The Ultimate Copper Farmhouse Sinks Buying Guide
Copper has been used for more than 10,000 years, most commonly for coins, statuary and cooking implements, and it’s the base metal in the alloys that gave rise to the bronze age.
There is no structural or chemical difference between primary (virgin) and secondary (recycled) copper, and more than 80-percent of the copper mined in human history is still in use today.
Science has more recently proven that copper is inherently anti-microbial, which makes it an material for finishes in high-traffic, public buildings as well as for products serving healthcare and food industries.
What are farmhouse sinks?
Despite their name, farmhouse sinks aren’t just for farmhouses. They’re becoming more and more popular in the modern kitchen, both due to their appearance and their practicality.
Farmhouse sinks were first developed in the 1600s in Great Britian and Ireland, in part due to their ability to hold large amounts of water. When washing the dishes meant fetching buckets of water to the nearby well, having a large kitchen sink was a necessity.
These days, you can buy farmhouse sinks that retain the traditional dimensions — deep and wide — or that are split up into multiple basins. Most farmhouse sinks have an “apron-front” design, which means the front of the basin offers some protection against splashing water on yourself.
Farmhouse sinks are especially useful if you have large cooking pots or lots of dishware, since you can fit more dishes in the basin to let them soak than you can with other sink styles.
They also come in handy for cooking, since there’s plenty of room to wash vegetables, drain pasta, dress meat, and more, without having to worry about making a mess.
Farmhouse sink materials
The term farmhouse sink refers to the style, not the material, so you can find farmhouse sinks in a range of materials, usually copper, stainless steel, cast iron, composite stone, or fireclay.
The best time to install a farmhouse sink is when remodeling the kitchen, so you can ensure that the countertops and fixtures are all in alignment.
Depending on the construction, a new farmhouse sink may take up more space than your previous sink, and you may need a stronger structure underneath to support its weight.
Most farmhouse sinks have an undermount design and sit below the lip of the counter, which can make them a little harder to install than sinks that sit over the counter.
While they all have their pros and cons, we’ll be focusing on copper in this guide, since it’s one of the most popular farmhouse sink materials.
Not only does copper weigh less than some other farmhouse sink materials, it’s also easy to work with when it comes to customizing the layout of your sink and the surrounding countertop.
What type of arrangement do you want your farmhouse sink to have? Most farmhouse sinks come with either one or two basins, but depending on how much room you have, you can also choose a sink with a drainboard. This gives you more room to set dishes or even to prepare food.
The faucet is usually mounted into the counter, rather than set into the sink itself, so you have some options in choosing a faucet that you like. A faucet with a detachable head and a pull-down sprayer is a great option because you can use it to rinse out all four corners of the sink. You can also install a garbage disposal for a fully-equipped workspace.
Your sink can have a flat apron-front design, or a rounded front that sticks out from the counter. If you choose a copper sink, you’ll have the option of choosing detailed artwork for the apron front, which can feature anything from flowers and vines to geometric patters. This isn’t an option with most other materials, so it’s another perk of choosing copper.
Just because farmhouse sinks have traditional origins doesn’t mean they aren’t thoroughly modern components of the kitchen. Your copper farmhouse sink can serve as the centerpiece of a rustic, country-style kitchen, or a sleek gourmet kitchen with industrial chic decor.
Avoid soldered sinks
Never buy a copper farmhouse sinks that has been soldered and look for those seams that have been welded using copper rods. Soldered seams turn gray and with time and will eventually leak. Because many soldering compounds contain lead, this could pose serious health risks.
Consider the size of drain opening
Make sure the size drain opening matches the construction code for your application. The position of the sink’s drain (side or center) is a matter of choice. The size of the drain opening is not.
Smooth vs. hammered?
Smooth copper farmhouse sinks are usually mass produced by press or mold. In contrast, authentic hand-hammered sinks are crafted individually in small artisan shops.
Smooth copper sinks tend to compliment modern and industrial design schemes, while hand-crafted copper sinks can accommodate a wider range of traditional, rustic, eclectic and contemporary environments.
Another consideration is maintenance. Smooth copper sinks are likely to show scratches and dings more readily. A hammered copper surface tends to camoflauge blemishes and is cosmetically forgiving.
Another benefit of hammered copper is it’s enhanced structural integrity. In fact, the increased strength, durability and longevity of hammered copper are what gave rise to the practice of hammering centuries ago.
Although hand hammered sinks will never be perfectly shaped, they should not be out of round or out of square. Do not buy any Copper farmhouse sink that is noticeably misshapen. They should not be sold in the consumer market.
Copper is a soft metal and the degree of its thickness can affect how well the sink wears over time.
A metal’s gauge–the standard increment for measuring the thickness–is expressed in weight per square foot. Normally, the lower the number, the thicker the gauge.
