Stainless steel sinks are the most popular kitchen sinks and are considered one of the most durable too. Most homeowners prefer a stainless steel sink for their kitchen because of its high strength, durability, and appearance.
The cost of this type of sink may vary. This is because there are cheaper and more expensive stainless steel sinks, depending on different factors. You may be wondering what are the differences between cheap and expensive stainless steel sinks before you opt for one.
To help answer your curiosity, we have some insights into these two varieties of stainless steel sinks. Let’s explore them now.
8 Differences of Cheap and Expensive Stainless Steel Sinks
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Both cheap and expensive stainless steel sinks are constructed from stainless steel, which is made from iron or steel, chromium, and nickel. These varieties of stainless steel sinks have the following difference:
Grade of Stainless Steel
The quality and the temperature resistance of the stainless steel depend on the grade of the stainless steel. Grade 304 is the most common high-quality grade for household and commercial kitchens, whilst a higher grade of 316 is predominantly used in environments exposed to harsh chemicals and minerals such as hospitals, science labs or the outdoors. A main elemental difference between the two grades is that grade 316 has the element called molybdenum, which is a metal that improves corrosion resistance, whilst grade 304 does not have molybdenum.
Two important materials to check in stainless steel are chromium and nickel. These elements enhance the properties of stainless steel making it durable and resistant to corrosion. A grade 304 sink contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel, whilst grade 316 has 17% chromium, 10% nickel, and 2% molybdenum.
So, gathered from the information above you may already conclude that grade 316 is the more expensive kitchen sink option due to its extra properties that make it higher quality. As mentioned, grade 316 is commonly used for high-chemical settings which is why this grade is also known as Marine grade. But that also means paying up to four times more than a grade 304.
The less expensive 304 grade is the best choice if you're looking for a high-quality domestic sink. Anything below this grade would be cheaper, but would also mean lower quality.
Low-quality stainless steel grade has chromium content that is between 10 and 12 percent. This grade of stainless steel may be vulnerable to discoloring and pitting.
The Thickness of the Stainless Steel
The thickness of the stainless steel may tell how costly or cheap your stainless steel sink is. The thickness is seen on its gauges. So, don't forget to check the gauge of the stainless steel sink when you are buying one.
The higher the gauge number, the thinner the thickness of the stainless steel sink. And the lesser the gauge number, the thicker and more expensive the stainless steel sink.
The thinnest and cheapest stainless steel sink has a 22 to 23 gauge, however, we don't recommend getting this gauge for domestic use as it is mostly used for recreational vehicles and not ideal for most domestic or commercial kitchens.
The standard kitchen sink gauge in Australia is 18 gauge which is about 1.2mm thick. A sink with this gauge is lightweight and durable enough for simple dishwashing. A 16 gauge sink has a thickness of 1.5mm and is even better in durability, especially if you have heavy cookware. The thicker the gauge the more long-lasting, dent-resistant, and sound-proof it is among other benefits.
The thickest and most expensive gauge you may find is 14 gauge, which can be seen in higher-end luxurious kitchens.
Type and Size of Stainless Steel Sink
If you want to compare cheaper to more expensive sinks, you should always consider the type and size specifications. For example, a double bowl kitchen sink is pricier than a single-bowl of the same or similar in size, and a single-bowl with a side drainer would cost more than one without. Prices also vary depending on whether they come with complete sink accessories such as a mixer tap, tap hole, strainers, and protector grids.
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Installation methods may also influence the cost of the sink, where sinks that have the option to be installed as either under-mount, top-mount, or flush-mount can be more expensive than sinks that only have one option of installation. Also consider comparing the finish of the sink, such as whether it is a matte, polished, or brushed finish since this plays a factor in the price difference.
With any stainless steel sink, you can't avoid scratching it. However, the thicker the gauge, the more it protects from deep scratches and dents occurring.
A gauge of 16 or 18 is perfect for resisting scratches on stainless steel sinks. With a 314 grade, the high content of chromium and molybdenum of the stainless steel makes it the most resistant to scratches and dents, but again, more expensive.
Manufacturing Process of Stainless Steel Sinks
How does your stainless steel sink manufacture? The process of how the stainless steel sink is made can indicate if it is cheaper or expensive.
Two main manufacturing processes of stainless steel sinks include the integral molding method also known as stamping or machine-pressing, and the other method is hand-welding or handmade.
Stamping is a process in which you put a sheet of stainless steel into a stamping press machine. Then, the press machine will shape the stainless steel into a sink. This process is automated and capital intensive. Machine pressed sinks also stretch in material, often making the sink thinner which is why it is considered less expensive.
Hand-welded kitchen sinks are formed and welded by hand, resulting in precise straight lines, corners, and forms a closer-knit or tighter radius curve of the sink in contrast to the more rounded curves of a machine-pressed sink. This is the more expensive option due to its higher quality labour and professional appearance.
The stainless steel sinks that are thinner would likely be noisy when you wash the cookware or when running the faucet.
In this case, you have to know the thickness of your stainless steel sink as thicker sinks aid in noise reduction. And the thicker it is, the more it is expensive. Sometimes sound pads are also included with the sink, which would further reduce noise and could be a factor that would increase its price.
Corrosion and Discolouration
The molybdenum content in the stainless steel sink can protect your sink from corrosion, and the chromium prevents discoloration.
The higher the level of chromium and molybdenum, the more the sink is corrosion-resistant. It will not discolour easily and fast. Therefore, this stainless steel sink is more expensive than the sink with low chromium level or no molybdenum content.
Method of Buying
When you buy directly from the manufacturer than purchasing at a retail store, you save money. And your stainless steel sink becomes less expensive.
According to ThomasNet, “Whether you are purchasing unfinished build materials directly from a factory or giving your customers the ability to purchase directly or a third party, the main advantage of purchasing direct is lower costs.”
So, Which Stainless Steel Sink is Best for your Kitchen?
Whatever your budget may be, consider the features and specifications of the stainless steel sink and what works best for you and your kitchen needs. Take into account what is the most cost-effective in the long run. You may want to invest in higher-quality sinks that will last you a very long time rather than having to replace your sink after a short while. We recommend having a look at our hand-welded sinks, we offer an affordable yet high-quality range, available to ship Australia-wide.