stainless steel sink vs cast iron for old house

laurielou177July 25, 2011

We are redoing our kitchen to look more like 1918 era the house is from. It won't be everything. We are not hiding our dishwasher or getting vintage or vintage-inspired appliances, but the cabinets, hardware, lighting and linoleum checkerboard floor will be similar to the times. We are very limited on space for a sink and really prefer a double sink. I actually prefer the stainless sinks I've had in apartments to the cast iron one (a single) that was put in here by prior owner. I do prefer the look of cast iron, but the function of stainless. I know we can do whatever we like. Anyone have a teens, '20's inspired kitchen w/a stainless sink plopped down in it?

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You can get desirable results with either. I've had both. I much prefer cast iron over stainless but that is a personal choice, and doesn't mean I'm 'right' and that's how you should go.

First off, I like the heat retention of cast iron. I have a home with a cast iron bath tub. I can soak for a long time before the water goes cold. Not so with a fixture of any other material. I also like its resistance to scratches and dents. The sink I have in my kitchen now is stainless, fairly new and shows absolutely every water spot, ding and scratch. It needs spiffed up and polished often. A damp rag was usually all I needed with a cast iron sink and it was good to go.

I do prefer a single bowl sink and a very deep one because I do a lot of cooking and canning and double bowl sinks are just too small to accomodate my needs if I can even fit a large pan under it. Cast iron sinks can often be found with the depths I would chose. I ended up installing a very deep second sink in my kitchen because I simply needed it since the deepest stainless kitchen sink bowl I could get just wasn't deep enough.

Lastly is the consideration of looks. Twenties kitchens and porcelain enamel go together like a hand in a glove. It's part of the charm.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 4:30PM
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I have a double bowl cast iron sink with a drainboard at each end in my kitchen...been in for fifteen years as a replacement for a 70s renovation stainless. Wouldn't trade it for anything!
Since my 1908 house is north of a university, I got it free (next to a dumpster). It has a few stains, but they are part of it's history, other than that, no chips or rust, and I built my own cabinet for it using my home's original cabinet doors.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:17AM
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In terms of "fit" for the era, obviously cast iron wins. In terms of something I would put in my kitchen, cast iron is a HUGE loser in my book.

I lived with cast iron for 9 years in my prior house and 1 in this one. I hated it. It scratched, it showed stains, and I broke about a million glasses. We're in the middle of kitchen remodel (1912 colonial) and will be installing a stainless undermount sink.

Tubs on the other hand - nothing beats cast iron for temperature control. I just don't think my dirty dishes are all that particular about their soaking temperature.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:10AM
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I'm with Bill. I had a Kohler porcelain on cast iron for two years. Barely used by a bachelor in a kitchen with no oven. It still chipped when you looked at it sideways. For a heritage look, consider apron sinks in copper or fireclay.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 1:00PM
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Columbusguy, will you marry me?


Sorry, I've always admired you on this forum but that sink story just put me over the edge! Not just the sink, but how you got it. That is the life for me!

Laurie, we hope to do fireclay in the most visible location, but also have a small stainless steel prep sink, inset into the counter to make it less noticable. Fireclay is expensive, but Ikea does a cute one (domsjo I think) for a great price. And the ikeafans website has posts about cutting new holes in it, since it only comes with one.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 3:54PM
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I am just excited because person doing our cabinets now says he can get a 33 inch sink into the current sink space and still keep the 24 inch dishwasher. So, I now have more sink options. I'll look again at fireclay as suggested, but thinking price is prohibitive and thought there were some negatives to it that I didn't like, but, I will look again.

I do prefer stainless for use over cast iron, but love the look of cast iron for an older house. It's not life or death to me either way now that I can fit in a double bowl. I know there are advantages to single, but I've been here 17 years w/a deep single cast iron that was put into last owners remodel, and I still haven't adjusted. My husband and I, as well as our kids all cook, so I know the disadvantage of double w/large pots, but a minor inconvenience for me compared to the trouble of washing dishes in a deep single. I always have so many things that can't go into the dishwasher that I'd prefer the ease (for me) of washing all that extra stuff in the double.

As far as stainless showing water spots, I just have too many other cleaning problems to confront that water spots arent' an issue for me. Really, we are a messy family. The stainless drawback for me is really that I'm spending all this money on a 1920's kitchen look and then sticking a stainless sink in it. I still might do it, but the look is what bothers me. If I had a newer kitchen, I'd definitely do stainless.

I don't like the breakage either w/cast iron. That's it's biggest drawback for me.

