Stainless steel sink vs. enamel

rorserOctober 11, 2011


I need your help. We are building a new home and had decided on a nice triple stainless steel sink by Kohler (K-3168). Now my wife is concerned that SS is not the way to go because they may be hard to keep clean and will water spot.

Can you please help share your views about the pros and cons of stainless steel vs. enamel, fire clay, etc. for under-mounting under a granite counter.

Gratefully, Richard

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I'm going with a Silgranit over a stainless. Main reasons are scratching in the stainless and I have very hard water, thus more prone to water spotting. I use my sink to clean--I don't want to have to clean my sink every time I turn it on.
And I'm going with a dark color-brown or black, as we are coffee and tea drinkers and my current enamel white sink does NOT bode well with this lifestyle.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 11:11PM
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Hi Richard. This topic comes up a lot. People either love stainless or hate it. I'm in the hate it camp. It's loud when things touch it. It scratches. It has constant water marks. I don't have time to wipe out the sink every time I turn it on because the water marks bother me.

Like Bahacca, I chose Blanco Silgranit. No scratching, water marks, or tingy sound from stainless; and no wear marks or scratches like enamel. Kohler touts their new and improved enamel, but I can't go there now after learning about Silgranit.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:01AM
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Definitely don't go with enamel. I can't think of any positives of owning an enamel sink. I had one in my old house and after a few years of use it started staining regularly. My wife bleaches it out but it doesn't stay white for long. Maybe if you got a black one than you won't have a problem.

Both enamel and stainless are metal so you will get some noise when you bang your dishes on the sides of the sink. If you get a quality stainless sink, they usually come with coating and rubber pads to minimize sound.

Silgranit is quite nice on all fronts but more expensive. You can get a 16 gauge stainless steel sink cheaper. Of course water spotting is an issue, especially if you have hard water. However, a stainless steel sink will last forever. Many of them have lifetime warranty.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stainless Steel Sinks

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 2:38AM
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I have had stainless for years and never got the 'loud' notion??? But then I have a garbage disposal.

Stainless scratches blend into one another very quickly. It goes from one appearance to another slightly different one.
It is not as though each individual scratch stands out. Not for long anyway. By the end of the first year you won't see another scratch.

With undermount I don't find water spots a problem as much as they were on the flat edge of the old overmount style.
The counter height ones are visually annoying, and those are gone. I clean mine with barkeepers friend. Easy.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 7:34AM
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"Definitely don't go with enamel. I can't think of any positives of owning an enamel sink. I had one in my old house and after a few years of use it started staining regularly."

Perhaps your old house had some kind of cheap or defective enamel? Enamel is one of the most durable substances for a sink. I had an enamel sink in my kitchen that was installed in 1950 and when I removed it last year there were no stains. I replaced it with a single bowl enamel sink of course because I wanted to stay with something that is bulletproof: stain resistant, cleans easily, doesn't show water spots, doesn't scratch.

I don't care for stainless for the reasons I do like enamel!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 7:51AM
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I would second the enamel endorsement. I have had two Kohler cast iron sinks, and like any sink, when something messy spills in it you have to clean it up. I have not had any staining issues at all. In fact, we've had hot sauce and coffee grounds linger a little longer than they should in there, and they clean right up. It's a more classic looking sink, IMHO.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 7:56AM
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Everyone on this thread has overlooked the matter of the OP's choice of the Kohler K-3168, which costs about $1200, so price does not seem to be a factor for the OP in this decision. The Kohler K-3168 is a triple-bowl sink, I would not recommend a triple bowl sink. Been there! None of the three bowls is big enough for anything, you will need three drainpipes which will crowd out any undersink storage you might want, it is triple the amount to clean, and where does the disposal go? The largest bowl is 16" x 14". That's pretty small. I think you should look at your dishes and pots and pans and think about how you will wash them in a 16"x14" bowl. The sink is 39" wide total - that's a big amount of space, so you must have a large kitchen. If you have an allowance of that amount of space I would go with either a Silgranit double-bowl (but not a 50-50) or single-bowl sink in a 36" size.

