Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Sink – Pros, Cons & Options Explored
Is it time to choose a sink for your newly renovated kitchen? You want one that is designed to withstand years of daily abuse while quietly supporting your decor choices. Should you go with standard stainless steel or opt for a more traditional ceramic version? Both are great choices, but each comes with its own considerations.
In this post, I’ll go over the pros and cons of ceramic and stainless steel sinks as well as answer some common questions about the topic.
Let’s get into it!
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Your grandmother likely had a ceramic sink in her kitchen. Her grandmother did, too. And their ancestors! Ceramic sinks are made using fine clay, minerals, and water and then fired at an extremely high temperature resulting in a durable product ready to last a literal lifetime.
While you may think of ceramic and fine china as the same type of product, the fact is that it takes a sledgehammer to break up a ceramic sink. The simple manufacturing process also makes them an affordable option when compared to stone or solid surface sinks.
A slick and shiny glaze protects the actual ceramic and makes the sink easy to clean. It is possible to stain a ceramic sink, but most spills can be erased when promptly cleaned up. If you drop a heavy object with a sharp corner in the sink, you might chip or crack the ceramic. But it is more likely to break the item that you dropped.
You can find ceramic sinks in a wide range of shapes and styles. The most traditional version is a drop-in that is lowered into a cutout in the worktop and secured using undermount bolts and silicone sealant or a farmhouse (Belfast/Butler) style.
It may have one or two bowls, room for all your taps, and even an integrated drainboard. Ceramic sinks are now made as undermount styles too. So even if you desire a more modern shape, you can opt for the more traditional material.
Ceramic does make the sink heavy. If you are installing it yourself, you will likely need a friend to help lift it into position. You will also want to ensure that your worktop is properly mounted to support the weight of the sink and several litres of water.
Another option is a cast iron or steel sink with an enamelled ceramic finish. These are less popular as the enamel can chip, crack, and scratch revealing the metal structure underneath. However, if you are hunting for a sink in designer colours, it becomes a go-to choice.
You can expect to spend around £200 and £500 on your ceramic sink. If that sounds a little expensive, consider that you will not need to replace it until the kitchen is renovated in another 20 years or more.
Pros of a Ceramic Sink
- Creates a timeless appearance that has survived hundreds of years of changing home decor
- Extremely durable
- Easy to clean
- Available in a few colours besides classic white
- Reasonably affordable
- Multiple designs available to match your needs
Cons of a Ceramic Sink
- Can crack or chip dishes and glasses that are dropped in the sink
- It can crack if abused
- Can be stained if not promptly cleaned
- A heavy item for a lone DIY install–you need help!
- A coloured ceramic sink may date the decor after the fashion changes
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Stainless Steel Sinks
Nearly every kitchen built over the past twenty years features a stainless steel sink. The shiny metal is quick and easy to manufacture. Modern techniques ensure that the steel is thin, light, and features a uniform appearance which made it a trending finish for appliances and sinks in the 21st century.
The sink is formed using a huge press that punches out the shape from a single sheet of stainless steel. However, it is also built to last for decades without showing any sign of wear when properly maintained.
You can order stainless steel sinks in any configuration that you can imagine from single, double, and even triple bowls and may have a drainboard. Spots for your taps for hot, cold, spray nozzles, and even hand soaps are punched out of the steel at the factory. Select one as a drop-in (inset), Flush-mount, undermount or even Belfast/Butler (Farmhouse) style.
Stainless steel comes in a variety of thicknesses. The lower the number the thicker the stainless steel.
18-gauge is the most popular and heavier version. 23-gauge steel makes a lightweight sink that is less expensive and an attractive choice when working to a budget.
Thin steel is more susceptible to scratches, dents, and even cracking if severely abused. It may also be noisier when running water and dropping cutlery in the sink.
Top Tip: Check if your stainless steel sinks come with sound dampening pads on the underside. It can significantly reduce the noise.
Installation And Care
They are lighter than ceramic sinks, so they are an easier install for the weekend warrior.
While stainless steel can maintain its like-new looks for years, it takes a bit of care. You will want to avoid using it as a cutting surface. Knives will scratch it. It can be dented by heavy objects, but can also be hammered back into shape.
If you use highly acidic chemicals in the sink, it can pit the surface resulting in a rusty appearance. If it does stain, a good scrubbing should be able to get rid of the mark.
Finally, you can source a budget-friendly stainless steel sink for as little as £80. That being said, you can also opt for a designer look while spending more than £1000.
Pros of a Stainless Steel Sink
- A popular look in kitchens for the past twenty years
- Durable material that maintains its appearance for decades
- Lighter material than ceramic for an easier installation
- Available in a huge range of sizes, styles, and prices
Cons of a Stainless Steel Sink
- Knives can scratch it
- The steel can dent
- Can be noisy (if sound-dampening pads aren’t installed)
- Only one colour option
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Do Ceramic Sinks Mark?
You can mark a ceramic sink with some highly acidic foods such as wine, berries, and coffee if the glaze has been scratched and the spill is left to set. However, most stains can be erased with the right cleaning regimen and restore the beauty of your ceramic sink.
Do Stainless Steel Sinks Scratch Easily?
Yes and no. Stainless steel will not likely scratch if you simply drop a knife on it. However, the use of abrasive cleaners and scrubbers can scratch the surface and also dull the shine. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, it is possible to maintain that gleaming surface for years.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know when comparing ceramic and stainless steel kitchen sinks.
Ultimately there’s no right or wrong choice, it will depend on your preferred style and what you need out of your kitchen sink.
So, will you go for ceramic or stainless steel for your new kitchen sink?
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.