For one of the most-used features in the kitchen, sinks sometimes don't get enough attention. But if you could get a sink that not only was incredibly efficient but also offered one-of-a-kind style and was good for the planet, wouldn't you jump at the chance? Of course! Salvaged vintage sinks can be a highlight in any kitchen—and with all the styles, shapes and sizes available, you should have no problem picking one that's just right for you.
Keep in mind that salvaged sinks don't have to be old. Many sinks have been removed from modern-day homes and business or a variety of reasons. Cheaper than their brand-new counterparts, these are great finds, and they're ready for modern-day plumbing as well. Another option is a new sink made out of salvaged material, like the one from Eleek made from recycled aluminum screens.
Joanne's own kitchen sink, a vintage soapstone laundry sink from the late 1800's.
Personally, I love extra-large, double-bowl stone sinks because I can put days' worth of dishes inside them (and if you tell anyone, I'll deny it). Some of the largest of these sinks are salvaged soapstone, slate or even concrete laundry sinks. (Remember that huge old sink your parents used to have in the basement? It's getting a new life upstairs.) Many of these sinks are extra-deep, so if you hate constantly bending over the sink, look for a porcelain- or enamel-covered cast iron version that's not as deep.
A slate sink for sale at Mason Brothers Architectural Salvage. Stone sinks usually go very fast and are more expensive than metal or cast iron.
If you've got your eye on an older stone sink, you may want to consider getting it water tested to make sure none of the seams leak. My kitchen sink is a vintage soapstone double-bowl sink from the 1800s; we purchased it at a stone yard, where they'd pulled it apart and re-glued the seams. That's an option if you want to make absolutely sure your sink is structurally sound. Also keep in mind that it's close to impossible to get a garbage disposal under one of these super-deep stone sinks. And sometimes faucet holes are too small and will need to be enlarged for modern fixtures. These are all manageable issues and worth the extra effort.
Architect Ryan Walsh's salvaged kitchen sink came from an old industrial building.
If a stone or laundry sink is too big for your taste (or space), there are lots of other salvaged options: farmhouse-style single-bowl sinks, one-bowl sinks with an integrated drainboard, wide stainless steel square bowls. Some of the most popular vintage sinks are enamel-coated cast iron ones. As with stone sinks, these often have smaller plumbing drain fittings than what's standard today. When buying the sink, it's important to ask if modern plumbing can fit, and if not, how you can adjust it. Plan ahead and find fixtures with the correct-fitting sizes, or have them special ordered. You might also find that pieces of the enamel are missing. This can either be repaired (professionally or with a DIY kit) or left as part of the character, as long as the damage is merely cosmetic.
More sinks for sale at GreatSalvage.com, ranging from porcelain to cast iron in all shapes and sizes.
Recycled stainless steel sinks are pretty easy to find, too. For a smaller one, you don't have to go any further than your local rebuild center; for a huge one, check at a secondhand restaurant supplier. The durability of a metal counter or sink is measured by the thickness of the metal—a smaller gauge is thicker than a larger gauge. For example, a thinner 18-gauge sink may be noisier and dent more easily than a heavier 12-gauge sink. If you wash a ton of pots and pans, make sure you get a heavier gauge stainless sink.
For the more sought-after sinks, such as porcelain, stone, or large double-bowl, look at your local architectural salvage shop. Single-bowl, enamel-coated cast iron and metal sinks can be found pretty readily at rebuild centers. Many times you can find the sink you're looking for online.
Joanne at the Rebuild Center in Portland, Oregon, looking for the perfect salvaged sink.
Before you buy, make sure to do your homework. What size is your space? Can you design around the sink, or do you have specific measurements you need to fit? Be prepared with your numbers, because some of these sinks go very fast—if you see something you like that will fit in your kitchen, be ready to snap it up. Once your beautiful salvaged sink is in place in your kitchen, you'll know it was well worth the search.
Author of the book Salvage Secrets, designer Joanne Palmisano knows a thing or two about scoring great secondhand goods for the home. For more pictures and information on buying and incorporating salvaged sinks in your kitchen, check out her book, Salvage Secrets: Transforming Reclaimed Material Into Design Concepts.