They look different. They feel different. They sound different. And they're mounted differently. Other than that, a kitchen sink is a kitchen sink. Or maybe not. Stainless steel sinks are the modern edge in kitchen re-dos, while porcelain is the mainstay -- your grandmother's kitchen sink, the sink that transcends kitchen trends. The one to choose for your kitchen depends on the types of installations you're doing, the look of your room, and whether you want an under-or over-mount sink.
The Look of Stainless Steel
An ultra-modern kitchen with a sleek countertop of slate, cement, granite or marble is the right setting for a stainless steel kitchen sink. Or two. The perfect accompaniment to stainless steel appliances, two finishes are available: brushed and polished. Stainless steel is the most popular type of kitchen sink, and their designs have gone beyond the traditional rectangle and extend to square-edged, apron-fronted versions. They can also be fitted as an under-mount without adding support beams.
Stainless Steel Quality
The gauge rating of stainless steel sinks ranges from 16 to 23, with the lower number denoting a heavier sink. The thicker the steel, the better the quality. A 23-gauge sink rings with a tinny sound when dishes and silverware bounce against its bottom and sides, while the thicker sink has more heft. A 23-gauge sink may also "give" on the bottom and show scratches.
For a quieter experience when using your stainless steel sink, look for one with sound-absorbing pads on the bottom and sides rather than a spray coating.
Stainless Steel Cost
Priced less than their porcelain cousins, basic stainless steel sinks are a good value. Their price does increase with the gauge count, sink design, fabrication and fittings. The more elaborate the sink, the more expensive the cost.
The granddaddy of sinks, a porcelain sink comprises an enamel coating baked over a cast-iron frame. The heated coating is strong and withstands general everyday use, but damage can occur when heavy objects are dropped on it. A chip is repairable, but it doesn't become invisible. Available in a wide variety of colors and configurations, the porcelain sink adds shine, substance and glamour to a traditional kitchen.
Two types of porcelain sinks are available -- one with a cast-iron base and another with enamel baked over steel. Traditionally, the cast-iron base is more durable, but a chip may reveal the iron base and lead to rusting if not covered. Easy to clean, a porcelain sink riddled with stains and marks can be brought back to life with a minimum of effort.
Installing a Porcelain Sink
An under-mount look is preferred in newer kitchens, but the weight of a porcelain sink makes it difficult to install. Support beams must be fitted in the cupboard below the sink. Over-mounts are more traditional and easier to install. An apron-fronted porcelain sink also requires support if it's mounted under the counter fabrication.