Fireclay (left) and cast iron farmhouse sinks are gorgeous and can last forever. Which one is right for you? Let us explain the differences.
Your kitchen is the busiest room in the house with most of the action taking place in and around your kitchen sink. Because your kitchen sink is so vital, choosing the perfect piece can feel a bit overwhelming. From contemporary kitchens to rustic ones, farmhouse sinks add beauty and functionality to any kitchen, but then that begs the question: Which is a better farmhouse sink material; fireclay or cast iron?
How Fireclay and Cast Iron Sinks are Made
While fireclay and cast iron farmhouse sinks look similar, they are made in vastly different ways. Fireclay sinks are handmade from clay and heated to extremely high temperatures, which causes the clay and glaze to fuse together. Cast iron farmhouse sinks are sturdy and rigid, built from cast iron and powder coated with enamel. The difference in their creation leads to their biggest pros and cons.
Durability of Fireclay vs. Cast Iron Sinks
Both sink materials are durable, but you need to consider how your sink will perform up against other elements in your kitchen like dishes and pots and pans. Fireclay farmhouse sinks chip easier than cast iron sinks and are more likely to crack. Pots and pans are constantly getting thrown into sinks, which means farmhouse sinks need to be able to handle heavy usage. However, since the glaze and clay are fused together, if this sink does chip, the color remains white, so there isn’t much aesthetic damage. Fireclay sinks have also been known to crack when their flanges are tightened too much, so be careful. One small mistake during installation and your sink could be ruined before you even have the chance to use it.
Enamel cast iron farmhouse sinks are much stronger and the enamel holds up better to a kitchen sink’s tasks. The enamel can chip, revealing the black iron underneath, but this can be repaired. These sinks can last for decades and still look perfect. Enameled cast iron farmhouse sinks are different than enameled steel sinks. Steel sinks are more prone to rusting when the enamel chips or cracks, so it’s important you know which type of metal forms the base of your sink when purchasing.
Cleaning the Sinks
Fireclay sinks can take abrasive cleaning better than cast iron enamel. Since the glaze and clay are fused together, it can handle tough cleaners. It’s also stain resistant, so foods that typically stain, like coffee and berries, can just be wiped away with no damage.
You need to use gentle cleaners in order to keep your enamel cast iron sink looking its best. Steel wool and wire brushes can cause metal transfer, which is when the finish on the brush is left behind in the enamel. Bar Keeper’s Friend and a soft sponge will keep your sink looking pristine.
Ease of Installation
Because fireclay farmhouse sinks are handcrafted, they can vary slightly in size, making it hard to determine how big your installation space needs to be. Sink measurements can vary plus or minus 2% across all planes. To some, the slight imperfections of these handmade farmhouse sinks are charming and unique. To others, these imperfections just add to the list of cons.
Because cast iron farmhouse sinks are factory made, they are much more consistent in design and size. When you order one, you know exactly how much space in your counters you’ll need for it, making it much easier to DIY install.
Your installation will also take into account the weight of your sink. Fireclay sinks can weigh up to 300 pounds, so reinforcing your cabinetry will be key to enjoying your sink for years to come. Enameled cast iron sinks are still pretty weighty - around 150 pounds - but may not require any extra carpentry skills to install it.
When it comes to choosing between the fireclay vs. the cast iron farmhouse sink, the edge goes to the cast iron sink. It still has that nostalgic feeling and all the functionality that a fireclay sink has, but it’s more durable, easier to install and weighs about half that of a fireclay. It may dull a bit faster if you use the wrong cleaners, but that’s a small downfall. Farmhouse sinks are perfect for doing the dishes, watering plants, and even bathing children, and the cast iron farmhouse sink will help you accomplish any of your kitchen tasks.