When becoming a new homeowner or remodeling your space, decision-making can be intimidating. You will have to live with the fixtures you choose for a long time, so it’s essential to make the right purchases. Deciding on the material of a new kitchen sink is no different, and will determine how you use your kitchen daily.
You should get a cast iron sink if you’re looking for a cost-effective option that is extremely durable and will last for several years. Fireclay sinks are best for custom shapes, easy installation, and hands-off maintenance. The right sink for your household will depend on your budget, lifestyle, and how much responsibility you are willing to take on.
Consider your budget
When it comes to making any new purchase for your home, budget is an important factor. The right decision between cast iron or fireclay for your kitchen sink will first depend on how much you would like to spend.
The actual cost of your new sink will be determined by material and size. The brand you choose will also play a role in overall pricing. Below, we’ll break down the average prices between cast iron and fireclay kitchen sinks.
Cast iron prices
The average cost of a brand new cast iron kitchen sink is $300. It’s the lowest-priced option compared to fireclay sinks.
Although you can find a cast iron sink as low as $200, some products are as high as $700. Again, this will depend on the size of your new sink and the brand you choose.
Installation costs also contribute to what you will spend upgrading to a brand new cast iron sink. In addition to just buying the materials, the nature of a cast iron installation will most likely require help from a professional. The hourly costs of labor and any minimum fees charged by your local contractor should be considered in the bottom line.
Fireclay is the more expensive option of the two at an average cost of $600. Due to the manufacturing process and materials, you are unlikely to find a brand new sink for any less than this price.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, this type of sink may deter you. However, fireclay sinks have their benefits, and can be considered cost-effective when it comes to maintenance and lifespan.
The same is also true when it comes to installation. Because fireclay is not as heavy and complex as cast iron, you may be able to save money with a DIY installation after your purchase.
Consider installation of the sink
The installation process differs between each type of sink. Before you make a purchase, it’s essential to consider how the installation will impact you as the homeowner.
Keep in mind that the cost of installation as well as the time it takes from beginning to end will affect your daily activities. Let’s get into the installation details for cast iron and fireclay sinks.
Cast iron sink weight and installation
Cast iron sinks are extremely heavy and require special procedures during installation. If these measures are not put in place right away, the weight of the sink can cause the counter to collapse.
The average weight of a cast iron kitchen sink is 150 pounds. Although they can weigh a little less based on size, the minimum is over 100 pounds.
The installation process for a cast iron sink begins with detailed measurements. An area is measured in the counter and a hole is cut on the top to create a space for the new sink.
Being that cast iron is an extremely heavyweight material, it will need additional support in place before moving further. Specifically, braces with a frame of 2×4 wooden supports must be set up underneath to hold the sink’s weight.
Most of the cast iron installation process involves setting up these supports. Whether you choose to go with a professional installation or DIY, it’s critical to ensure the support braces are completely level during each step. Otherwise, the sink can be lop-sided and eventually collapse with uneven support.
Finally, caulk is applied around the countertop hole and the cast iron sink is carefully placed inside before it dries. This is another crucial step, as it’s easy to make mistakes lowering such a heavy sink into this area.
As a result, it’s recommended to get help from another person or seek professional installation. The final steps involve connecting the water and drain lines and installing the faucets and other hardware to complete the process.
Fireclay sink weight and installation
Fireclay sinks are slightly less heavy than cast iron at an average of 100 pounds or less. The installation process is similar to that of a cast iron, but it’s slightly less complex overall.
Since fireclay sinks are not as heavy, your countertop will not be required to hold as much weight. As a result, it’s not completely necessary to install supports underneath the sink. Depending on the actual weight of the model you choose, you may decide to skip the additional supports or install them anyway for additional safety.
Installation will require taking measurements and making a cut to create a space for the new sink. After deciding whether or not to add supports, the sink is lowered into this area carefully with fresh caulk around the edges. Similar to the cast iron installation process, all that’s left to do at the end is add the fixtures and connect all necessary lines to your new sink.
Which sink will be easiest to keep clean?
Maintenance is another important factor to consider when purchasing a new sink. This section will let you know what to expect for regular upkeep. Use the following information to decide which sink is right for you based on the level of care and responsibility you’re comfortable with.