We used to have stainless steel, never again. We love our Silgranit Super Single. Buh-bye to water marks, scratches and dingy film. The Super Single means we can set down large pans to soak and never deal with banging into a divider. The disposal in one drain means plenty of space under the sink for storage, and also no need to take a slimy full strainer from the non-disposal drain over to the disposal. Cleaning time is minimal and easy. Never shows anything. Can handle temperatures up to 500+ degrees. I think it's important to get the Blanco Silgranit instead of other brands' granite composite which IMHO are not as good. We got the anthracite color which is a charcoal color and shows nothing. If you want to go light, I think the biscuit color is very pretty.

Kohler K-3168 triple-basin stainless sink

Blanco Super Single with excellent corner drain in Anthracite color

Blanco Silgranit Double Bowl Sink in Biscuit color

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 8:49AM
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The only sinks I "know" about are the ones I've lived with. Growing up, we had an enamel sink that needed to be scoured with cleanser at least once a day (kids took turns doing dinner dishes). My mom still has an enamel sink, but it doesn't get the cleanser routine as she's quite elderly now. Mostly it looks sort-of OK.

When we moved into this house 37 years ago, the stainless steel sink was two years old. I never noticed "water spots" or scratches. Actually, I never thought about or noticed either one of those items before I began reading this blog. I definitely didn't wipe out the sink after every use. Maybe our sink had just developed that patina that gets mentioned. In any case, our new sink is stainless steel too. It is installed, but not hooked up yet.

I think sinks need to be highly functional. I chose a single bowl because I wash large pots and cookie sheets and such that I'd like to actually be able to fit into the sink. Someone here recently was talking about why they liked their old three section sink - they used the small middle section for draining pasta and rice and washing fruits and veggies in a strainer that straddled the bowl. What I really wanted was a Kohler Stages, but just didn't have room for the 45" and the 33" doesn't have a big enough deep end. If you watch the video linked below, that is pretty much how I use a sink - not the master chef part, but the functional part.

If I could choose any material in a sink, I would give enamel a pass because the ones I've paid attention to are prone to marking with every use involving dishes. I'd also give fireclay a pass due to its fragility and difficulty in eventual replacement. Silgranite would be worth investigating, although I don't prefer a dark colored sink. In the end, you'll need to decide which features best meet your use and preferences.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kohler Stages sink

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Connie K

I'm in the "hate stainless steel sinks" camp. Growing up, my mother always had an enamel sink, so I was used to not seeing water marks in the sink. Stainless steel looks beautiful when it is clean and freshly buffed, but as soon as I use it, it looks dull and water marked. I'm not one of those fuss buttons who wipes it out after each use, so it looks good after I clean up after a meal, but as soon as someone uses water, it doesn't. I have been using it for over 30 years, and cannot wait until we replace it with the Kohler Cast Iron. BTW, I also do not have SS appliances, for the same reason, so take that into account.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:11PM
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Hate, hate,hate my white enamel sink! I keep a drainboard on the bottom to reduce all the clunking.....but food gets trapped underneath and stains. Drainboard on top stains too. Every little speck shows. Am constantly pouring bleach all over it. We are starting a remodel and going stainless. Took a brief look at Silgranit but don't recall any large single bowl to fit a 30" cabinet....will investigate these again...they sound great!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:27PM
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I had an enamel sink many apartments ago and hated it. Despite not owning the place it chipped and got stained so my boyfriend then coated it with more white enamel to make me happy. Now that I own my own place, I have a stainless sink and I like it so much better. I find it easy to keep clean and it always looks nice and does not stain. This is just my opinion based on my experiences.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:33PM
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LOL, digginginthedirt, you made me go look it up! The word is "fussbudget." It means "a fussy or needlessly fault-finding person" and was apparently first used around 1904, along with "fusspot" and "fussbox." There is some commentary about the "budget" part being derived from the Latin, or maybe French, for "bag" that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Sometimes I wish I actually owned an Oxford English Dictionary just for the etymology of odd words.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:49PM
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I've never had a Silgranite, but I've had both enameled cast iron and stainless. I hated the water spots on the stainless, but I hate the staining on the enamel. Both take a lot of upkeeping to look nice IMO.

