Last Updated on June 18, 2022
Imagine that you’re installing all of the equipment in your brand new commercial kitchen. After you have the cooking area situated, you move to the dish pit where you’ve just installed your sinks, dish machine and work tables.
To ensure that your pots, pans and small wares are ready for use on the grand opening day, you fill your sink with water and start to soak your dishes.
All of a sudden, you hear a screeching sound and watch wide-eyed as your brand new sink rips off its hinges, pots and all, and falls to the floor. Standing there, horrified and angry, you wonder what on earth just happened.
The most probable cause for a scenario like this is that the metal gauge was not strong enough for the sink’s intended use. What does that mean?
Thickness of Metal
The strength of the metal that is used to make sinks is directly related to how they’ll be used in a commercial setting. Thinner metal is best when used with shelves and some work tables. Thicker metal is designed to handle the weight of pots, pans and water combined.
18 Gauge Steel
The thinnest steel that you can purchase is the 18 gauge. This is not recommended for establishments that regularly use large, heavy pots and pans such as a hotel or healthcare facility.
A better application for this steel would be cafes and small diners. 18 gauge is a good choice for produce-washing sinks and shelves.
Consider how easy it is to tear a piece of off-brand tin foil in half. Now, think about how much stronger a name-brand version is. It is the same concept with sink steel.
The thinner the gauge, or if the weight of the water and dishes is too heavy, the more likely it is that the sink could rupture — breaking under the weight and ripping out of the wall.
16 Gauge Steel
16 gauge steel is the next step up from 18 gauge. It is the most common grade of sink steel and it also works for light duty work tables.
This gauge will hold up to the weight of dishes and water as long as you take into account the type of dishes that you’ll be washing. Plates, glasses, small wares, frying pans and smaller cooking tools are just fine. But make sure that you choose thicker steel for heavy duty pots and lots of sheet pans.
16 gauge steel also works well with other equipment. Some good examples are the work tables that are used for heavier countertop appliances such as meat slicers, blenders and food processors.
14 Gauge Steel
The thickest steel that you can purchase for sinks is 14 gauge. These sinks are strong enough to hold many dishes and heavy pots — along with the amount of water that is necessary for your washing, rinsing and sanitizing.
To put this into perspective, 14 gauge steel can even handle heavy load equipment like charbroilers and countertop fryers without any denting or rupturing.
Also, custom-fabricated sinks that are used in high-volume restaurants, hotels, and health care centers are often made with 14 gauge steel.
Quality of Metal
The quality of steel that you use in your sink will affect how well it can hold up under pressure. There are two types of metal used for commercial sink production: 300 Series and 400 Series steel.
300 Series Steel
300 Series, also known as 304 steel, is a high-quality metal that has been blended with chromium. Stainless steel alone is not rustproof, but it becomes rust-resistant when chromium is added.
This steel and chromium blend of metal does not contain any nickel, which indicates a better quality product. The cost is roughly 20% higher. However, sinks made of 300 Series steel will last much longer than sinks that are made of other metal blends.
400 Series Steel
400 Series steel is a lower-quality steel than its 300 Series counterpart. It is blended with less chromium and more nickel, creating a surface area that is magnetic. It is a more cost effective metal for sinks and other stainless equipment.
Additionally, the 400 Series steel does not stand up to rust as well as a higher quality steel.
Metal Strength Matters
Remember the above scenario? Let’s explore why an event like that would take place, and why the gauge and quality of your commercial sink matters.
A gallon of water weighs 8.5 pounds. Imagine that you have a three-compartment sink, and you fill each sink with 20 gallons of water. Potentially, the water weight alone can reach up to 170 pounds in each sink, for a combined total of 510. Now, add the weight of the pots and pans on top of that!
If a sink’s metal is too thin, it can buckle under this weight or tear right off the wall. Think about how this scenario would play out in the middle of a busy rush. Chances are good that the operation would have to shut down until the sink was replaced.
Cleaning Matters Too
Stainless steel finishes must be cleaned regularly. The mill grain is a popular finish on stainless steel sinks because it prevents fingerprints and keeps the steel looking clean.
All commercial stainless sinks should be cleaned with simple soap and water. However, a stainless steel cleaner will add shine and protect the surface once it has been cleaned.
Regular cleaning also protects the steel from rust, which can be caused by the acidity of the oils from your skin.
Does Your Sink Make the Cut?
If you’re thinking about purchasing a new commercial sink, make sure you consider its intended use. Doing so will save you time and money. Most importantly, it will likely protect you from experiencing a dish pit disaster.