Cast iron finishes
Cast iron finishes are more difficult to clean than fireclay. This is true for both stains and rust.
Cast iron is susceptible to rusting, due to the metal in the enamel coating. While this shiny white layer gives it a brand new look when it’s first installed, it can easily become scratched or chipped since it’s not a cohesive material throughout.
When cleaning cast iron, you must use non-abrasive tools and cleaners. A soft cloth or sponge should be used exclusively. Any harsh brushes or steel wool will ruin the coating.
A baking soda paste is a gentle solution for any stains in your cast iron sink. Other than that, there’s not much you can do to keep it clean without damage.
Ongoing maintenance is required to keep a cast iron sink looking brand new. You will need to take special care to rinse and thoroughly dry your sink after each use.
Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid irreversible damage. Be cautious of what comes in contact with the sink and what is allowed to sit in the bottom for extended periods of time.
Dark colored foods like berries and coffee will stain the enamel, and cleanup won’t be simple. Similarly, heavy dishes may scratch the surface of the bottom of your sink. Instead of trying to clean and repair stains or scratches, it’s best to be attentive and prevent this from happening in the first place.
Fireclay sinks don’t have any coating on the top, so they are easier to clean. During production, the two layers are combined with high heat, making it more stain-resistant when compared to cast iron.
While abrasive tools and cleaners should still be avoided, fireclay requires a less intensive maintenance process overall. With regular cleaning, this type of sink will generally keep up its “brand new” look for a long time.
Do chemicals harm either sink?
The use of chemicals will harm both cast iron and fireclay sinks in different ways. Abrasive cleaners should not be used on cast iron because they wear down the outer coating. Over time with consistent use, the enamel will be unable to resist stains.
Similarly, chemicals can cause permanent discoloration on the surface of a fireclay sink. Certain chemicals, however, are suitable for use in both sinks.
Bleach is recommended for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining each material. When diluted with water and sprayed on for less than one hour, it can be an excellent way to keep up the appearance of your investment.
Consider the durability of the sink
Durability plays a huge role in which type of sink will be the best choice for you. This will determine how you can use your sink daily and how long it will last before replacement is necessary.
Both cast iron and fireclay sinks are prone to chipping, but this occurs in different ways. The enamel coating on a cast iron sink can chip, while whole pieces of fireclay can be broken off in the same scenario.
Fireclay is most susceptible to cracking because it’s made of a ceramic material. While it doesn’t have an outer coating, the entire sink can crack like a piece of pottery if something heavy is dropped.
Cast iron’s enamel coating is made with metal. This makes it prone to rusting without proper care and maintenance over time.
Which sink can be repaired if cracked?
A cracked cast iron sink can be repaired with epoxy putty to close any gaps in the enamel coating. Since fireclay is one material molded into a shape, pieces broken off or cracked affect the entire sink. While you can glue a fireclay sink back together in theory, it will never look the same.
Impacts on the sink by dropped pans/items
When a pan or heavy item drops in a fireclay sink, there is a huge risk of cracking. As mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to fix a fireclay sink when it’s broken, cracked, or shattered. This adds a lot of risk to an accidental drop while doing dishes or cooking.
Cast iron, on the other hand, is also susceptible to damage from dropped pans, but it’s slightly more forgiving. If chips or cracks occur, they can be repaired with epoxy putty. It’s unlikely for a cast iron sink to break or shatter as a whole.
Sink warranty and repairs
The warranty of your sink will depend on the brand and the exact model. For example, Kohler brand cast iron sinks made before 2009 are not covered, but all other models are under warranty for manufacturing defects only (discoloration or cracking are not included). Most brands offer a lifetime warranty or some level of safety during the time you live in your home.
Which styles and finishes fit your kitchen design?
It’s essential to coordinate your new sink with your existing kitchen elements for a cohesive look. Below are the main factors to consider before your purchase.
Fireclay has limited colors available, while cast iron has hundreds of different shades. Exact palettes and ranges will vary between manufacturers.
Fireclay sinks have more shapes available due to the flexibility of a ceramic mold. Cast iron is not moldable, so these sinks only come in a standard shape.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.