I work at a hospital where we have stainless everything (sinks, countertops, appliances), so now the stainless sinks remind me of work and I would not put another one in my own house.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:56PM
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It sounds like you and your partner are leaning towards stainless since you picked out the Kohler sink you mention. I had stainless sinks for the past twenty years and never had a problem with them. Just make sure you get a good quality/good gauge stainless. Any little scratches just turn into a gentle patina. I never understood the complaints about water spots on stainless.

That said, just for a different look I picked a Kohler cast iron sink for my new kitchen. So far so good; but I do find that I at least feel that I have to baby it more than the stainless.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 5:57PM
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I just wanted to clarify a comment that Suzannes1 said above, "Silgranite would be worth investigating, although I don't prefer a dark colored sink". Please note that Silgranit comes in a number of colors including white and biscuit. See my link above to a Silgranit sink in the color biscuit which is a creamy and softer white than their "white". I think it may seem that Silgranit only is dark because so many people on this forum have chosen one of the dark Silgranit colors like Anthracite or Cafe Brown. That's because those colors show nothing, even if you spill red wine or spaghetti sauce, and also cause the dark color can look real sharp against granite. Our anthracite sink looks great with our Alaska White granite, and it seems to make the polished chrome of our professional-style faucet gleam more in contrast.

Still no comment on the choice of a 3-bowl sink?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 9:45PM
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I do see your light color Silgranite sink link! You're right, I always think dark because that is what so many people here have chosen. Glad to see that there are light options.

P.S. Your second link doesn't work, alwaysfixin, something about "hhttp" not being recognized.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 4:08AM
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Suzannesl - thanks for letting me know, I didn't realize. Here is the link again. I'll also add a comment that this sink's title says "drop-in", but it can be undermounted or drop-in.

I hope this helps the OP, since he has asked about SS vs. enamel, but I think we are trying to convey that there are other choices too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blanco Super Single with excellent corner drain in Anthracite color

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Love our large single bowl stainless steel sink. Does it show scratches? Yes. But my sink almost always has dishes in it - we have kids. So it's not as if we're staring at the scratches.
I'm happy to have one feature of the new kitchen that I don't worry about. Seriously, I'm thankful every day that we didn't get a sink that we have to delicately place things in. We're already worried about etching the marble countertops, scratching the floor, cleaning the stainless stove without scratching it...and the list goes on. You can't worry about everything! The stainless sink is a pleasure.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 8:58AM
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Wow, thanks to you all. You have given us lots to think about. The Blanco Silgranit is certainly worth considering. My wife is really worried about the water spots on SS from our hard water. We will be undermounting the sink under granite, and the Silgranit colors may really look good with it.
Really appreciate your comments, Richard

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 2:44AM
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My MIL has a new, expensive enamel sink.

Every pot that touches the enamel leaves a metallic mark that only comes off with steel wool - even if you're super gentle and just kiss the sink with the pot. EVERY TIME NO EXCEPTION. It's super annoying.

Silgranit is awesome.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 9:31AM
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I was all set to go with stainless steel on my latest renovation, but then saw the Kohler Indio sink and fell in love. It's got the low divider between the 2 bowls, and one bowl is very large. Comes with cool accessories like racks for each basin, a colander and a walnut cutting board. I was so excited about the Kohler stages sink, posted upthread, but this Indio has some pretty great features too, and comes in a 2-bowl configuration that's a more standard size.

And now Kohler has some really cool finishes - mine is Sea Salt, and looks much like grains of salt. To me, the look is a huge step up from my old white enamel Kohler sink, and it seems easier to maintain than the fireclay sink in my old house. Undermounting makes it look modern, automatically, and the functional improvement is noticeable. I love it!!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 10:52PM
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I went with a Blanco Silgranit and really like it. I don't like stainless, it also reminds me of hospitals or the sinks in my grandparents' camper-trailer.

I did only a little research on enamel before jumping ship, so please doublecheck me on this point: The cheaper enamel sinks have stainless steel underneath that enamel. The S/S flexes but the enamel can't flex. That causes the enamel to chip. I was told to get enamel with cast-iron. Again, please doublecheck me!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 2:33AM
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kmcg -- just wanted to jump in to say that the Kohler Indio is a beautiful sink. Love those accessories! I seriously considered it. I hope you enjoy it.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:04AM
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