That beautiful kitchen sink with its own apron pouring down from the ridge of the counter top has several names, with Belfast sink and farmhouse sink the two most popular. They look like enamel cast-iron sinks but are probably made of fireclay --- a tough and hardened combination of clay and glaze that is more durable than their enamel cousin.

Fireclay History

First crafted in England in the late 1800s, fireclay sinks were a staple "downstairs" in elegant London townhomes and stately countryside mansions. Functional, large and strong, they were able to withstand the bumps and nicks of heavy cast-iron pots and pans.

Re-created for the American market in the 1900s, embellishments were added and a cache created, giving fireclay an elite position at the top of the market.

Creating Fireclay

Unlike enamel cast-iron sinks that are molded from liquid iron and then coated with enamel, fireclay is made in a different way. The result is a continuous color throughout and a surface that is difficult to chip, unlike enamel cast iron:

  1. It is molded from clay and allowed to dry.
  2. The enamel is then applied.
  3. The sink is then fired to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit -- for over 20 hours. The intense heat fuses the clay with the glaze using a silicate. The heat changes the chemical composition of the clay and the glaze, melding the two elements and making one shape that's unified.

Benefits of Fireclay

Durability A hardened fireclay sink is the most durable product on the market because it is:

  • nonporous
  • scratch-resistant
  • Acids and alkali don't affect the surface

Maintenance Cleaning a fireclay sink is simple: Just wipe it down with a soft towel at the end of the day. For a more intense clean, use a mild abrasive and a sponge or cloth to restore your sink to its original luster.

Character The beauty of a fireclay apron sink is in the apron, where scallops, etchings and artistry distinguish each handmade fireclay sink. A kitchen featuring an apron-fronted sink immediately evokes a bygone era and adds charisma to the decor.

Downsides of Fireclay

Dish Damage Aside from being one of the more expensive kitchen sinks on the market, a fireclay sink is not dish-friendly. A plate sliding from your soapy hand onto the sink surface will probably break.

Installation Issues Installation is precise and must be performed by a skilled fireclay technician to avoid cracking the sink when installing the drain parts. In addition:

  • A garbage disposal for a fireclay sink requires the installation of a special elongated flange.
  • Faucets are mounted into the counter or backsplash as there usually is no rim on a fireclay sink.

Extreme Weight Because of its extreme weight, an undermount fireclay sink will need under-the-counter support, reducing under-the-sink storage considerably.