To Stainless Steel or Not To?

Stainless steel is one of the most widely used metals in the world today. The Chrysler Building in New York City is capped with a layer of stainless steel, as is the St. Louis Arch - and neither of these monumental landmarks have corroded or required any other maintenance aside from cleaning since they were made many years ago. But stainless steel is not just used in major construction projects; it has made its way into the homes and appliances of many modern Americans. Why? Because of its tough durability, rust-resistant trait, and aesthetic appeal. So, what's the catch? Price, of course. New stainless steel appliances can run you a pretty penny and if you're looking to refurbish your home's appliances, you need to know when stainless steel is worth it and where you can get it the cheapest.

Stainless Steel: Why All the Fuss?
Before you start eyeballing parts of your home for stainless steel replacement, it's a good idea to know what exactly we're dealing with here. Stainless steel is an alloy made of iron, carbon, and chromium that started becoming widely used in the early 1900s. The chromium content is what makes stainless steel "stainless" because chromium automatically creates a protective film of chromium oxide whenever it comes into contact with oxygen. This protective film encases the steel and forms a barrier against corrosion. If the layer of chromium oxide is ever breached, it will fix itself and create a new layer of film as soon as oxygen hits the exposed chromium of the steel. This makes stainless steel essentially rust-free. However, responsible cleaning will of course give your stainless steel appliances a longer life. Abrasive cleaning materials or brushes will probably not hurt your appliances in the short run, but soft cloths and chloride-free soaps are recommended to lengthen the life of stainless steel in the long run.

Where to Sink Your Money
A wide variety of household items are made from stainless steel today. Everything from cabinets to refrigerators, sinks and dishwashers, as well as garage tools and hardware are made from this durable metal. So, when you're thinking about upgrading to stainless steel, don't drive yourself crazy with an unaffordable or tremendously expensive overhaul of your home's appliances. Start with the areas you use the most. We recommend your kitchen sink. Everybody has to eat everyday and if you're an average American who only eats out on special occasions, you're probably eating breakfast and dinner at home and preparing homemade lunches to take with you to work or school. This means your sink is getting a lot of action, possibly the most in your kitchen. So, if you're thinking of replacing it, you will want to purchase a high quality sink that can withstand harsh daily use for many years and still look great.

Finding the Best Deal
Start out by looking in your local home improvement stores to get an idea of how much stainless steel costs in your area. If you decide to purchase your new sink from a store, make sure to ask if the sink comes with free installation. If not, you should do some research to see if you can install the new sink yourself or if you will need to budget to hire a professional to do it for you. This will be especially important if you buy online, but this is where you might find some of the best deals. Stainless steel sinks can cost upwards of $1000 if you go for the super high end products. However, you can find perfectly good and practical stainless steel sinks for under $350 if you know where to look. We recommend checking out the selection on NexTag.com . There you will find an Advance Tabco stainless steel undermount sink bowl measuring 10" x 14" x 10" for only $181 or a much deeper 20" x 16" x 12" sink for $344.

How to Clean Stainless Steel
Normal household use should never damage stainless steel sinks irreparably. Rather, you'll simply need to clean them easily and regularly to keep your kitchen looking shiny and new. And the best part is that you don't even have to buy a new cleaning product because you probably already own a good one: Try rubbing alcohol! Simply fill an empty spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and give your sink a little shpritz each night before going to bed. Wipe it down with a paper towel and watch your water spots and fingerprints disappear! Rubbing alcohol serves as a disinfectant to keep your kitchen sink healthy, clean beautifully shiny.

After choosing, installing and using your new stainless steel kitchen sink, you will get a feel for how much stainless steel you want in your home. Later on, you might choose to add stainless steel countertops, shelving, refrigerator and other appliances. But we recommend starting out with your sink first and then seeing where your budget takes you.

7 Stylish Utility Sinks

1.Laundry rooms are not generally considered sexy, beautiful spaces in the home but that doesn’t mean they can’t be attractive as well as functional. Naturally, their most important feature is function and if you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated laundry room, then one feature you will surely wish to install is the utility sink. In the days of the basement laundry room, it was common to have a large utility sink for hand washing, pre-soaking, or spot cleaning. These big sinks were not used for food prep or personal hygiene but for basic household talks such as cleaning clothes and cleaning larger buckets, mops, etc. However utilitarian they are, there are many sinks that look good as well. And, as long as you’re doing the dirty work, why not do it in a pleasant space.

2.One of the sweetest laundry rooms I’ve seen was in the HGTV 2010 Green Home in Plymouth, MA. I visited the house in June 2010, just before it was given away and was charmed by the multi-purpose mud/laundry room just inside the home from the garage. The snappy red appliances were set off against the cool gray/blue woodwork. The utility sink was a simple under mount integrated into a granite counter top. While not large (the room was quite small as well), the sink offered service to both laundry and gardening needs. A very charming workspace indeed!

Here is a roundup of several attractive, and functional, utility sinks for your laundry area.

