Fireclay vs castiron - which is stronger?

lauriecJanuary 27, 2010

Aarrgh. Was close to deciding on rohl allia sink cause of off set drain when I saw this posting;

RE: show me your soapstone counter with undermount cast iron

Posted by riverspots (My Page) on Tue, Jan 26, 10 at 18:54

I was all set to order the Rohl Allia. Went to the store and, while I was there, looked around at all the bath and kitchen displays. I got to the Kohler section and saw an interesting display. There was a large divided sink with a heavy SS frying pan in it. The frying pan had a sign challenging people to try to damage the sink with the pan. Not to miss such an opportunity, I picked up the pan and dropped it from a height of 6 inches into the sink. Nothing happened. So I then picked up the frying pan and tapped the edge of the sink. Again, no damage. Then I whacked the sink a half dozen times harder than I thought any accident could cause. No damage-not even a scratch. The pan just bounced off. I was amazed. So I asked the salesperson, who had just told me that fireclay was pretty durable, if it could take that sort of abuse. She just shook her head. So I ordered the Kohler Bakersfield sink instead.

So is fireclay less strong? What is the collective wisdom?

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After reading your question, I decided to look underneath the sink in my current house (I am building a house and planning a new kitchen). I have a white sink, and I never really thought about what it was. I was shocked to see that it is a Kohler cast iron sink - the Lakefield model! They still make it! I am shocked - and I have new appreciation for my sink now.

I have been really pleased with the cast iron material (not the design of my specific model, though - I hate having the disposal in the little section). The cast iron is very durable. My house is 22 years old, and I have been in it for 13 years, I am not easy on the sink - I tend to throw things in there. I have never broken a glass in the sink, I have never gotten a chip in the sink, and although some of my pots (like my turkey pot) do seem to react with the sink and cause scuffs, they come right out with a Mr. Clean Magic eraser. My sink looks pristine on the inside after all these years.

This has been eye opening to me....I was planning on getting a fireclay sink in the new house. Mainly I want the look of a white sink. I look forward to reading what people have to say!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 8:06AM
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I have had some bad experiences with some fireclay sinks used in kitchens -
the ones I used (I'm NOT saying that they're ALL bad - just the ones that
we had trouble with) cracked when we were handling them in the shop
during fabrication.

I think IF a fireclay sink is going to be used in a kitchen environment, you'd
want to check with the manufacturer and the dealer - to see what the track record
has been on that particular model. Many fireclay sinks have a much softer "body"
that have a lower impact strength - hence the chipping and cracking seen....

Dropping heavy items into the sink - such as cast iron pots and pans, frozen
turkeys, and other things that could damage the sink - should be disussed
PRIOR to your ordering a fireclay sink over a cast iron or stainless steel sink.

In my experience - I have leaned towards cast iron and stainless for KITCHEN
uses -fireclay would be OK for lavs and some wet bar applications.

IMHO - you did the right thing by ordering the Kohler Cast Iron sink for your kitchen.



    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 8:12AM
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    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:06AM
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ok i am now convinced for cast iron... but i still want an off set drain - can i get this in cast iron - anyone make that?



    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:13AM
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I believe Kohler has a new cast iron sink with an offset drain-can't remember the name of it . . .check their site. The sink is very cool looking. When I was researching sinks last month, I saw that in Consumer Reports testing, cast iron still comes out as the most durable material.(They did not test Silgranit). Some people confuse resin on steel sinks, like Americast, with cast iron, and therefore have a bad image of cast iron. I have been very impressed with the wear of my Kohler sink, which is supposedly the best cast iron made, at least according to Kolher :). I see the weight of a cast iron sink as the only possible drawback, but my plumber had no trouble installing mine. Good luck in your search.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:40AM
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I chose two Franke fireclay sinks for my renovation, which was completed a year ago. One of the reasons I chose fireclay is that I thought if it chipped, it would still be white underneath, while if a cast iron sink chipped, it would be black underneath. In the second week, a woman made a tiny chip when she dropped a heavy cast iron range grate into the sink. My chipped area is dark, not the light color I expected.

