Wondering about the pros and cons of a cast iron vs fireclay sink? In this article, we’ll compare each so that you can make a decision that’s best for you! Plus I’ll tell you one thing about the Kohler Whitehaven cast iron farmhouse sink that no one else will!
Most people consider a kitchen sink a long-term investment. After all, homeowners don’t typically change out their sink unless there’s a problem with it, right? So that means you’ll want the sink you choose to hold up and look as beautiful 10 years from now as it did the day you bought it!
And if you’ve shopped for sinks lately, you’ll know that there are LOTS to choose from. Not only do you need to pick a shape, color, and size, but you also need to consider what it’s made of.
So let’s examine the two most similar types of kitchen sink – cast iron vs. fireclay. You can use the Table of Contents below to help you navigate.
Kitchen Sink Materials for Durability
There are four main kitchen sink materials popular right now: stainless steel sinks, composite sinks, cast iron, and fireclay. Of these, cast iron and fireclay sinks look almost identical.
So how do you know which you want?
At one time, cast iron sinks reigned supreme but fireclay has become increasingly popular and is now an equal contender! With its rise in popularity and looks so similar to the cast iron sink, you might have trouble deciding between the two.
So cast iron vs fireclay sinks. What sink should you choose? Which will last the longest? Which is easiest to maintain? Let’s take a look at each one, compare the benefits of fireclay and of cast iron, their drawbacks, and figure out which one is right for you!
What is a Cast Iron Sink?
Cast iron cookware has been popular in kitchens because it’s virtually indestructible! A cast iron sink is made up of two parts. The first layer is made from iron that is melted down and cast into a mold. From there, an enamel coating is applied to the iron that creates a durable and glossy finish.
Let’s be honest, cast iron sinks are gorgeous with their sleek glossy finish! Whether you choose a farmhouse or regular undermount, these sinks are just pretty to look at!
Cast iron is built to last! These sinks can withstand everyday use with ease and won’t ever crack.
The enamel coating is hard and nonporous so it prevents stains from setting in. So go ahead and rinse tomato sauce or pour out your wine (does anyone pour out their wine?)
Easy to Maintain
The glossy enamel doesn’t show streaks or water spots and it’s easy to just wipe down for a quick clean.
Given the nature of the material, cast iron sinks retain heat well, which is important if you’re washing dishes in a full sink of soapy water!
Wide Assortment of Colors
While white and beige are typical colors for kitchens, the enamel coating is actually available in a variety of colors allowing you to customize the color of your sink to your liking.
Consistency & Drainage
Because cast iron sinks are made from a mold, the mold is perfectly shaped to allow for even drainage and every sink made with that mold will look the same.
If you’ve ever picked up a cast iron skillet, you know one thing for sure: cast iron is heavy! Not only does this matter for buying and transporting your sink, but it matters when it comes to installation, too. You need to be sure that the framework supporting your sink can hold the weight of the sink when full with water. Some homeowners will find that they have to pay more for installation due to the extra support required.
While the enamel on a cast iron sink is incredibly durable, chips can still happen! With a cast iron sink, if the enamel chips off and exposes the iron underneath, it will look like a noticeable dark spot.
If you do get a chip and the cast iron is exposed, it could potentially rust.
The Shine Can Fade
Abrasive cleaners can dull the shine off of a cast iron sink making it not quite as glossy as it was when you first purchased it. You’ll need to take care as to what cleaner to use.
What is a Fireclay Sink?
A fireclay sink is formed from a clay-based ceramic and then dried at very high temperatures. Once dry, a porcelain enamel glaze is poured over the formed clay. The sink is then put in the kiln where the enamel fuses to the ceramic, creating a smooth and durable finish.
Beautiful & Timeless
There’s no arguing these sinks are pretty and they’ve been shown to stand the test of time (and of use!)
Compared to cast iron, fireclay sinks are much lighter in weight. This means that they are easier to transport and easier to install. No special weight modifications are necessary for a fireclay sink.
