Is there quality differences in stainless steel kitchen sinks

Upmarket high quality kitchen sinks are always made from grade 304 stainless steel and are at least 1 mm thick. One of the upmarket Teka sinks sold at Chilli-B (www.chilli-b.co.za)

So many people have asked me what is the quality difference between various kitchen sinks. It is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many factors that one should consider. Obviously the first thing comes to mind is your budget.  So the question is more, what is the best quality sink I can buy within my budget.  That changes the problem slightly and I can break it down to a couple of important features what to look for.

Price

In general the higher the price the better the quality. We all know that but if you are worried then go with the higher price but also look at the warranty period and what is covered.  The sink with better warranty specs is a lower risk to the supplier or manufacturer so he is prepared to give a longer warranty. One other thing on price, be careful to compare a very angular sink with a rounded one.  In general the more angular sinks are much more expensive than ones with rounded bowl corners. The reason is that it is more difficult to make the angular ones, but the quality can be exactly the same.  Just make sure that the sinks you are comparing come with the same amount of accessories such as wastes, type of wastes, traps and overflows.
The depth of the bowls have a significant influence on the price of the sink.  Most standard sinks have a depth of 150 mm to 175 mm. These are usually cheap project sinks.  Then the more expensive upmarket sinks have a depth of 185 mm to 210 mm. So the deeper the bowls, the more metal is used and the more expensive it gets.
The number of bowls will also have an effect and that is obvious.

Type of stainless steel

This is really important. Cheap project sinks are made from grade 430 stainless steel and these sinks will rust within 5 years even if you live in a desert. About 95% of the standard kitchen sinks are made from grade 304 stainless steel.  This type of stainless steel will not rust, unless you dip it in the sea or work with sea water then it will rust in about 5 years.  So as long as the stainless steel is grade 304 you are ok. Grade 316 stainless steel is only used in certain labs and in hospitals for surgical instruments. So don't worry about it, it is also too expensive anyway and for residential use you will not see a difference.

Thickness of the stainless steel

Here is where you can feel the difference.  Most project sinks are made as thin as possible, between 0.6 and 0.8 mm.  It is quite thin and will sound cheap if you tap on it. As a matter of fact some of these grade 304 project sinks can last a lifetime if looked after well. You might have a few dents at places , just like your car, but nothing drastic.
The more upmarket sinks have a stainless steel thickness of 0.8 mm and higher with 1 mm being the most popular. Most custom made sinks are between 1.2 mm and 1.6 mm. Bear in mind that a 1 mm stainless steel sink will dent as well which does not mean it is bad quality, it means you are handling your sink too roughly. If that is the case get a wash trough.

Quality of welding

There is no way of telling the quality of welding between the top surface and the bowls.  If a sink is not made well the corners and edges around the bowl are most likely to show signs of wear and start leaking.  You might find minute little holes, smaller than a needle point and very difficult to see.  They might get larger after a while and a thing line of rust might appear on the apex of the curved bowl. 

The Brand

Don't just by according to the brand.  Most brands have three tier marketing strategy, project sinks, popular or mid range sinks and top end sinks with accessories and large deep bowls.  So you have to compare each tier within the brand and across brands. Keeping in mind the number and type of accessories, stainless steel thickness, depth of bowls, number of bowls and size of the whole sink.
You will also find that project sinks are not packed in boxes but come loose or have a thin piece of cardboard over the top for protection. Upmarket sinks like Blanco will box their sinks and wrap it in polystyrene for extra protection.

Well I hope I could help with some aspects of selecting the right quality sink for your kitchen.

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