I am still happy with the look of the sinks, and we haven't gotten any chips since. We are all more careful now.

When I was shopping for sinks, I was told by the saleslady in the kitchen and bath design store that the OLD cast iron sinks had lead in the glaze and were very sturdy, but the NEW ones were lead free and much less durable. I think they were referred more to wear caused by scrubbing, but I don't really remember. I think there were other posts on this site referring to that, as well.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 12:36PM
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Astrid, I've never heard any of that about the cast iron sinks and wonder how much was sales patter? Or if it's talking about a non-Kohler company? I think American Standard aren't rated as durable nowadays...

The old porcelain cast iron sinks were exceedingly durable and can be found still in service, and like new, where they haven't been abused, 100 years later. It is possible to crack cast iron, especially before it's installed, but really really really really unlikely. The old porcelain could be cracked or chipped by falling whatever but the sink itself would be whole, and sometimes could be repaired.

The new Kohler sinks are fired at a much higher temperature than the old, giving a more glasslike surface glaze that's non-porous and much harder to chip. I haven't yet heard of it cracking. It doesn't have the wonderful density and texture of the old porcelain, or of fireclay, but it's very very very durable. It's also sized pretty reliably, whereas you have to have your particular fireclay on site before you create the base and opening for it because there's so much variation. And fireclay can crack pretty easily if you over tighten the drain flange.

Fireclay feels wonderful!!! and it's much more durable than vitreous china which is what most lav sinks are made of, but there's no way it can be as durable as cast iron of any kind, and most particularly the Kohler. What's more durable, your stoneware casserole or your cast iron one? If one chips, which is nicer? Same diff on the sinks.

I'm not a shill for Kohler. This is just the result of the research I did so much of when I first started planning my kitchen and everyone was pooh-poohing my choice of cast iron. I actually would have preferred the old style porcelain on cast iron that felt so lovely to the hand, like the fireclay does, but there are only a few choices still being made, and they didn't fit my kitchen well.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 2:07PM
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I had an old cast iron tub-but nowhere near as tough as that new sink in the display. I still can't believe how hard I hit it without any damage. If I had the time, I might have considered the various colors. As it was, I hadn't even bothered to bring my granite sample because I thought I'd be getting the fireclay sink so I just got white. But the black and tan, sea salt, a red and a tan all have an interesting speckled glaze.

While I was in this store, I also took two Silgranit sample chips and tapped then against each other. They did flake off a little-but that was raw edge against raw edge and might not happen on a finished surface.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 4:22PM
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For that matter, a SS sink would not have escaped unscathed, either, when hit that hard.

Sink durability was a big concern for me. My cabinet has a center post so replacing a damaged undermount sink could have broken the granite counter, the cabinet, or both.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 4:34PM
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Thingsthatinspire, it sounds like we have the same sink and the same problem. I also hate having the disposal in the small sink. Such a pain! I'm fairly sure that the kitchen sink has been there since the early 1970s, and it still looks fantastic. I had been leaning toward a fireclay farmhouse sink for the look, but now am unsure. Of course aesthetics are important, but durability is a big thing for me too. I'd hate to be faced with a cracked or dinged sink a few years down the road. I think I'm going to revisit cast iron Kohler sinks.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 6:34PM
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Can anyone here speak to cleaning cast iron sinks? I am intrigued by some of the new Kohler designs but my KD is telling me that fireclay won't ever stain such as from wine left sitting on the surface where as cast iron will.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 6:49PM
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" I think American Standard aren't rated as durable nowadays"

theirs would be the Americast wouldn't they?

I've been set on a castiron sink all along. and top set. I'm planning on laminate counters so that all works together for me. I really love the looks of some of those other sinks but keep coming back to the castiron that was in most every home I lived in up til the last 20 - 30 yrs (more SS starting then).