The fused enamel finish is very strong and durable and resist chips and scratches from everyday wear and tear. And if it does chip or scratch, the color goes throughout the sink, so the chip isn’t as noticeable as on a cast iron sink.
Easy to Maintain
The finish of a fireclay sink means that it’s low maintenance with just a quick wipedown after use.
Each sink is slightly different and since it’s formed from clay, this also means you can create any unique shape of your choosing!
Limited Colors Available
If you’re looking for anything other than a shade of white, a fireclay sink is NOT for you. The clay limits the number of colors that can be produced, so there are shades of white available, but nothing else.
Because the sinks are not made from a mold, the shape of each might very ever so slightly. This also means that the basin might not be perfectly angled toward the drain, leaving some high spots where water can collect.
Scrathable & Crackable
Don’t drop those pots and pans into your fireclay sink! While durable, fireclay sinks can crack and/or scratch. The upside is that since the material is the same color all the way through, the scratches match the finish color.
Make sure you know your sink choice before Choosing Your Cabinets!
So, Is a Cast Iron or Fireclay Sink Better?
Both cast iron and fireclay sinks are extremely durable and hold up well to normal wear and tear in a kitchen. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be chipped or scratched. It is possible to chip either one, which is why it’s best to use a sink grid regardless of whether you go with cast iron or fireclay.
In general, fireclay sinks are less expensive, both to purchase and to install. This is not always the case, though, as brand name plays a big factor in the cost.
Colors & Customization
If you want something other than a shade of white, you’ll need to explore cast iron. Cast iron also is perfectly uniform given that it’s made in mold, but the shape cannot be customized like a fireclay can.
Cast iron typically costs more to install because reinforcement is needed to support the weight of the sink.
Both sinks are extremely durable although fireclay tends to be a bit more scratch resistant. And if it does scratch the color will be consistent whereas with a cast iron, the iron layer can show through and begin to rust if the scratch is deep enough.
Abrasive cleaners should be avoided for both types of sinks in order to maintain the beautiful coating. A sink grid and/or sink saddle is also always a good idea. Other than that, a general wipe down after each use is considered the best practice.
A Note About the Kohler Whitehaven Farmhouse Sink
The Kohler Whitehaven sink is a popular choice for homeowners, whether remodeling or renovating. It’s self-trimming so it’s easy to install, plus the price is reasonable compared to similar sinks. You might choose this sink too…until you read below.
I’ve decided to install a farmhouse sink for my upcoming kitchen remodel. In researching, I knew that I didn’t have a preference between cast iron and fireclay and would instead choose based on budget and design.
Ultimately, I selected the Kohler Whitehaven sink, which is actually an apron front sink. I’ve had a Kohler in my kitchen for almost 18 years with zero issues. We are HARD on our sink and yet it has no stains and no chips. So that was it! Decision made!
That is until I saw it in person.
And here’s something I’ve never seen discussed before. The Kohler Whitehaven has a bumpy appearance to the front. This wavy look isn’t apparent when looking at it from the front, but from the side when the bumps catch light reflections.
Here’s the display at Home Depot. Can you see how the front isn’t smooth?
Admittedly, some of the Whitehaven sinks have more bumps than others. For some homeowners, this wavy appearance is totally fine and adds to the charm! Or they might not have a side-view of their sink very often and so it doesn’t matter.
But for me, I’ll be looking at my sink from the side most of the time and I didn’t like the look of the bumpy appearance at all. Plus, I was concerned that the large door next to my sink would allow the sink to catch shadows. I found the reflections distracting in the showroom and didn’t want to take that chance.
I noticed the same is true of my cast iron bathtub, which isn’t Kohler. But it’s on the ground and so not noticeable unless I get down eye-level with it.
My Kitchen Sink Choice
The fireclay sinks that I saw didn’t have this issue so I’ve now decided on the Rohl Lancaster. Yes, it’s expensive and yes there are other fireclay options available, but I fell in love with this one so what can I say?! Have you seen the little blue symbol on the back?! Pure love.
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