When measuring the thickness of copper, 20-gauge copper is the thinnest and 14-gauge is the thickest.
The thickness of copper sinks varies widely, and it’s an important consideration for sinks exposed to a constant barrage of tools, pans, pots and cleaning products. Most standard farmhouse kitchen sinks are made from 14 to 18-gauge copper. Thicker gauge copper sinks will be more expensive, but well worth the extra money.
A lighter gauge copper will produce a thin, tinny sound when water hits its surface, Thinner gauge copper also and it will also dent more easily. Some cheaper farmhouse sinks contain foam blocks in an attempt to help muffle their sound.
Copper offers key advantages that will be lost if it is fitted with sealants. You definitely want a pure copper sink with no sealants.
The appearance and color of copper sinks make them more attractive than steel and porcelain. The elegance of a copper sink can enhance the appearance of a room, making it feel warmer and more relaxing.
Copper farmhouse sinks are easy to maintain once you know and understand what can damage the material and take care to keep those troubles at bay. Elements that can damage the attractive luster of copper include acidic foods, drinks, hot tools, harsh chemicals, and salt. Even some brands of toothpaste are harmful to copper.
If you need to pour acidic substances down your copper sink, you should open the faucet and let the water run concurrently. For a sealant-free copper sink, proper maintenance only requires cleaning with water, soap and copper cleaner every few weeks.
The biggest merit of pure copper is its anti-bacterial nature. This ensures your copper farmhouse sink will remain free from harmful bacteria. (Please note, however, you can lose this major benefit of copper if your sink is finished with one or more sealants.)
Pure copper is very resistant to staining unless it has repeated contact with acidic substances. If that happens, your copper sink will be more susceptible to blemishing. Also, note that most sealants do not match the stain resistance ability of copper, and it is always wise to buy natural copper sink.
One major problem with modern sinks is they usually last only for short periods because they are made from materials like porcelain and steel (the same materials used as sealants) that can’t endure rough tasks without denting. In contrast, some copper farmhouse sinks last more than a century. Even better, as they age, they develop an attractive film or covering called a patina that is a key consideration when buying a copper farmhouse sink.
Consider the patina and finishes
Patina is the film-like tarnish that naturally develops on copper as it ages. If you want to get an idea of how much patina a copper farmhouse sink has, consider rolling out pennies from your piggy bank. Choose a wide range of pennies and then arrange them from the lightest to darkest. The newest penny will have the most luster and will be the lightest. This represents super shiny copper – one without patina! Now as you move along the penny spectrum from light to dark, you will see patina develop. The more copper is exposed to air, the more patina it develops.
Natural patina is milk chocolate or warm caramel colored, and can take from six weeks to a year to materialize, depending on the use of the copper sink. Note that copper farmhouse sinks with patina are perceived to be of high value and are more attractive.
If exposed to acids, salt water or other harsh conditions; the patina can turn greenish or Verdigris. However, this rarely happens to copper sinks, since they are normally used only indoors and not outside and exposed to storms or the sea. In instances where a homeowner desires Verdigris, some copper farmhouse sink manufacturers have discovered a way to make the copper look verdigris.
If you are homeowner who wants a shiny copper sink, you will usually only need to use copper cleaner about once every six weeks to maintain its sheen.
Copper sinks are readily available in a vast range of personal taste. We suggest you buy one that complements the overall décor of your home. If you decide to buy a copper sink with a finish, you will need to maintain it using wax every four to six weeks. Any substance with acidic properties will act like a copper cleaner and wash the finish off the surface of your copper farmhouse sink, leaving it with bright shiny copper spots. So, it is wise to determine how you intend to use your copper sink and then pick the right finish.
Don’t panic if you forget to wax your sink and wake up to find a brand new penny situation caused from pickle juice or lemon, it will re-patina slowly with time. Just be patient!
You can also buy warm, caramel-finished copper sinks designed to look like copper’s natural patina. These models of copper farmhouse sinks are considered the simplest to maintain. If something accidentally shines your copper, leaving with bright spots, the finish “heals itself” as the patina develops, darkens and blends with the finish.
If you settle for a dark chocolate, espresso-y finish, which is normally darker than the patina, this will require the most maintenance from you as the patina will never match. We recommend you settle for natural copper that has a “living finish.”
Dealing with copper sink dealers
Working with a copper sink business that offers custom sinks will open a wide range of possibilities, especially if they have a direct connection with coppersmiths. Should there be a problem when your sink arrives, or something goes wrong, you will want to be sure the company you purchased from will stand behind the product.
A good dealer will give you details about their shipping location, warranties, return policy and will be available for consultations. If you buy from an auction, remember the old adage of “buyer beware.” If you find a copper farmhouse sink that is unreasonably cheap, there is probably a good reason why.