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Install a new contemporary stainless steel sink

Dear Ms. Builder: Our old enamel kitchen sink needs to be replaced. I am told that this is an easy do-it-yourself job. Is a stainless steel sink a good choice and do you have any tips? - Julia M.

Dear Julia: I have installed some kitchen sinks in two hours and others took two days. Anytime you are dealing with old plumbing and working flat on your back, you never know what you have in store. Having said this, give it a try - you might be one of the lucky ones.

A stainless steel sink is the best choice for 95% of all kitchens. It is durable, lightweight and easy to handle. Its silvery color pleasantly accents nearly every kitchen decor. Once you get your old plumbing loose, the new sink will literally drop into place.

There is a significant difference in quality among the various stainless steel sinks available. The primary criterion for comparing quality is the thickness of the metal. The metal thickness ranges from about .028 inches to .050 inches. Spend the extra money for a thick one.

An inexpensive thin one will flex (oil can) and will get unsightly dents over time. Thin ones just sound cheap when you drop something in them. Spraying foam insulation on the underside after installation helps, but it will never have that quality sound of a thicker one.

As a brief background, stainless steel is made basically of iron with chromium and nickel added. These materials give the iron corrosion resistance and toughness. Certain alloys can be drawn easily into the deep shape of a sink.

You will have to crawl under your sink and measure the actual opening in the countertop. This is a great job for your kids. Be very accurate. The overall flange dimensions on the new stainless steel sink must be at least one-half inch larger than the opening to provide an acceptable overlap.

While you are under the sink, check to see what type of pipes you have - plastic, copper or galvanized steel. This is important to know when you buy your new plumbing for the stainless steel sink. You will probably install a new faucet fixture too.

If you have a really old sink, you may not be able to find a new one to match the opening. In this case, purchase the next larger size and cut out the opening with a jig saw. You do not have to be too concerned about the neatness of the cut. The countertop edge will be hidden under the new sink's flange.

Once your new sink is delivered and you have the countertop hole cut to size, install the faucet into the new sink. Spread a bead of the silicone sealer under the sink flange and press the sink in place in the hole. The sealer is often included in the new sink packaging.

Almost all stainless steel sinks are held in place by metal clips underneath the sink. As soon as you put the sink in place, tighten the clips before the sealer sets up. Use a damp cloth to wipe off any excess sealer that oozed out.

Stainless steel can actually be stained by standing water. The bottom of the sinks are tapered to avoid this. When installing the strainer baskets, make sure the edges are not thicker than the recess in the bottom of the sink or they may trap water around them. If so, replace them with thinner ones.

To maintain the stainless steel's beauty, avoid getting a chlorine-based chemicals, like bleach, on it for extended periods. Do not place cast iron pots and pans in the sink if it is still damp. Never leave a wet steel wool cleaning pad in the sink.

Tools and materials required: putty knife, adjustable wrench, grooved pliers, jig saw, pipe wrench, tubing cutter, Phillips and flat-blade screwdrivers, hacksaw, ruler, drill, new sink, plumber's putty, silicon sealer.

Send questions to: Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, Ohio 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.