How to Shop for a Stainless Steel Sink

  • Stainless Steel Sink and Faucet
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, there’s sleek, shiny and stylish. I’m talking about stainless sinks and they’re a big hit with homeowners right now.

    TOM: Yes. But once you get beyond how great a stainless-steel sink can look and how easy they are to care for, do you know which one is right for you? Richard Trethewey does. He’s the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House.

    How to Shop For a Stainless Steel SinkWelcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Speaking of slick, shiny and stylish. Here he is.

    LESLIE: Richard Trethewey.

    TOM: Hey, aside from deciding if you need one bowl or two when you pick out your stainless-steel sink, there’s a lot of qualitative differences among the products, aren’t there?

    RICHARD: Yeah. I think the first thing we’d start with is the thickness of the sink. They measure it in terms of its gauge. And really, counterintuitively, the lower the number, the thicker it is.

    LESLIE: The thicker it is.

    TOM: Thicker it is, right, yeah.

    RICHARD: It’s really backwards. It’s really very backwards. So, you’re going to see, most often, you can get 22 gauge and that’s light, light, light. But you can move it to 18 and to 16 and there’s really a difference. When you have a really light-gauge sink and that water comes down and hits that sink bottom, it can really sound like rain on the roof and like a little timpani. So you really want a heavier gauge; at least I do.

    Some of these sinks also have a nice insulation on the back. They do a rubberized insulation, which can actually add to the sound quality, make it feel like it’s a heavier sink.

    TOM: Now, what about the depth of the sink? The ones that are shallow should be less expensive to make and they may look big but they’re not going to hold the dishes.

    RICHARD: Yeah. I tell you, I love, love, love a deep sink. It just – you can put the big pot in there and swing the spout over and stuff like that. But the standard is only 6 inches deep and that’s …

    LESLIE: Which is so shallow.

    RICHARD: It’s the builder’s model. And so, it’ll do what you need; it’s functional. But it’s really great to have that big – I like a big, single bowl; I’m not big on a bunch of little bowls (inaudible at 0:23:28).

    LESLIE: The money you save will be spent on paper towels.

    RICHARD: Yeah, there you go. That’s right. That’s right.

    And then it was always just a question of – a square sink was all you could get before. Now, they have all these sort of softened, curved sort of shapes in the stainless-steel world. It’s really a – it’s become art.

    LESLIE: With little platforms and little areas.

    RICHARD: It’s really become art. And so, if you choose to add that sort of signature look to your kitchen, you can have all kinds of beautiful shapes that never existed before.

    LESLIE: Now, what about composition? When you’re creating these sinks, do you need to look at what other metals are being used that might affect its quality?

    TOM: Yeah, you mentioned the thickness but stainless isn’t stainless isn’t stainless. I mean stainless really changes from sink to sink in terms of the quality of the stainless, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah, they can measure it in terms of its series: how much chromium and nickel are in it. And so the best series, the 300 series, you’re going to need – it’s got like 18-percent chromium and 8-percent nickel. And that’s going to help to sort of resist corrosion.

    People hear “stainless steel” and they think it’s all the same and there are a million grades of stainless steel. And that really is a question of what the chemical components of the alloys that are in it. You’ll know when you pick the wrong sink when it starts to rust too soon.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think another thing that’s interesting or that people might forget is the drain assembly or the basket. They don’t always match if you’re buying it separately.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Yeah.

    LESLIE: So, is it better to go with one that comes with the sink? And not that they ever come with the sink; you have to buy it from the same manufacturer.

    RICHARD: Yeah, right. There are so many great accessories companies in the plumbing world nowadays that you can almost always find a basket strainer or they actually have snap-in covers over the basket strainers to match whatever color you want. So there’s all sorts of choices. The basket strainer will never be the problem, you know. You really just want to look at that sink and say, “Which one do I want for quality? Which one do I want for shape? And then what am I willing to pay for?” It’s material quality. And in the long run, it’s always cheaper to buy the better one.

    TOM: Makes sense.

    RICHARD: At least that’s what my dad taught me.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: I think your dad was right. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert from TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit, Richard.

    RICHARD: Thanks, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Leave a Reply


More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!