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What is a farmhouse sink? A simple guide

By Annie & Oak Farmhouse Sinks August 10, 2019 0 comments

A Guide to Farmhouse Sinks in the Kitchen

shaws original farmhouse sink with flowers in kitchen

A History of Style and Practicality 

Farmhouse sinks are having a revival in popularity and making quite a few appearances in contemporary kitchens. The style often referred to as "apron" or "apron front", can be recognized for its wide, deep basin.

If you think you've spotted one in the latest spread of Southern Living, another identifying feature is the sink's exposed "apron" front, which juts out over cabinets and sits flush with the countertop.

This design choice has practical use along with an aesthetic one. It's ideal for families that need to store and use large amounts of water without having to fetch water from an outside source more than once or twice a day.

If you adore the look of these sinks and could benefit from extra room to wash your dishes, let's tell you everything you need to know about installing and maintaining your own farmhouse sink.


A Brief History of the Original Farmhouse Sinks


The unique kitchen feature dates back in time all the way to the 1600s, before running water had become a standard convenience in any homes. These sinks were common in rural homes, giving them their original name of farmhouse.

People took water for bathing, cleaning, as well as for washing clothes and dishes from these basins, making farmhouse sinks a central feature in the late 17th and 18th century homes throughout Europe.

The original designs emerged in Ireland and Britain, each dubbed the Belfast and London. The main functional difference of these sinks was an overflow feature that the Belfast included. Water was more accessible in Ireland, unlike in London, so excess water was allowed to escape through this side-mounted drain. London had a shallower basin and no overflow so water could be conserved in a more efficient manner. Both of these features can be found in sink models today.

Contemporary kitchens don't need to rely on their sink for all of the chores of a 17th century peasant, but they are still convenient today for washing larger pots and pans, as well as for preparing large meals.


Subtle Style Differences


While the terms "farmhouse" and "apron front" are used interchangeably to define this general style of sink, a few key differences in the terms exist:

Farmhouse sinks are made out of traditional materials such as porcelain and fireclay, and they are white in color. They often feature only a single basin, though can be divided into two separate reservoirs in some designs.

Apron sinks are made from a variety of materials, and often finished on the exposed apron "front," but not the three opposite sides. In essence, farmhouse styles may be apron sink, but not the other way around.


Designed For Comfort


Apron fronts are convenient for their ergonomics as well. Their deep basin may make them uncomfortable to use for taller people, but their apron front minimizes the space between the sink and the counter's edge.

In a standard sink, a sliver of countertop sits between the sink and the counter's edge. Leaning over this edge can cause back strain, but a farmhouse sink's design eliminates the need to lean over at all.


The Price of Style


This trendy sink recently infiltrated modern kitchen design, but now comes with a hefty price tag attached. This price depends on the material of the sink, but installation costs can eat up a considerable chunk of any budget. Without the proper installation, cabinets and countertops risk water damage or even structural damage from the weight of the large pieces of hardware.

Installation requirements are unfortunately the most negative aspect of getting a farmhouse sink. Since they have such a unique design, countertops and cabinets must have permanent alterations to accommodate them.

This means if you'd ever considered replacing your sink with any style other than the farmhouse, the entire cabinet unit beneath it and countertop would need to be replaced as well. Apron front kitchen sinks rarely cut faucet and plumbing access points into the sink itself either, so cutting into a wall or countertop may be required to install these necessary accessories.

Other than this potential risk for future remodels, installation costs averaging $400 can add on to already expensive price tags, ranging from $500.00 to over $2000 for a single sink unit.

country style farmhouse sink in kitchen

Install and Fit


Consider the two styles of how a farmhouse basin can be mounted before purchasing a sink.

Under mounted sinks give your kitchen a classic look. The original apron sinks were mounted this way with the sink below the countertop. Under mounting is best for granite or stone countertops, because you will not have to worry about the effects of water exposure. The sides of these materials exposed over the sink edge are mold proof and cannot warp. Sinks installed this way may feature integrated countertop drainage for washed dishes as well.

Top-mounted sinks have a lip around the edge of their tub that lays on top of the counter surface instead of just beneath it. This installation choice is recommended for counter surfaces like laminate and wood, and any other materials which could be warped by extended exposure to water. When crafted from natural materials, these sinks have an uneven surface around their lip and edges. This means most sinks, if not all, will have a noticeable gap between their sink and counter, and require waterproofing treatment.

No matter the material of your sink and countertops, a generous caulking sealant should be applied to prevent mildew and mold flourishing in this space. Mold can be difficult to treat and cause intensive water damage. 

Surface Beauty vs. Function


Popular materials used to make these trendy water reservoirs are:

  • Stainless steel
  • Fireclay
  • Marble
  • Granite
  • Slate
  • Copper


Stainless steel is the most affordable option and more forgiving to dishes and glassware. Materials like porcelain, fireclay, marble, and granite will easily shatter your belongings if you're accident-prone and tumble your dishes into them.

Copper is forgiving of clumsiness as well but bears a higher price tag. It has the added benefit of developing a unique patina over time, making no two sinks alike.


Are Farmhouse Sinks Worth It?


Farmhouse and apron sinks certainly have a classic charm to them, and bring many helpful features to the home chef. They can carry quite the cost between initial purchase and installation but can add value to your home over time.

Pros:

  • Aesthetically Pleasing
  • Durable
  • Ergonomic Design
  • Wide Selection of Material Available
  • Add Value to Home


Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Arduous to Install


If you have decided a farmhouse sink is right for you and your kitchen, head on over to our homepage to check out a variety of apron front styles available for purchase today!


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