Cast iron was viewed as passé not long ago, but, as they say, it’s back and better than ever. Today’s cast iron sinks are available in more colors, styles and configurations than in your grandmother’s day. Better models are covered in next-generation enamel that is tougher and very attractive.
This cast iron sink buyers guide gives you the details you need in order to compare cast iron with other fabulous options covered in our guides such as stainless steel, granite composite, fireclay and copper.
About Cast Iron Kitchen Sinks
Cast iron is a term referring to a family of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content of greater than 2%. The casting process involves heating the metal to its melting point between 2,100 to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and then pouring it into a mold, in this case, a sink mold. The process is known to date back to the 5th century BC in China and has continuous history since then.
The cast sink substrate is then coated with enamel, often porcelain enamel which is a glass. The glass is super-heated to temperatures between 1,000 and 1,600 degrees F depending on the makeup of the enamel, and it is bonded to the iron. Essentially, it is baked onto it.
Porcelain is also called vitreous enamel, and it is widely used in coating appliances, cookware and many industrial applications. The glass lining in water heaters is porcelain.
Enameled Steel Sinks
Enameled steel is a more affordable alternative to cast iron. The steel substrate is created in much the same manner as cast iron. The enameling is often of an inferior quality, though high-quality material is often used too. Enameled steel sinks often cost 30% to 70% less than porcelain enamel cast iron. One advantage is that enameled steel is lighter than cast iron, so it is less likely to need additional support or cause your countertop to bow.
Since the sinks are so similar in production and enameled steel is made by some of the same top brands, we’ll include enameled steel products in our discussion of such issues as price.
Cast Iron Kitchen Sink Options
This is one of the significant changes in the cast iron sink market in the last generation – you’ve got more options!
- Single, double and triple sinks (See our Buying Guides on each type of kitchen sink)
- Topmount/self-rimming, undermount, corner and apron/farmhouse/country sinks (See our Guides on each style of sink)
- Widths from less than 20” to more than 40”
- Colors ranging from traditional white to black, with top cast iron sink models typically offered in 3 to 16 colors
- Cast iron sink prices starting at about $200 and ranging to more than $2,500
Now, there aren’t as many choices within each style as you have with stainless steel, but the key is that cast iron sinks are available in the general size, style and configuration you want for your kitchen. The same is true of enameled steel kitchen sinks.
Top Cast Iron Kitchen Sink Brands
Just a few of the leading brands in the industry make quality cast iron and enameled metal sinks. They include:
Kohler dominates the market with a tremendous range of products.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Cast Iron Kitchen Sinks
We’ll look at some of the pros & cons of enameled steel sinks too.
Cast iron kitchen sink advantages – Cast iron with porcelain enamel:
- Is very durable and tough
- Won’t dent like cheaper gauges of stainless steel can
- Is non-porous, so resists staining, cleans very easily and wont’ harbor germs
- Isn’t harmed by harsh chemicals
- Resists scratches
- Retains heat, a plus when washing a large load of dishes by hand
- Handles high temperatures
- Is available in quite a few colors
- Won’t fade since the pigment is in the porcelain, not a coating on it
- Often includes up to 80% recycled or reclaimed iron
Cast iron kitchen sink disadvantages – Cast iron with porcelain:
- Is quite heavy, so sinks must be installed with strong bracing and support
- Can chip if heavy objects are dropped on the porcelain
- Isn’t available in as many styles and choices as stainless steel
- Costs more than enameled steel
- Enameled steel substrata is prone to rusting quite quickly from below, and this will eventually ruin the sink if the seal around the countertop is not water-tight
The range found in the quality of enameled steel sinks is greater than for cast iron. Consequently, you’ll find excellent products made by Kohler, for example, but also some pretty cheap sinks. We suggest choosing a sink from a brand that has a reputation for quality.
Cast Iron Kitchen Sink Style
While cast iron sinks with a traditional look are still popular, many of the sinks currently available have a stylish, contemporary design. That means that you’ll find a cast iron or enameled steel sink to fit your kitchen.
Cast Iron Kitchen Sink Prices
See our Cast Iron Sink Price Guide for a detailed look at prices for styles of sink. Here’s an overview:
- Starting price for cast iron kitchen sinks: About $85
- Price range for most cast iron kitchen sinks: $400-$850
- Price range for most enameled steel kitchen sinks: $175-$400
- High-end cast iron kitchen sink prices: $2,000-$3,000
- High-end enameled steel kitchen sink prices: $800 or more
Is a Cast Iron Sink Right for Your Kitchen?
If your kitchen design emphasizes durability, strength and handsome good looks, a cast iron kitchen sink or an enameled steel sink will fit very nicely into the plan. You’ll also have a sink that is easy to clean and maintain among its many advantages.
Installing a Cast Iron Sink
Sinks this heavy need additional support, even if they’re drop-in sinks that rest on the countertop. For small sinks, it might work to attach the supports to the sides of the sink cabinet, but if that’s the approach you take, make sure the screws for the back support, if possible, penetrate studs.
The best supports for cast iron sinks have a vertical component that extends to the floor of the sink cabinet. While this reduces space in the cabinet, that is much preferred to having the weight of the sink bow the countertop and potentially crack it. Bowed countertops might also cause leaks around the rim of the sink.
Cast Iron Kitchen Sink FAQ
This cast iron sink Q&A covers additional topics of interest.
Will a cast iron sink rust?
The underside of a cast iron or steel sink can rust. To prevent it, the seal around the rim of the sink must be water tight. It should be checked and repaired if needed on a regular basis. Manufacturers also recommend not storing open containers (those without a top) beneath the sink because the fumes might cause the underside to rust and/or corrode.
If the enamel on the sink is chipped, exposing iron or metal, rust might develop. Have the damage repaired immediately. DIY repair kits are available for small chips in enamel, whether it is porcelain or not.
Is it a good idea to buy a used cast iron sink?
It can be, especially if you love the traditional/retro look they often possess. First, though, check it for wear and especially for rust. Determine ahead of time whether it needs to be reglazed, so that can be factored into the consideration of price.
How much does it cost to reglaze a cast iron sink?
Depending on the size of the sink and the quality of the enamel that is applied, expect to pay $100-$300.
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