(ARA) - It?s one of the most used items in your home, but how much do you really know about kitchen sinks? Which materials are the most scratch or stain resistant? Which can withstand hot pots and pans from the oven or stove? Are there certain sinks that will chip and others that don't? Which sinks perform better -- stainless, composite, cast iron or solid surface?
As you can tell, not all sinks are created equal! They may look alike at first glance -- similar bowl shapes and color options, but the material composition of a sink provides the key to discover how you use your sink on a daily basis and which sink best fits your needs.
When purchasing a new sink, wise consumers educate themselves on how to distinguish one sink from the next. You may be enamored by cool colors and neat shapes, but what you should also be interested in is whether your sink will stand the test of time. After all, with the amount of use (and abuse) it gets, you want something that will look good for years.
So how much do you know about buying a sink? ?Moen has conducted extensive research including in-aisle surveys with sink shoppers. Most don't understand the different materials from which each sink is made, the durability of these materials and what the various price points mean,? said Kevin Campbell, Moen Incorporated sink product manager. ?Consumers should research sink options just like they would appliances or anything else they select for a new kitchen. There are many choices and each homeowner must take into account kitchen sink needs for his or her particular home including style, durability, performance and price.?
The first step is understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the sink choices on today?s market ? stainless steel, composites, solid surface and cast iron.
Stainless steel is the most popular kitchen sink style on the market and provides a complementary match to commercial-styled appliances. But today?s offerings provide many more choices than those of just a few years back. Moen?s Lancelot line, for example, is available in curved-back, oval, round and trapezoid bowls as well as the standard square-shaped bowl. By mixing and matching these shapes, consumers can customize their entire kitchen around the sink configuration.
To measure the quality of a stainless steel sink, first determine the thickness or gauge of the steel. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel and hence the higher the quality of the sink. So, for instance, an 18-gauge sink is more durable than a 23-gauge model.
The second thing to look for is its sound deadening ability -- how loud the noise is when something is dropped into the sink, such as a piece of silverware. Some sinks offer increased sound deadening by using underneath spray coatings, such as Moen?s SoundSHIELD, and special sound pads underneath the bowl. Although dent resistance and general durability of a sink will be directly related to its gauge of steel, in general, stainless sinks can be prone to scratching and water spotting. To combat this problem, choose a model with a satin texture finish. ?Although the ?mirror finish? may look nice in the showroom, these sinks have a hard time holding up to the normal wear and tear of a kitchen environment,? says Campbell. ?A satin finish sink provides additional protection from scratching and rusting.?
Overall, stainless sinks offer many benefits including resistance to chipping, cracking or peeling. They are available in both undermount and overmount models. One word of caution though, if you want to undermount a stainless steel sink, the countertop must be a solid material and not a laminate (due to water exposure, laminates can eventually separate and bubble).
The use of composite sinks is growing rapidly, but the composite category causes sink shoppers confusion since there are several different types on the market, including: granite, quartz and polyester/acrylic.
The most durable sink on the market today is granite composite. Thanks to an extremely high density of rock particles at the sink?s surface, these sinks offer superior scratch, chip and heat resistance. MoenStone Granite, for example, protects against the rigors of kitchen life to prevent scratching, cutting and staining.
?These sinks will weather hot pans, dropped utensils, tomato sauce stains and other harsh conditions beautifully,? noted Campbell. ?And, they offer heat resistance to 535 degrees Fahrenheit, which means a pan can go from stove to sink without burning or marring the surface.?
Granite-based sinks have long been the most popular composites in Europe and have recently been introduced to the United States. But unlike the European models, the U.S. versions can also be installed as undermounts, a much requested option in today?s homes. They are available in many different color options and bowl configurations.
With a typical combination of 70 percent quartz and 30 percent resin filler, quartz composites can resist everyday cuts, scuffs and dents and can easily stand up to harsh cleaning materials or liquids. These sinks are a step below granite-based in terms of wear and durability.
Quartz composite sinks are available in a variety of colors. Since the color is uniform throughout, the material never loses its original color. Pots and pans can usually go right from stove to sink without damaging the sink.
Of all the composite sinks on the market, polyester/acrylic is the lowest performing in terms of scratch and stain resistance. These sinks are made from soft materials that can cut and nick easily.
Polyester/acrylic based composites appeal to buyers on a budget since they are more affordable than some of the other sinks in this category. They also are attractive to those looking for a ?shiny? finish to their sink.
There is a misconception about solid surface sinks as many think that they are some of the hardest products on the market. In actuality, they are softer than quartz and granite composite sinks.
The acrylic polymer composing the sink can nick, scratch and dent, but can be repaired. However, the repair process may be too difficult for a do-it-yourselfer and require a professional?s visit.
Solid surface sinks continue to be popular because of their ability to be one, integral unit with the countertop. This is an attractive option for those who want a clean surface with no exposed edges from countertop to sink.
Although they can be cost prohibitive for some, solid surface sinks do offer excellent resistance to heat and light exposure and are easy to maintain.
Cast Iron Sinks
Because of its traditional look, some homeowners still prefer a cast iron sink. These sinks feature an iron base coated with an enamel finish. The main disadvantage to cast iron is it may chip or scratch, exposing the black surface underneath. When this surface is exposed, it can often lead to rusting. In addition, due to cast iron?s high degree of thermal conductivity, hot water in the basin does not hold its temperature for very long when compared to other materials.
When it comes to installation, cast iron is one of the most difficult because the sinks are heavy and bulky in nature. Also, cast iron offers a very limited amount of undermount installation options.
On the positive side, the latest cast iron sinks come in an array of colors. And, if you are remodeling an older home and want to keep its original charm, a cast iron sink provides an air of authenticity to your kitchen. In addition, it is a great way to create a country, farmhouse feel in any kitchen -- new or old.
Many manufacturers offer sink accessories that are custom-fit to the sink. Moen?s new line fits both MoenStone composite and Lancelot stainless steel lines. These accessories have been specially designed to help with a host of kitchen tasks, including cleaning, rinsing and chopping. Accessories include:
* Bottom grids custom fit to protect the sink from wear and tear while still allowing for drainage and disposal.
* Plate racks and rinse baskets that combine for flexibility while cleaning. Plate racks can be conveniently used both inside and outside of the sink for dish drying and handling.
* Custom-fit cutting boards for chopping. Some even feature a removable colander that accommodates multiple tasks, such as cutting, rinsing, draining and prepping.
* Strainers that match the color of your sink to assure a coordinated style.
So do your homework before you go sink shopping. By using the information found in this article, you should be able to determine which sink is right for you -- and it shouldn?t be a ?draining? experience.
For more information about Moen?s kitchen sink products, contact Moen Incorporated, 25300 Al Moen Drive, North Olmsted, OH 44070, call (800) 553-6636, or visit the Web site at www.moen.com.
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