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HomeHomes
Published: Thursday, 11/2/2006

Understanding Fireclay Apron Sinks

(ARA) - Fireclay sinks have been crafted and treasured in England for years, but until recently, have been somewhat overlooked in the United States. Today, these kitchen classics are finding their way into wonderfully restored antique farmhouses, newly built luxury manses in suburbia, and downtown urban townhouses looking to bring a bit of the charm and elegance of the 19th century home.

In recent years, design paradigms have shifted. Homeowners value comfort, excellent form and authentic beauty over strict practicality. With this change, the fireclay sink has become an important consideration in kitchens, pantries and flower arranging sculleries across the country.

Fireclay sinks have a tradition that extends from the late 1800's when scullery maids and cooks ran the "downstairs" of elegant Georgian and Edwardian townhouses in London. But, they also found comfort in the charming country houses of both the wealthier class as well as the mainstream due to their functional elegance.

So what exactly is fireclay and what makes it worth the investment? Fireclay stands out as a superior option for the busy kitchens of today. The sinks are tough and durable because of the interaction of the clay and glaze. The glaze is not simply coating the clay sink, as is the case with cast iron porcelain and ceramic sink options. With fireclay, the clay and glaze are made with a silicate -- a compound that when heated to 2264 degrees Fahrenheit actually changes the chemical properties of both products, making the clay and glaze one united form. This means that the glaze actually becomes part of the clay in order to protect it, yet, doesn't chip off as it would if it were merely dipped or coated on top. Fireclay sinks are chip and rust resistant and are completely "lead free."

Another conventional option that is also used for sink material is cast iron. Cast iron is fired at a much less temperature than fireclay, and not as durable. The glaze is softer than the glaze on fireclay. Cast iron also chips easily, and when it does, rust appears under the glaze. Plus customers are specifically asked not to use abrasives or harsh cleaners. Everyday usages of abrasives will not harm the surface.

Stainless steel sinks are another common choice of homeowners, often because of their lower cost and perceived longevity. When deciding which type of sink is the better buy, most people will assume that stainless steel is the way to go. It can be a long lasting product, but when comparing the durability of both products, most assume that stainless steel is indestructible. This is only true as long as daily maintenance is up kept for the life of the sink.

The most common problem homeowners have with stainless steel is, ironically, the staining. Although most products will not harm stainless steel, it cannot be exposed to wet cloths or pockets of water for long periods of time due to discoloration. Experts recommend that each time a stainless steel sink is used it be wiped clean and dried to prevent damage. Also with stainless steel sinks, no abrasive-cleaning agents can be used for fear of scratching the surface.

Clearly the durability and functional properties of fireclay are vast, and its use ranges from making firebricks and crucibles to the construction of kilns, furnaces and boilers for manufacturers of other ceramics -- true testaments to the strength of these delightful products. The sink is the epicenter of the kitchen and therefore needs to withstand the tests of time, aging with grace and beauty. A new fireclay sink will bring timeless style and loyal dependability into your kitchen making it the last kitchen sink you will ever buy. Courtesy of ARA Content



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