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Stainless Steel Countertops

By HHI Staff

One of the healthiest countertop choices is stainless steel. It’s been used in commercial kitchens for years but it’s just now being used a little more commonly in residential applications as people realize its sleek modern appearance is, indeed, appropriate in their own home kitchen.

What Exactly is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is defined as any steel alloy that has at least a certain amount of chromium content. Chromium gives steel tremendous rust and corrosion resistance. Nickel, molybdenum, or other elements may also be used in certain stainless-steel alloys. Currently, the most popular stainless steel is called 18-8. This grade contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel. This particular alloy of stainless steel is generally used in flatware, cooking utensils, plumbing fixtures, and it works very well for kitchen countertops.

Pros and Cons

One drawback to stainless-steel countertops is that they’re often relatively expensive. First, the stainless-steel sheets themselves can be quite pricey, and then you have to add in the cost of having them custom-made into countertops by skilled fabricators. Yet, stainless steel’s advantages are considerable. Stainless steel is virtually indestructible and it won’t support microbial growth. It’s also stain-resistant, scorch-resistant and not subject to cracking or peeling. In other words, stainless-steel countertops should last forever and, therefore, will never have to be replaced. If your stainless-steel countertops are of a fairly simple design, the cost can be comparable to Corian-type countertops and sometimes less.

 

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Because stainless-steel countertops are almost always custom-made, you can have finished countertops manufactured with many special features. For example, you can choose to have extra-tall backsplashes, or none at all, and perhaps a seamless integral sink. Though they’re more expensive than using a “drop-in” sink, integrated sinks offer a clean, streamlined look. This is because all the separate components of a stainless-steel countertop and the sink(s) are welded together and the weld seams are ground and polished so they become invisible. Therefore, an integrated countertop/sink eliminates the seams found when a typical drop-in sink is used—seams which could eventually become traps for food particles or microbial growth.

It should be pointed out that when you’re having your stainless-steel countertops made, you can specify that they be fabricated using a particular gauge (thickness). It’s best for chemically sensitive people to choose a gauge that’s relatively heavy because with thin stainless steel, a plywood or particleboard substrate (support base) is required. This man-made wood material can release formaldehyde from formaldehyde-based glues and softwood terpene odors. Some companies may be able to substitute a formaldehyde-free substrate. To eliminate the substrate altogether, stainless steel with at least a 14-gauge thickness will have to be used. Stainless-steel countertops of that thickness will probably only need a few solid-wood braces underneath for sufficient support. If you are a very sensitive individual, consider using a hardwood for the braces rather than pine, to avoid any terpene odors.

Obtaining Stainless Steel Counters

To find a company in your area that can fabricate stainless-steel countertops, you can check online or check your telephone classified section under “Commercial Kitchen Suppliers.” If none are listed there, ask at local restaurants and other commercial kitchens to find out where their countertops were made.

 

When you find a fabricator, make certain that his work will be of sufficient quality to be used in a home kitchen. Also you’ll want to get a total cost estimate to include materials, labor, shipping, etc., as well as an expected date your countertops should be completed. You should be aware, however, that some fabricators do not actually install countertops. In that case, you’ll have to make arrangements with someone else to install them.

 

Remember to be extremely careful when giving countertop measurements to your stainless-steel fabricator. Any mistakes can mean expensive countertops that don’t fit. Stainless-steel countertops can’t be easily modified once fabricated, so accurate measurements are mandatory.

 

From Creating a Healthy Household: The Ultimate Guide For Healthier, Safer, Less-Toxic Living, © 2000 by Lynn Marie Bower. 

 

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Stainless Steel Countertops:  Created on February 10th, 2007.  Last Modified on February 28th, 2011

 

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