Copper sinks are a combination of skilled artisanship and one of nature’s most attractive metals, and they offer an intriguing array of looks, sizes and styles to fit your kitchen design.
This copper kitchen sink guide is full of information you can use to determine is copper is the right choice. See our guides on cast iron, stainless steel, fireclay and other materials for comparing them in all the important factors.
About Copper Sinks & the Finishing Options
Copper is a soft, malleable metal that is ideal for crafting into sinks. A small amount of zinc or similar, safe metal is added to come copper to increase its strength.
Note on Lead in Copper: Copper sinks made in the USA generally don’t contain lead. Some imported sinks do contain lead, since there are no uniform standards. Research any copper sink you’re considering to know exactly what is in it.
You’ve got choices with copper that you’ll need to consider.
Patina or shine: If you allow your copper sink to “age,” it will develop a patina as the metal oxidizes. As you read up on copper sinks, you’ll see producers say things like, “copper has a living finish that is always changing.” They’re describing the ongoing development of the patina and the color changes it brings. Many homeowners choose patina. It gives the sink additional character and is easier to care for. If you prefer that “new penny” shine, it can be maintained with a copper cleaner that removes oxidation.
While it’s not a hard and fast rule by any means, the patina is usually allowed to develop on hammered sinks. With smooth copper sinks, it’s more mixed – some with patina, some gleaming bright.
Copper gauge: The thickness of the copper material used plays a major role in the sink’s durability, just as it does with stainless steel kitchen sinks. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the material. Most kitchen experts recommend at least 16-gauge copper, suggesting that 14 or 12-gauge copper is an even better choice for a kitchen sink.
Finish – hammered or smooth: What look do you prefer? Check out our Copper Sinks Pinterest page for pictures of each type. A smooth finish is slightly easier to care for, and it delivers a more contemporary look. A hammered sink offers character and uniqueness.
Most hammered copper sink finishes are made by skilled artisans, though some are machine produced. A majority of high-end hammered copper sinks are produced in Mexico by craftsmen that have practiced the same methods and techniques for generations.
Obviously, the hand-hammered sinks are more expensive than those with a design created with a machine.
Other finish choices: Beyond hammered or smooth, you’ve got additional options for the finish. The manufacturer will treat the copper with specific methods to give it a “color” somewhere on the spectrum from light to dark. These choices are given names like matte, natural, naked, smoke, weathered, antique and aged.
Lacquer or not: Some recommend adding a coat of lacquer to the copper to seal it against patina. Most sink manufacturers and experts suggest that you DO NOT put lacquer or any similar sealer (approved wax products are OK) on the copper. Lacquer will inevitably wear off unevenly or peel to produce a very unsightly sink surface.
Antimicrobial: Copper is a naturally antimicrobial material, and this helps to create a sanitary condition for food preparation. Studies have shown that the toughest bacteria can live on copper for just a few hours while they can survive on other materials for days. However, to advertise sinks as antimicrobial, as Elkay and other brands do, the company must meet rigid Environmental Protection Agency registration and compliance.
Also, waxing your copper sink, as some manufacturers suggest, inhibits this antimicrobial trait. The bottom line is that while the material fosters a sanitary environment, a copper sink should still be cleaned thoroughly and consistently.
Apron and farmhouse sinks: These sink types lend themselves beautifully to copper because their exposed front is ideal for metalworking. Many gorgeous designs are available.
Copper Kitchen Sink Options
Those are the choices specific to copper. There are additional options to consider based on the style you prefer for your kitchen space.
- Single (1-bowl), double (2-bowl) and triple (3-bowl) kitchen sinks, though triple copper sinks are rare
- Topmount (aka drop-in, self-rimming), undermount, corner and apron/farmhouse styles
- Widths from 15” or slightly less to more than 36”
Top Copper Sink Brands
Some of the top manufacturers of stainless steel sinks make copper too, but most copper sink producers specialize exclusively in that material. Here are the best copper sink brands to consider:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Copper Sinks
Here are the pros & cons of copper kitchen sinks to consider and compare with other materials you are researching.
Copper kitchen sink advantages – Copper sinks:
- Offer unique design and beauty
- Are available in smooth and hammered styles
- Give you the option of patina or gleaming finish
- Are antimicrobial when not waxed
- With a patina finish hide scratches quite well
- Are easy to maintain when a patina is allowed to form
- Are lighter than sinks made from most other materials, so won’t require excessive measures to install
Copper kitchen sink disadvantages – Copper sinks:
- May dent easily, especially thin-gauge copper
- Are harder to maintain than most sinks when a bright finish is maintained
- Are among the most expensive sink types
Copper Kitchen Sink Styles
An apron or farmhouse sink gives the artisan a chance to create a masterpiece on the front of the sink. They’re an ideal choice for country, French country, Old World and other classic kitchen styles. Topmount and undermount sinks are available that look good in styles ranging from traditional to modern.
Copper Kitchen Sink Prices
You get what you pay for in copper sinks in terms of quality and beauty. Keep in mind too that cheap copper sinks might be produced in countries without strict standards and might contain lead.
- Starting price for copper kitchen sinks: About $150
- Price range for most copper sinks: $350-$1,500
- Custom-made copper sink prices: $2,000-$4,500
Our full page on copper kitchen sink costs provides a complete breakdown of prices.
Is a Copper Kitchen Sink Right for You?
If you love the look and want something unique and interesting for your kitchen, then consider copper. If you want the gleaming copper look, be prepared to give the copper regular care. How often you’ll need to use copper cleaner will depend on your tolerance for a bit of tarnish. You’ll also want to dry your sink, especially if maintaining the gleam, after use to prevent water spots which are minerals left behind in hard or softened water.
Our recommendation is that you only consider sinks from manufacturers with good reputations. Buying a sink made in the USA provides peace of mind about lead content, though some copper sinks made outside the United States are also lead-free. Research the manufacturer, and make a few phone calls to make sure you’re buying a sink that doesn’t contain lead.
Copper Kitchen Sinks FAQ
This copper sink Q&A covers additional topics you might find useful.
What is the purpose of waxing a copper sink?
There are a couple of reasons. First, waxing allows water to run off more readily, so water spots and mineral deposits are less likely. Secondly, waxing slows down the oxidation process that leads to the development of patina.
I left a lemon slice in my copper sink, and it lightened the patina. What should I do?
If you don’t do anything, the patina should soon return and blend with the surrounding area. If it doesn’t, a second option involves some work. Use copper cleaner to clean the entire sink, and then let the patina return.
I’m concerned about the softness of copper and getting dents in the sink.
Copper is quite soft. However, adding just 1% zinc, which many manufacturers do, makes the copper much tougher. Be sure to buy a sink with a heavier gauge material to prevent dents. Also, a hammered copper sink that has been allowed to develop a patina won’t show minor dings as readily as a polished copper sink. Using a sink grate in the bottom of the sink can help protect against dents too. Use one made by or recommended by the sink manufacturer.
Is the copper in sinks recycled? Is it recyclable?
The second question is easier to answer: All copper is recyclable. In fact, it might be the most recycled metal in the world. One study suggested that 80% of the copper ever produced is still in use.
The answer to the first questions is that some sink companies use recycled copper, but most do not use it for this reason: Recycled copper might contain non-copper metals such as lead and other materials such as arsenic.
Will my copper sink turn green?
Probably not. Copper turning green is mostly associated with it being exposed to harsh weather, severe temperature fluctuations and corrosive chemicals. The patina on a quality copper sink will be rosy pink to dark, chocolate brown.
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