprayer before placing utensils and plates into the soaking water.
- Swing spout faucets allow you maximum access to the bowl when placing heavy objects inside. They also assist with rinsing and can supply water to two bowls.
- Gooseneck faucets are fixed in place, but feature a high rounded neck for increased clearance between the faucet and whatever you are washing. This gives you more room to hold a large object directly under the stream of water.
- Lever waste drains make it easy to empty the sink without having to put your hands into the water.
- Basket assemblies are preferable in some utility sink styles, which do not allow for lever waste drains. When selecting a basket assembly, look for one with an included rubber gasket to prevent leaking.
Tip: Because some styles preclude the use of certain accessories and faucets, if any of the above items are "must-haves" for you, keep them in mind as you narrow down sink styles.
As you shop for sinks, you will encounter a variety of terms that may be unfamiliar to you. The following is a brief summary of those words.
Many sinks feature backsplashes, which protect the wall from water damage. As you read the specifications for sinks, you will see four measurements given:
Backsplash size refers to the height of the vertical portion of the backsplash that extends from the back of the sink.
Return size is the length of the sloped portion that extends from the vertical rise of the backsplash to the wall.
Return angle describes the number of degrees contained in the angle formed where the backsplash and return meet.
Slope refers to how steep the grade of the return is.
The drainboard is a slanted stainless steel surface that extends out from the sink. After washing, items are placed on the drainboard to allow them to dry. Water is kept on the drainboard by a lip at one end and then runs into the adjacent bowl. Sinks may have one or two drainboards, depending on your needs.
The gauge of the steel used in sinks represents its thickness. The higher the gauge, the thinner the steel. When comparing gauges, keep in mind that thicker steel is stronger and preferable for washing heavy equipment; however, the gauge also influences the sinkís weight, which can be important for wall-mounted sinks. The following is a handy guide to steel gauges:
- 14 gauge - 1.98 millimeters thick
- 16 gauge - 1.6 millimeters thick
- 18 gauge - 1.27 millimeters thick
- 20 gauge - 0.95 millimeters thick
Tip: When selecting a sink, it's important to inquire about how much of the sink has the full steel gauge. The highest quality fixtures will have full gauge thickness even at the corners for maximum strength.
The most commonly used type of steel found in sinks is Type 304 or austenitic steel, which contains 16 percent chromium mixed with nickel or manganese. This type is extremely durable and suited to corrosive chemicals.
Other types of steel may also be used for sinks, such as Type 430 or ferritic steel, a blend of iron and chromium that is ideal for extreme temperatures. Rarely, Type 410 or martensitic steel is used in sinks. This type of steel contains 12 percent chromium, a high amount of carbon and trace amounts of nickel.