Why All the Fuss About Fireclay?

If you’re renovating your kitchen, chances are you’ve heard a lot about fireclay sinks. Fireclay is currently one of the “hot” materials for kitchen sinks, especially stylish farmhouse sinks. But what’s the big deal about fireclay? Where does it come from? Why is it suddenly so popular? What sets it apart from all other sink materials (porcelain, ceramic, stainless steel)?

Well, never fear, readers – we have the answers for you! Read on for a comprehensive report all about fireclay before deciding on your next kitchen sink.

Interestingly enough, fireclay is not a new innovation. Over 200 years ago, fireclay sinks were all the rage in London, mostly used in industrial settings and – you guessed it! – actual farmhouses. Renowned for its resilience and practicality, fireclay was considered the best choice for rigorous use. Deep, sensible farmhouse sinks (also known as apron-front sinks), similarly, were used in high-traffic kitchens long ago and were often crafted of fireclay for extra durability.

Rohl Shaws Original Fireclay Apron Sink

One of the most popular models of fireclay sinks is the classic Shaws Original Fireclay Apron Sink, handcrafted by artisans in Lancashire, England and distributed in the US by Rohl. The Shaws sink sets the standard for all fireclay sinks, providing beauty, strength, and uniqueness in one long-lasting unit.

This fascinating video shows how the Shaws sink is made:

Every sink is meticulously handmade from a special white clay found only in certain regions of the world (including Italy, Israel, and Limoges, France). The clay is carefully mixed with water, poured into molds, and dried in humidity-controlled rooms. It is then hand-glazed and fired at over 2100° Fahrenheit, the temperature of liquid volcanic magma, while being monitored. At this intense temperature, the clay and glaze fuse together and create an entirely new material, one that is nonporous, strong, dense, and the most heat- and damage-resistant sink material available.

Because every unit is handmade and fastidiously examined for imperfections, Rohl Shaws sinks are truly unique works of art. With proper (light) maintenance, its heavy-duty composition will look shiny and new for years to come; fireclay will not discolor or crack like other sink materials and is acid- and alkali-resistant as well. If you’re committed to protecting our planet, good news – fireclay sinks are lead-free, made of all-natural, ecofriendly material, and entirely recyclable.

fireclay sink main image

Besides its practical benefits, fireclay sinks are not only trendy, they are attractive, classic and bound to remain in style (your kitchen will not scream “2013!” by virtue of its sink material). These sinks are not just for farmhouses and charming cottages anymore – they can serve as the focal point (and conversation piece) in your kitchen!

Though fireclay is most readily available in a variety of fluted and solid farmhouse styles (an added bonus – they’re comfortable to use and can hold stacks of dishes!), you can buy undermount and double-bowl fireclay sinks as well to suit your tastes, needs, and kitchen style.

Rohl Shaws Fluted Two-Bowl Fireclay Sink

Fireclay does have some minor disadvantages to consider when choosing a sink. Due to its excellent quality, it can be expensive; good-quality sinks will range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Don’t worry – the Whitehaus Duet Series reversible fireclay farm sink is a very popular and more affordable alternative to the Shaws sinks. (Even better news: Whitehaus fireclay sinks are currently selling at reduced prices at QualityBath.com!) The Duet Series is finished on all sides for virtually universal installation and is available in four colors, an unusual feature of fireclay sinks as one is typically limited in color choices; most fireclay is white or off-white due to the nature of its base material.

Whitehaus Duet Series Reversible Fireclay Farm Sink

Because fireclay is so heavy and dense, it requires special installation and reinforced cabinetry to hold its weight. Its hardness may also contribute to dropped dishes shattering more easily in the sink. The most common complaints regarding fireclay sinks are that the finish can wear off (though in good-quality sinks it lasts longer than most finishes), it may be prone to chipping (again, less prone than porcelain and enamel and more scratch-resistant than stainless steel), and the material may stain, especially in flatbottomed farmhouse sinks where water gathers (avoided with proper maintenance: wiping out the sink after use and cleaning stains gently with mild abrasive cleaner).

Due to fireclay’s thicker nature, it requires special drain inserts, faucets, and accessories. An extended flange fits the deeper drain hole and can be paired with a stopper or strainer basket according to your needs. Because fireclay sinks typically do not include  holes for faucet mounting, a wall- or counter-mount faucet is necessary. Bridge faucets are commonly seen with fireclay sinks, as are country-style single-lever faucets. A sink grid in white, biscuit, or stainless steel is recommended to protect your investment.


Rohl Perrin & Rowe Bridge Faucet with Sidespray & Shaws 1-1/2 Bowl Apron Sink

I’d love a fireclay sink and found it fascinating to learn how they’re made. Our customers are always the most accurate representatives of how our products actually meet their expectations; since I don’t have one presently,  I’m depending on those of you who do to comment below and let me and the entire readership know what you think about your fireclay sink!

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