3.The 3-bowl Scullery Sink recalls days gone by of grand English country estates and scullery maids scurrying about washing dishes and laundry. While most of us are doing our own “scullery” work, this sink will make that job much easier. The sink is 42” high to reduce back strain and the three bowls makes hand washing clothing an easier task for simultaneous hot wash, cold wash and/or bleach washing-whatever is needed to get the job done.

4.The All Purpose china sink works well in country and classic settings and can be wall or counter mounted. The high gloss china is stain and bacteria resistant. The classic white porcelain look is always a winner.

5.The Bayview wall mount small sink by Kohler is a great choice for smaller laundry rooms. Though small, the depth is deep for great functionality. The cast iron sink comes as a wall mount with an optional sink stand. The finishes range from Almond to Ice Gray.

6.This classically styled Farmhouse sink is sure to make a bold statement in this snappy blue finish. There’s no reason why even a modest utility sink can’t be stylish!

7.This sleek stainless steel utility sink from Julien offers the modern appeal of stainless steel construction and comes in several styles and configurations to fit any job. From wall mount sinks, to counter drop-ins or undermounts to stand-alones, these sinks are a great choice for smaller spaces and those seeking a modern, industrial edge in their designs.

Ikea, the go-to source for low priced modern design, offers a stand alone utility sink that offers a double stainless steel bowl and two-door cabinet. Add a crane neck faucet to make this a stylish, utilitarian piece.

Make your custom kitchen sink

1. Add or subtract a bowl

Two-bowl kitchen sinks have become fairly standard, allowing separation of clean and dirty dishes. However, some users want the simplicity and volume of a single basin. Single-bowl sinks are typically large enough for soaking big pots, defrost turkeys or maybe bathe a baby.

Other manufacturers are going the other direction — adding a third small bowl. These may be between the bowls or on one side. They are often connected to the disposal, but consider connecting one of the larger bowls to the disposal instead. This will allow you to scrape large bowls or pans directly into the disposal drain. Also be aware that a three-bowl sink may not be a simple switch. Many three-bowl sinks require an extra 12 inches of counter space.

2. Under-mount the sink

Under-mount sinks are a new trend, replacing the standard drop-in sink with a lip over the counter all the way around the basins. Under-mount sinks attach to the bottom of stone or solid-surface counters, creating a uniform, flush countertop surface and a more simple, attractive look. Users also say under-mount sinks are easier to clean. They make it easier to clen countertops, as you can just squeegee all the water and debris on the counter into the sink without a lip in the way. Another option is the tile-in sink. This sink’s rim is flush with the tile countertop surface, and sealed in with grout.

3. Customize the shape

Perhaps the easiest sink to clean is a solid-surface acrylic or stone sink. These integral sinks can be directly molded into the countertop. They are quiet, durable and can be customized in any shape, but they are also among the most expensive sinks.

4. Get custom accessories

Some sinks come with colanders and cutting boards that fit perfectly over one of the bowls. No more juggling a colander and a boiling pot to strain pasta.

5. Bend the faucet

Gooseneck faucets create more space between the spout and the bottom of the basin. They make it easier to fill tall pitchers and vases, and to wash large pots. However, water may splash and create a mess if the faucet is too tall for the sink.

6. Get a deeper basin

Another way to add space is with a deeper bowl. The standard basin is six to eight inches deep, but newer models are inching deeper. A 12-inch-deep basin may be more convenient, but they will also be less comfortable for taller users.

7. Replace the handle

Try out the many types of kitchen sink handles, including levers, twist knobs and cross handles. Some prefer the ease of a single lever while others would rather have two separate controls. Both options now come with wrist blades, which are a great option for hands-free manipulation, particularly if you struggle with finger and hand pain.

8. Add a pull-out sprayer

Many sinks have an extra hole in the back right corner, providing space for one of three optional accessories — sprayers, hot-water dispensers and filter faucets. Sprayers help make it easier to clean vegetables and dishes. If you don’t have the extra hole available for a separate sprayer head, consider a detachable sprayer in the main faucet head.

9. Add a hot water dispenser

Hot water dispensers deliver 190-degree water on demand through a separate faucet mounted on the sink. They use a heater mounted under the counter, requiring an electric receptacle, but not a separate water line.

10. Add a water filter

Finally, you can treat the water flowing into the sink with a filter on the water line. The most common models use replaceable carbon filters that eliminate many contaminants and odors. Other filters use reverse osmosis or boiling and distillation. Filters can also be attached to a separate faucet mounted in the hole that is often used for sprayers or hot-water dispensers.

Tosca 5-Minute Faucet Review

To win a Tosca 5-Minute Faucet, click here: Tell us your worst plumbing stories and win a Tosca 5-Minute Faucet and a $50 Lowes gift card!

