What is Sink Stainless Sink Gauge and Is it Important?
Ask any kitchen designer what goes into a spectacular kitchen design and they will tell you gorgeous cabinetry, eye-catching appliances and dramatic countertops. Often overlooked though, is one key aspect to a truly amazing kitchen design…the kitchen sink. Viewed by many as a utilitarian necessity, the kitchen sink is usually given very little consideration when designing a new kitchen. That’s unfortunate because of all the appliances in the kitchen, the sink gets the most use and, in my opinion, is the most important appliance to consider.
When considering a sink there are several key features to explore including: design, functionality and quality. And of course there are many materials to choose from, but for this article I will focus on stainless steel quality and more specifically the thickness of metal used to build the stainless steel sink also known as stainless sink gauge.
The thickness of the sheet metal used to fabricate a sink is called its gauge. The gauge of a sheet of metal for most sinks ranges from 22 -15 gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the sheet metal is. High quality residential sinks range from 18-16 gauge while commercial quality sinks are offered in 15-16 sink gauge. When manufactures refer to the gauge of their product, they are referring to the thickness of the sheet metal before the manufacturing process begins. Most stainless steel sinks are manufactured using a process called deep draw forming where a sheet of metal is drawn down into a form through a series of steps called reductions. Each reduction stretches the sheet metal deeper and deeper into the form, so what started out as an 18 gauge sheet of metal will not end up being 18 gauge throughout the entire finished product. The industry standard is to state the gauge of the metal that the manufacturing process started with. Since this is the standard practice, it makes it easy to compare one sink to another.
Not all sinks are made using deep draw forming, near zero radius sinks and zero radius sinks are manufactured using a process called press brake forming where the sheet metal is bent into the main sink shape under tremendous pressure by a machine. The sides are then added and welded to the main assembly, forming a box shaped sink basin. Zero radius sinks are identifiable by their flat sides and unique 90 degree or near 90 degree corners. Since these sinks are bent into shape instead of drawn, they retain a more uniform thickness throughout the finished product.
Whether you decide to purchase a deep drawn sink or one manufactured through press brake forming, make sure to identify which gauge of steel the manufacture used during the forming process, it is one of the most crucial factors when considering a sink investment. Remember, the lower the gauge number the thicker the metal and as a general rule of thumb, an 18 gauge or lower sink is considered a high quality gauge. Give yourself enough time during your project to make an educated decision; it will be well worth the time investment.
A common question that I hear is: “what’s better, 16 gauge vs. 18 gauge”. Well, that depends on sink. When it comes to stainless steel sink gauge, 16 gauge is thicker and heavier and less likely to flex or dent when under pressure. For medium to large sinks, 16 gauge is the better choice. When picking out smaller sinks, 18 gauge may be fine since there is less chance of flex given the small sides and bottom of these sinks. When purchasing a sink, I would stay away from the cheapest models, since these tend to be low quality. The last thing you want to do is put a $99 special in a countertop that you paid several thousand dollars to have installed.