Ed the Plumber: Tips on stainless-steel sinks and bathroom fans for the home.

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Q: Hi, Ed. My daughter recently bought her first home — actually, a condo — and I have had a lot of fun helping her out on repair projects. We often read your column together over a cup of coffee to pick up some quick tips. Now we are about to tackle installing a new kitchen sink, and we’re looking at stainless-steel sinks. In doing the research, we have found that most of the stainless-steel sinks carry a “gauge” number and we need a little help in determining the best gauge to get. Can you explain this gauge stuff in plain English? Also, any other tips are welcome on this subject. Thanks!

— Joe and Donna in Chicago

A: It’s nice to hear such a wonderful story. I hope many other parents take this as a cue to develop better relationships with their children through home improvement. All you have to do is pick a project to do together and the rest falls into place.

A stainless-steel sink is a great choice for a do-it-yourself project since the material is affordable, easy to handle and good-looking. Many stainless-steel sinks are now available in a brushed finish that hides scratches, and on the higher-end sinks “noise suppression” pads may also be installed. I recommend finding a sink with both features since it will be easier to maintain and a lot quieter if something is dropped inside, or if a disposer is installed.

I also recommend a classic “double bowl” setup since this basically gives you two sinks for the price of one.

Now for the most important consideration when choosing a stainless-steel sink: gauge thickness.

A stainless-steel sink may look like a good bargain, but if it’s a thin, tin-sounding sink with a lot of movement, you may not be happy with it in your kitchen. When looking for a sink with good thickness, you need to look at the gauge number. Gauge thickness is a number that refers to how thick the stainless-steel material is that’s used in the sink. The numbers usually range from 18 to 23, and basically the lower the number, the thicker the material.

Lower-end thinner stainless-steel sinks can be 22 or 23 gauge, while high-end thicker sinks can be 18 or 19 gauge. Naturally, the stronger the sink, the higher the price, so you may have to balance the gauge number to fit your budget.

Q: Ed, I read your article on bathroom fans and how we need to keep them running for about 20 minutes after each use to have proper ventilation for a bathroom. While this sound like a good idea, who can wait 20 minutes before shutting off the fan? Do they have automatic fans that can be installed?

— Joe in Mississippi

A: Great point, Joe! If you look around, I’m sure you can find a bathroom fan that will fit your bill. But any bathroom-fan switch can easily be replaced with a timer switch installed by a licensed electrician. This job should only take an hour or two, and the timer switch should not be very expensive.

So, for a small investment in your home you can now enter the bathroom, turn on the fan-timer switch to the amount of time you will be using the bathroom plus 20 minutes, and then simply leave the bathroom. Now your bathroom may be less prone to odors, mildew and mold.

Master Contractor/Plumber Ed Del Grande is known as the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call” and for hosting TV shows on Scripps Networks and HGTVPro.com. For information visit eddelgrande.com or write eddelgrande@hgtvpro.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.