Q. "What does the gauge mean?"
A. During the manufacturing process, stainless steel sinks are "stamped" into shape. That means that the material stretches and therefore the corners can be very thin. We suggest at least 20 gauge and preferably 18 gauge. The lower the number, the thicker the material. In our opinion, 22 gauge is bare minimum - builder quality.
Q. "What do the different types of stainless steel (304, 316, etc) mean?"
A. The term "stainless steel" refers to specific grades of steel that contain more than 10% chromium. Stainless steel may also include a variety of other elements (such as nickel, titanium, molybdenum, etc); it resists corrosion and is generally a stronger, more reliable steel. There are over 150 grades of stainless steel, but only fifteen are most commonly used.
The most common grades of stainless steel used in the plumbing industry are:
Type 301: Carbon steel mixture consisting of 17% chromium and 7% nickel. This type of stainless steel provides higher resistance to atmospheric corrosion and allows brighter, attractive, surface finishes to be achieved. This composition also gives the product a higher tensile strength but resistance to corrosion by acids and chemicals are not as good. This type of stainless steel was more commonly used for aircraft and truck components but some sink manufacturers are beginning to use it.
Type 304: Sometimes referred to as T304, this steel consists of 18-20% chromium and 8-10% nickel. Type 304 is the most widely used of the many stainless steel compositions. It has good formability qualities and can be welded. Type 304 stainless is durable for use in typical food processing environments, and is very resistant to corrosive acids and to most chemicals. Many manufactures choose to use type 304 to produce top quality sinks.
Type 316: Similar to type 304, it contains 18-20% chromium, 10-14% nickel but also contains a small amount of molybdenum, which is an alloy element #304 does not contain (but one that provides even stronger resistance to some deterioration). Types 304 and 316 are grades of stainless steel that are most often used in plumbing, as well as in the manufacturing of kitchen utensils and sinks.
Q. "What is 300 Series stainless steel?"
A. The basic composition of 300 series stainless steel is 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Different grades of 300 Series stainless steel are created by lowering or increasing the percentage of chromium and nickel added to the carbon steel. For instance; Type 301 stainless steel contains 17% chromium and 7% nickel while Type 304 stainless steel contains 18-20% chromium and 8-10% nickel. By changing the composition of the stainless steel in this manner the manufacturers can obtain brighter surface finishes and higher tensile strength of their product but these changes can also alter the corrosion resistance.
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