I don't remember anything ever staining one of the cast iron sinks. I even had a cast iron tub for 12 yrs - it was taken out of an old, old, old house being remodeled to be a bz space. It had to have been in there for 70 yrs or so (it was an old section of town with really old houses). It sat outside of the house for a long time also - til my then husband saw it out of his window in the bldg across the street (another bz) - and it clicked that we were putting on an addition w/ a bathroom and I wanted a claw ft tub - presto, a tub for 50.00! It was in very good condition - needed no redoing, just cleaned up.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 10:39PM
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Cast iron is the stronger material. Only a few experimental internal combustion engines have been made from ceramics, but millions upon millions of engine blocks are cast iron. But little does that have to do with what is acceptable in a sink. I have been enjoying two fireclay sinks for three years. That's six years (combined) experience! They are very easy to clean and seemingly impervious to every kind of stain. I do get metal streaks when I clean my steel grills. But that's just proof that they are harder than steel; when a streak is made, it's the steel being scratched by the sink glaze.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 11:27PM
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I have had both stainless steel & cast iron sinks in the past. We are in the middle of a new build and I just chose all cast iron Kohler sinks. In my experience they are the strongest and easiest to maintain. I will have 10 sinks in the new house and I need both strength & ease of cleaning. Let us know what you chose.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 12:37AM
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The high heat enamel in the Kohler cast iron shouldn't stain at all. But even the old fashioned porcelain on cast iron was pretty easy to get a stain out of if it should happen to set in. Both the new castiron and new fireclay are superior stain resistors compared with old porcelain. I don't think there's a big difference one to the other.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 2:07AM
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Our 20-year-old kitchen sports a cast iron sink that is still pristine, despite our cooking extensively (and flamboyantly) with cast iron--dutch ovens and such. Based on that track record, I'd vote for the cast iron sink.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 5:03PM
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We have a kohler blue double basin sink that is 20+ years old and I HATE IT. DH put it in when he built (before me).
I swore I would never do cast iron again. Maybe blue is the problem. White may hold up better but our blue has lost the shine, needs regular bleaching to keep the black gunk from staying on the surface.....
I would do anything else but not cast iron............just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 6:43PM
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so since i started this thread, thought I'd post my choice- ended up going with Kohler Cape Dory cast iron- great price and hard to hurt.

maybe in next kitchen we'll end up with one of those lovely apron front fireclay sinks that I just love but this time, its an undermount sink.

Now as soon as it gets here we can get the soapstone templated!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 7:08AM
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Congrats on your purchase! May you be renewed.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 5:00PM
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I rumaged through the attic of GW to find this thread about sinks. This was such a hard choice for me. I have had a Corian sink for 14 years that I have loved. It does get stained but it comes out and we are not hard on sinks really. We have the 70/30 split which I have really enjoyed. Sort of the best of both worlds. I don't often have cookie sheets, pans that are gargantuan or need to wash babies or dogs in the sink. I thought since I liked the split so much I would just go with another one. Was willing to go full out for something new like the Silgranite and they have a split one but I need a left small and right big bowl and they only have the opposite configuration. So, I moved on to look at stainless and I just couldn't make the change to stainless for some reason. In the end not wanting to finance a major plumbing redo to accommodate a new style of sink I ended up with the Kohler Lakefield. It was the only one I could find configured just like our old integrated Corian. I haven't had it installed yet as we haven't made an install date for the granite. The Lakefield sink is quite a bit deeper than my Corian and it weighs a ton. I hope the extra depth won't be a negative. I am nervous about liking it! I got the drain board thing for the bottom in white. It looks pretty in the pictures but I haven't ever seen one in person. I never knew sinks were such a big decision!!!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Has anyone read or had problems with a fireclay sink cracking due to the disposal not being compatible with the drain? I have read enough to scare me away from getting a fireclay sink due to this problem. Also the thickness varies with fireclay sinks. I don't know why, if this is an issue, sellers can't recommend the correct drains and disposals that are compatible with each sink. Does anyone have any feedback on this issue? I certainly would appreciate it. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 7:20PM
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27 years of hard use on a Kohler cast iron here, still looking good.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:56PM
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Thank you ctycdm. So your Kohler is still shiney and not stained? Lowes has some very nice Kohlers. I think I'll play it safe and get the Kohler.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:17AM
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