Farm or apron front sinks first started to appear for general residential use in this country in the 1990’s. These sinks began as reproductions of fireclay sinks long common in England. Today these sinks are made of stone, stainless steel, copper, cast iron and even Corian.
I think the original appeal of the farm sink was twofold. It had the traditional country look and added a new design element to a kitchen. Farm sinks are also practical, offering a large work-space and solid construction.
If you are interested in an apron front sink there are some things to know. A classic apron front sink is made of fireclay, not ceramic or china. Fireclay is a much harder, more durable surface that can withstand the wear and tear of kitchen work. A fireclay sink is fired at a very high temperature which fuses the glaze and clay making a rock hard surface. While a ceramic sink may look good new, it will not stand the test of time. Ever seen an old ceramic plate where the glaze is starting to wear out? It will scratch and stain at the wear points. Imagine that on your kitchen sink.
The other thing to look for is that the sink you select is not warped or asymmetric. These are common flaws so look for a quality brand. Years ago a major fixture company introduced some fireclay sinks at a very competitive price point but the sinks came from a B grade factory. The result was almost every sink we ordered was warped or otherwise defective (although serviceable if appearance wasn’t a concern).
One last thing to understand about these sinks is that the bottom is often flat. This is in some ways desirable but be aware that sometimes some water remains on the floor of the sink instead of running into the drain.
Fireclay apron front sinks are usually available 25”, 30” 36” and sometimes 40”. Most are single bowl although there are a few doubles too. The front is typically smooth and there are some models with a step detail that adds to the traditional look.
The information above applies to classic fireclay sinks but today apron front sinks are also available in several other materials.
I believe that Kohler is the only manufacturer making apron front sinks from cast iron (Kohler also uses fireclay). Cast iron has long been a top choice for kitchen sinks but its popularity has decreased over time. This is probably due mostly to changes in the manufacturing requirements that have lead many companies to move away from cast iron. Kohler makes what they call a “self trimming” sink which reduces the need to trim the cabinet. I think it is true to say that when it comes to cast iron, Kohler is king.
Stainless steel is another common choice for apron front sinks. Elkay, Blanco and Kohler all offer such sinks but it is Julien that has brought some new design to the idea. Their “Worktop” group isn’t actually a true apron front but gives the same impression with a thick front edge and function backsplash. They also have step front, bow and square front models some with a front drawer.
If you are looking for an entirely different look you might consider an apron sink made of copper or stone. Copper is actually a good choice for the kitchen because it has natural anti-bacterial properties. Copper is probably not the right choice if you don’t like a rustic look as it is going to be a “living” material that will react to water and other liquids that come into contact with it.
But if a rustic look appeals to you there are many design options available. Native Trails’ collection focuses on plain front on a standard or bow front design. Sierra Copper has a selection of custom designs that may be added to most aprons. The choices available in copper provide a lot of options.
Stone is the last material I will discuss and it is probably the least often used. There are a few different types of stone used for kitchen sinks. Soapstone is a traditional choice. We do not sell soapstone here so, while I have heard many different things about its suitability for the kitchen I do not have any first-hand information. Granite is another choice. Granite is a hard surface and there are some beautiful products made from it. It does require some care and it is possible to stain granite. My feeling is that if you want the unique look of a granite sink go ahead but be aware that it will require some care to maintain it’s look.