The Tosca 5-Minute Faucet truly can be installed in about 300 seconds, but Tosca isn't making promises about removing the old kitchen faucet. Only after struggling to take out the old unit will you appreciate the value of a 5-minute kitchen faucet installation job with no extra tools

Detaching a kitchen faucet can be messy and difficult. After shutting off the water and unscrewing your water lines, move the supplies and other debris from under the sink. Then slide on your back under the kitchen sink and enjoy the lip of the cabinet digging into your back. The only way to remove most faucets is to loosen a pair of small nuts in a tight spot between water lines and sink basins. It may also require a specialized $15 basin wrench, which is otherwise of limited use.

Even the right tools may fail. I tried to remove my kitchen faucet and gave up after about an hour of fighting corroded threads with vise grips, hammers and WD40. I then took the Tosca unit to the in-laws' house and earned some brownie points by replacing their faucet. After climbing back above the sink and pulling out the faucet and water lines, you'll see why top-mounted installation is advantageous. Install the Tosca 5-Minute Faucet with just the two supplied Allen wrenches and an adjustable pipe wrench, all while standing on your feet. It truly installs in less than five minutes if you organize your parts, follow directions and work quickly.

First, twist the base onto the countertop. You need to simultaneously hold the base straight, keep the anchor in place and turn the larger Allen wrench. The next step is pushing the water lines through the base without twisting them. The faucet body attaches to the base with a small hex screw that tightens with the smaller Allen wrench.

You only need to reach under the sink in the final minute to attach the water lines and turn on the shutoff valves. Before starting, make sure the water lines are long enough to reach the shutoff valves. The lines are designed to be just long enough for average length pipes, but were a few inches short of the shutoff valves for my project. Finally, attach the counterweight to the spray head line.

The Tosca 5-Minute Faucet is sturdy and easy to operate. The sprayer head fits well and pulls in and out smoothly. The sprayer button on top of the head is convenient and easy, but sometimes has trouble staying locked in the spray position. It pays to keep your instructions to remember how to repair or remove the faucet using the small hex screw.

You can install the new Italian Tosca kitchen faucet in five minutes with fewer tools and less hassle than standard kitchen faucets. It also gets top marks for quality and ease of use.

Do you have chosen the right kitchen faucet?

Choosing a kitchen faucet is mostly about looks and performance, but there are a few other considerations to take into account before you buy. Faucets range from $50 to over $1,000, depending on the style, finish, faucet type and features. The best advice for faucet shopping is to choose the most durable faucet type in a style you like with a finish that works in your kitchen or in your kitchen plans. If you are building new or doing a complete remodel, your choices are limited only to budget. If you're replacing your current faucet you'll be limited to the hole-configuration of your sink and may have to add adapters to the water lines. Faucets in all but the lowest of price points are available in different styles. No matter what style you choose, take the following elements into consideration while shopping.

While to the average buyer mechanics might not be the most interesting part of faucet shopping, it is quite important. The mechanics will affect the durability and the maintenance of the faucet. Kitchen faucets generally come in three types: ball, cartridge and ceramic disc. All three of these types of faucets are washerless, meaning there is no rubber seal that will wear out and cause a leak.

A ball faucet is common in the kitchen. It has a single handle and the component that controls the water flow and temperature is a metal or plastic ball with slots that align with the hot and cold water. It has the most parts of all the washerless faucets and is most susceptible to leaks.

Cartridge and ceramic disc faucets rarely leak or need maintenance. Both faucet types come in single or double handles. All the parts that are subject to wear in the cartridge faucet are contained in a replaceable cartridge, though they rarely need attention. Ceramic disc faucets are the latest technology and most dependable. They often have a lifetime warranty. Two ceramic discs control both the temperature of the water and the flow.

As mentioned above, you will have to be sure that a new faucet matches up with the hole configuration in the sink or the counter. Base plates can be installed to cover holes in sinks and counters that are no longer needed, though you may not like the look. It isn't recommended to drill new holes into existing sinks and counters. If you are remodeling or building new, you might decide to get a wall-mounted faucet for a fresh look.

Kitchen faucets are available with one or two handles to control water flow and temperature. The single handle is often part of a unit, but some are mounted separately to the side of the faucet for a custom look. Because a lot of multitasking goes on in the kitchen, single handles are popular. Double handles are available and offer more precise water and temperature control, but they aren't as convenient if your hands are dirty or full.

When you are choosing a faucet, be sure that the spout reach will cover most of the sink. Many spouts also double as pull-out sprayers, making rinsing food, filling pots and cleaning the sink easy. The neck height of the spout also is important. Gooseneck spouts offer a tall clearance in the sink which is great for washing large pots and pans, but some may not cover the entire area of a sink - particularly if the sink has multiple bowls. Also, if you have a shallow sink, keep in mind that a high neck will create a larger splash.

Chrome is the standard in faucets. It's the least expensive and most durable. It has, however, fallen out of fashion in the past few years as consumers opt for the softer look of brushed chrome, oiled bronze, copper and satin nickel finishes. An added physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish will make these finishes scratch resistant. Higher-end faucets are available in many enamel colors, but the enamel can chip.

The kitchen faucet adds style and functionality to the room. Choose something you love that is durable so that it lasts a lifetime - or at least until you want to update your kitchen!