Right now, I'm seriously considering the kohler tile-in brookfield, cast iron, because I really, really love the look of a tiled in sink and would prefer losing the dirty edge that comes w/the drop in sink. But, I could change my mind.

Oh, and columbusguy, I totally appreciate the way you got your sink. If i could fit an old cast iron w/those built in drainboards, I'd prefer cast iron. Had an apartment w/the drainboards and loved it. We will be putting in a cast-iron pedestal sink we picked up at a garage sale for $12. Cast iron definitely for me outside the kitchen. Oh, and just wondering if you are in Columbus, columbusguy? We just got back from visiting my brother and his family in north columbus, pretty close to OSU campus. I'm originally from Ohio, but in upstate NY now.

Thanks for all the input.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:06PM
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I used to go to OSU back in the Woody days. When Columbus Guy talks about the surrounding campus areas, it sure brings back memories.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:23PM
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Lots of horror stories associated with OSU game days, alas. :)
Drunken a-holes last fall kicked over one of my railing columns at the foot of my front steps at 2am....resulted in pouring a new lowest step, and new columns have concrete centers.

Screaming fans, win or lose, beer containers thrown into the yard, loud parties until 4am or later, not necessarily just on game days.

No parking on game days as visitors fill every spot (my side street is permit parking only, but that starts across the street from me).

Can hear yelling from the stadium and their half-time shows when the wind comes from that direction. Gotta love the OSU area, but it would be better if I was IN Clintonville. :)

Slateberry, I'm single, and owned by two siamese cats...if you have air-conditioning--I'd consider it. :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 7:07PM
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Aw d#@n, siamese cats too? You make me weak at the knees. I am inconveniently very attached and committed. Maybe we can get polygamy passed in OH, but it might be easier to just get dh to start cruising for a vintage sink and some cool cats.

That I could live a thousand lives...

(man I am such a bad girl. It's the morning of my 15th anniversary as I type this.)

Hey laurielou, whoever thought a sink could start so much trouble. I promise to stay off your thread from now on unless I have something on topic to add.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:03AM
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I have a large single bowl stainless steel sink - along with 1920s inspired new cabinetry and some old antique free standing cabinets also circa 1920. It looks just fine - along with an industrial style Chicago faucet with a tall goose neck spout. Im doing more of an "industrial farmhouse" style than a straight Jane Powell Bungalow type reproduction. In my kitchen stainless steel sink and a steel top table fits right in with that industrial farmhouse esthetic.

I figured a modern porcelain sink isn't going to look any more like an actual antique sink than a steel one.... so why not go with what I love. (There are the cool wall hung repros with backsplash and legs which can look quite convincing, but the usual sink set into a sink base is a modern invention.)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 12:37PM
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My pantry sink is a wall-hung white cast iron with backsplash and two drainboards--open underneath so you could sit on a stool to do dishes! I don't use it because I need to run new water pipes and get a new faucet...have to look into that some time.
It's true old sinks nearly always had open space underneath, but there were plenty of exceptions. Check out kitchens on the link below for period pics.

Here is a link that might be useful: Period Rooms and Kitchens

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 4:31PM
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Slateberry, get in line for Columbusguy, like the rest of us! (Lol!)
(BTW, I have a new Goodman heat-pump AC unit! :-) Oh, yeah... & great husband, that paid for it & did much of the installation himself... Never mind, Lol!).

I'm still using the stainless double sink that was here when we moved in. I remember an old house I rented that had a white enameled iron sink, with a quarter-sized chip in the bottom. It was ALL I COULD SEE! Drove me insane, (so, that's when it happened.. I've wondered), no matter how shiny & clean I got it - that darn chip stood out & ruined the entire effort.
With scratches & small spots, no big deal.
Also - last year our faucet HAD to be replaced, but sink didn't, we went with a tall model faucet - It made such a huge difference! For the first time, ever, I could fill my stockpot in the sink! Ours doesn't look vintage, didn't need to - (not an age-appropriate kitchen.. We did the equivalent of putting a mini-skirt on my 75 year old mother, lol, but we weren't the first to do it here... Wasn't much left to work with), but perhaps someone makes one with an older (pump-handle?) look to it. Anyway, it could be an option to think of if anyone is stuck with or attached to a sink that's not as deep as they'd like.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:28PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

laurielou, have you finished your checkerboard floor, and can you share pictures? I'm still considering the same type of flooring, and I'd appreciate any info. Thank you!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 10:40PM
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