The Most Common Kitchen Sink Materials

For the first-time sink shopper, the huge assortment of materials can make buying the right sink more difficult than it needs to be. This section discusses the various materials used to make kitchen sinks.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks are among the most popular on the market. According to leading sink manufacturer Franke, 70% of all sinks are made using stainless steel.

stainless steel kitchen sink

Compared to other materials, stainless steel tends to be inexpensive, although designer brands like Kohler and Blanco can still easily cost upwards of $600 or more. The versatility of stainless means that stainless steel sinks are available in a variety of installation types (undermount, top mount, etc).

Stainless steel is classified in terms of gauge. Lower gauge steel is heavier; higher gauge is lighter. Most sinks fall within the 15 to 24 gauge range, and the majority of residential sinks are usually between 18 and 22. In terms of inches, this means the steel sheeting used to make the sinks has a thickness that ranges from .048″ to .030″.

Conventional wisdom (and common sense) seems to indicate that a heavier gauge steel makes for a better sink, but this isn’t always true. Testing by Consumer Reports shows that the gauge had very little impact on the overall quality of the sink. However, a heavier gauge sink can be slightly more resistant to denting and is typically less noisy.

Stainless steel tends to be a louder than other materials, although many sinks feature a spray coating or padding to help reduce the noise.

While overall very durable, stainless steel kitchen sinks can scratch more easily than other materials. Stainless sinks also tend to show water spots more clearly, and it can be difficult to keep them looking immaculately clean at all times. However, they offer excellent resistance to heat and stains.

Granite Composite

When people talk about composite kitchen sinks, they’re usually talking about a granite or quartz composite.

Composite sinks are made by combining crushed granite or quartz with a resin filler. The mixture varies depending on the product and manufacturer, but it’s usually around 80% stone and 20% resin.

This combination produces a material that has many of the same aesthetic qualities of real granite or quartz without the maintenance and durability issues associated with those types of sinks.

Both varieties of composite sinks are tough and highly resistant to stains and scratching, but as a general rule granite tends to hold up better than quartz. In fact, some manufacturers claim that granite composite sinks are the most durable and long-lasting sinks available.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is one of the oldest materials used for kitchen sinks and is still very popular today. The bright, glossy enamel finish appeals to many homeowners and can easily last for decades.

cast iron sink

Like the name implies, cast iron sinks are made by casting iron. Since bare iron is extremely prone to rusting, cast iron sinks receive a heavy porcelain enamel finish. If you were to strip the enamel off of a cast iron sink, it would have the same rough texture as a cast iron skillet.

The enamel finish used on cast iron sinks is extremely tough and does an excellent job resisting stains and scratches. It’s important to understand that the porcelain enamel finish used on cast iron sinks isn’t merely paint–it’s actually melted glass that has been fused to the bare iron.

Don’t let the “glass” part worry you–modern enamels are incredibly hard and are well suited to the daily wear and tear seen by the average kitchen sink.

The smooth, glassy finish on cast iron sinks is typically very easy to keep clean and is not as likely to show spotting from water. Porcelain enamels also have good resistance to light and fading.

Cast iron does have some drawbacks. For one, it’s heavy. An average-sized iron sink can easily weigh 100 lbs or more, which is 2-3 times as much as most stainless steel sinks. This can make installation more difficult, especially in the case of undermount sinks that require additional supports to hold the sink in place under the counter.

Cast iron can be much more expensive than stainless steel, with most cast iron sinks starting out in the $500 range.

Additionally, the enameling of a cast iron sink can chip, and if the bare iron base is exposed it will quickly begin to rust. But, as mentioned above, modern porcelain enamel is strong (in many cases more so than metal) so this shouldn’t be a large factor in your decision-making process.

Modern cast iron sinks are available in a wide range of styles and colors, although you can expect to pay extra if you opt for a sink that doesn’t have a standard white enamel. For example, this Kohler cast iron sink shown above is just over $700 in white, but nearly $950 for black and over $1100 for “cashmere.”

Fireclay

Fireclay sinks are made by molding a ceramic clay into the shape of the sink and allowing it to dry at a high temperature for a period of up to 40 hours. Once the clay has dried, the porcelain enamel is applied and the sink is places in a tunnel kiln at an extremely high temperature (in some cases higher than 2000⁰F) for a period of around 20 hours.

fireclay sink

This has the effect of fusing the enamel to the clay while greatly increasing the strength of both. However, fireclay isn’t indestructible and the enamel can chip from the impact of a dropped pot or glass.

Fireclay can also be more prone to cracking than other materials, although proper installation and care minimize this risk.

Fireclay kitchen sinks fall on the expensive end of the spectrum. Small, single-bowl models start at around $600-$800, while larger models can cost $950 and up.

Although fireclay sinks come in a wide variety of styles and installations, the material is most commonly associated with farm sinks (also known as farmhouse or apron sinks). Many people choose fireclay farmhouse sinks for their traditional but timeless styling.

Other Types of Kitchen Sinks

The materials discussed above are among the most common used in modern kitchen sinks, but there are many more. Glass, granite, marble, and copper are just a few of the more exotic materials being used to make kitchen sinks. If you’re considering one of these less conventional materials, it’s a good idea to do your homework to avoid buying a sink that has durability or maintenance issues you didn’t anticipate.

Contact Innovative Kitchens today to discuss your kitchen project need.