The Differences Between Chromium & Nickel Stainless Steel Sinks

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If you’re looking for a good quality sink at a lower price, stainless steel offers several great qualities.
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When choosing a sink for your kitchen or bathroom, there are a number of decisions you'll need to make. One of the most important things to consider during this process is that a kitchen sink undergoes quite a bit of wear and tear, so you'll want one that can withstand a great deal of use. If you're looking for a good quality sink at a lower price, stainless steel offers several great qualities. Stainless steel is made up of steel compounds, chromium and nickel, the ratios of which can change your sink's function and appearance.

Chromium, Nickel, Stainless Steel: Choosing a Sink

A stainless steel sink is not made completely of steel, but rather of nickel and chromium mixed with varying levels of steel. When browsing sinks, you can find the ratio of each metal marked on the sink or its packaging. Chromium is listed as the first number in the displayed ratio, and the second number represents the percentage of nickel. For instance, a stainless steel sink that shows a ratio of 18/10 contains 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel.

Stainless steel is durable and attractive, offering a shiny surface that is cleaned easily. Though it is less reflective than chrome sinks, you can easily hide or miss water spots and fingerprint smudges on a stainless steel sink. It's also quite easy to disinfect stainless steel, and unlike chromium, you don't have to worry about kitchen cleaners destroying your stainless steel products.

Shine, Luster and Corrosion Resistance

The more chromium is included in your stainless steel sink, the shinier it should be. A general rule of thumb is that any sink with a chromium percentage above 18 is very reflective, similar to polished silver. The more nickel your sink contains, the more gray or dull it will likely appear. Once again, this will allow you easier cleaning.

The higher the chromium percentage in your sink, the more resistant it will be to corrosion. This is very important for the aesthetics, structural integrity and food safety of your sink over time. Stainless steel is, in general, very resistant to corrosion, but higher levels of chromium than nickel are always helpful.

Denting and Cracking in Sinks

If you frequently wash large, heavy pans or are concerned about dropping things in your sink and possibly denting or cracking it, be aware that it is the nickel component in your stainless steel that makes it harder and more resistant to this sort of damage. In addition, nickel helps stainless steel sinks to hold up better under heavy weights.

Chromium vs. Stainless Steel

It is true that both chromium and stainless steel sinks are durable, are aesthetically pleasing and don't require a lot of maintenance or upkeep. Both chromium and stainless steel sinks are less expensive than nickel or bronze sinks.

But there are a few things to consider in the chromium vs. stainless steel debate. As a metal, chromium has a high-shine finish that comes from the electroplating of the chrome placed over another metal. Chrome is also shinier than stainless steel, but this does mean that you'll see fingerprints and water spots more easily because they'll contrast sharply with the bright finish. Additionally, some household cleaners might start to dull or damage the chrome finish more quickly than that of a stainless steel sink. Keep this in mind when you are choosing a chrome vs. stainless steel faucet or sink.

Durability of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is very durable and can withstand scratches to a greater extent than other materials, including chromium or nickel sinks. It won't chip or crack, can withstand high heats and has a long life expectancy. Be sure to maintain your sink, though, to avoid problems.

Stainless steel sinks come in a variety of looks and sizes. Even better, stainless steel is often made up of recycled materials and is very eco-friendly. Typically, sinks of this type cost between $200 and $550, depending on the size and materials you choose for your kitchen or bathroom area.

Different Types of Stainless Steel

There are a variety of types of stainless steel, and familiarizing yourself with them before shopping may prove useful. SAE and flatware are the two different types of stainless steel grades, which are used in different countries and different settings, such as a residential kitchen versus an industrial kitchen. There are more than 150 different types of stainless steel, including the 200, 304 and 440 series of SAE grade, as well as the 13/0, 18/8 and 18/10 flatware grade varieties.

SAE grades are named for the SAE International, which is an organization of engineers that develops sinks in manufacturing settings. Within the SAE grades, there are additional numbers to categorize different types of steel.

Flatware grade, on the other hand, is another grading system for the food service industry that uses ratios instead of whole numbers. Chromium and nickel are the two elements that tend to make up flatware grades, and the ratios of these metals to one another are usually marked on packaging.

Choosing a Sink Size

Another thing you'll need to consider when choosing your sink is the size available to you in your kitchen. If you choose a larger sink, be aware that you're going to cut down on the counter space available in your kitchen. Choosing too small a sink, though, will make working in your kitchen challenging.

You'll also want to consider how many bowls or basins you want in your sink. A dual sink is great for those who cook, bake and use a lot of pots and pans, because it allows plenty of room to clean larger dishes. Many dual sinks have a bigger bowl for soaking, as well as a garbage disposal.

Installing a Stainless Steel Sink

Before installing your new sink, you will need to remove the existing one. Then, you can begin the installation process. Once you've fitted the new sink into the allotted space, you'll want to install the faucet and its components, using some drain putty as needed.

After you have the components and faucet placed in the sink, you'll need to shift it to its side and secure the rubber gaskets and threaded flange to the bottom of the unit. Once the sink is put back into position, all of the excess putty should be removed. For sinks with garbage disposals, you'll install a mounting bracket to the bottom of the sink and follow the instructions for that specific type of installation.

Finalizing Sink Installation

When the sink is ready to be attached, you'll need to apply silicone sealant along the edges of the basin. From there, you'll lower the sink into the opening in your countertop. Then, you'll rotate the included attachment clips and tighten the screws below the sink to secure it into place.

Once your stainless steel sink is attached sturdily, you'll install the water supply lines to the faucet and pipes, being careful not to over-tighten or strip the lines. If the old drain pipes don't fit into the new supply lines, then there are slight adjustments that you can make to ensure the proper fit.

Lastly, you'll need to apply some sealant to the installed sink to make sure it's fully locked into place, and there is no room for movement. When you've finished, you can reconnect the power to the garbage disposal, if applicable, and restore the water flow.

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Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity (www.sweetfrivolity.com).

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