Choosing the best farmhouse sink

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ONE BASIN OR TWO?

If you've always had two basins, you might not realize the advantages of having a single basin. And, if you've only had a single basin sink, you might think you're missing out on an added feature. In my opinion, single basin sinks are the "less is more" option because:

  • With two basins, you have to choose which side to put the garbage disposal on. Most people choose the smaller side, envisioning themselves peeling carrots blissfully right into the garbage disposal. But, what about when you have to soak the burnt stuff off the bottom of a big pot?  You'll end up dumping the water in the deep side (because the other basin is too small to empty out the contents of your large pot as fast it will pour out). Then, you'll end up scooping out the gunk with your fingers to move it from the larger basin's drain to the disposal - YUCK.
  • The drain placement on double basin sinks places the garbage disposal where takes up more of your storage room cabinet below the sink
  • The divider between the two basins makes it difficult to hand wash large trays. Even if the center divider is designed to be lower to help with this issue, there is a lot of maneuvering around required to wash & rinse baking pans - which inevitably causes you to spill water onto the counter and your waist. And, isn't it better when the whole baking tray can fit in the sink so that you can still use the sink to wash your hands, if needed... rather than balancing the tray on the center divider while it soaks?
  • Almost no one washes dishes at home like they used to before dishwashers were common. Two basins used to make sense because you would fill up one side with soapy water to wash and the other side with clean water to rinse before stacking the wet dishes in a dish drying rack on the counter (or handing them off to a helper, if you were lucky enough to have one).
  • During meal prep, your kitchen sink is usually doing 3 jobs: washing hands, rinsing produce, and holding on to dirty dishes that there is no room for in the dishwasher (the last job being our own fault for getting in our own way of a pleasant cooking experience).  After your meal, the sink is used to soak dishes that need extra attention before they go into the dishwasher, or for washing hand washables.   

FIRECLAY vs. CAST IRON

Both are great options, and I have not had any clients who regretted either choice. I tend to suggest one over the other more for appearance and price point rather than maintenance concerns. 

OUR FAVORITE FIRECLAY FARMHOUSE SINK

Our favorite fireclay sink is the Shaws Original Lancaster Single Bowl Apron Front RC3018.  The 30"x18"x10" size (26-3/4"x15-1/4"x8-1/2" inside) is perfect for baking trays. The blue 'Shaws' badge on the back of the sink dates back to its origins in 1897, making it perfect for vintage-vibe kitchens. An offset drain leaves room for a pull-out below the sink for garbage and recycling bins.

 Shaws Original Lancaster Single Bowl Apron Front Fireclay Kitchen Sink - photo ©Cindy Apple

Shaws Original Lancaster Single Bowl Apron Front Fireclay Kitchen Sink - photo ©Cindy Apple

There are some planning and installation challenges unique to this type of sink that you need to be aware of, and not all project timelines or cabinetmakers/installers are up to these challenges:

  • Due to this being a fired clay product, the dimensions will vary plus or minus 2% from sink-to-sink.  You will need to inspect your sink upon delivery for squareness of the sides and top within the 2% tolerance and also test the sink for proper drainage.  Shimming of the sink might be necessary for proper drainage. (Note: I have never had one of these sinks arrive that weren't a-okay, but you should inspect the sink well before installation so that you have time to exchange it in the unlikely event of any defects.)
  • The cabinet needs to be designed to hold a 190 lb. sink and water.  This is typically done with a 3/4" plywood deck support.
  • The sink can be mounted a number of ways, most commonly it is undermounted below the countertop surface.  It can also be mounted so that it is above the countertop, creating a vertical lip.   
  • The cabinet face will have to be scribed to the sink shape.  Your cabinetmaker/installer will need the actual sink in order to do this.  YOU NEED A VERY SKILLED INSTALLER TO DO THIS WELL SO THAT THE JOINT IS AS CLEAN AS POSSIBLE. If you have conversion varnish finish on your cabinets (which is most common these days), any touch-up will need to be done by a skilled professional.
  • You will need to order a sink flange extension for the garbage disposal, due to the thickness of the sink.
  • The positioning of the sink from front to back needs to be planned to accommodate the installation of faucets & accessories.
  • If you are undermounting the sink, the amount that the countertop laps onto the top rim of the sink will need to be specified so that you get the result you intended.
  • You will need to specify a right or the left side drain, otherwise you will get a random choice (they manufacture more left-side drains than right-side drains, so you are more likely to get a lefty).

FIRECLAY CARE & MAINTENANCE

  • To avoid water spotting, the manufacturer suggests that you wipe down the sink bottom after use.  Waxing the sink will encourage drainage.
  • If a metal pot or pan leaves a mark on the surface, ROHL recommends Astonish Cleaner available from your local ROHL dealer to remove it.
  • Fireclay is resistant to chips, scratches, and stains.  However, if you do get a chip, you many purchase a color-matched repair kit from your local ROHL dealer.
  • ROHL offers a 10-year warranty on fading/staining. 

OUR FAVORITE CAST IRON FARMHOUSE SINK

Our favorite cast iron sink is the Kohler Whitehaven Self-Trimming under-mount single-bowl kitchen sink with short apron K-5826.  This one is less expensive (approx. $950 retail) than the Shaws sink approx. $1,400 retail) and tends to be easier to source from local plumbing retailers with faster turnaround.  It also has an offset drain. This one is always in the rear right-hand corner, so you will have room for a pull-out below the sink for garbage and recycling bins. A left hand drain option is not available.

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The Whitehaven has some installation advantages, including:

  • There is a notch in the sink behind the apron that allows the cabinet face to slide behind it.  So, you don't have to cut the cabinet face in the exact shape of the sink, and you will get a clean cosmetic result with less risk during installation.
  • You do not need a sink flange extension for the garbage disposal (the sink body is not as thick as the Shaws sink body).

Some differences to note:

  • Due to the notch behind the apron, the position of the sink from front-to-back on the countertop is fixed for this sink.  It is also larger in the front-to-back dimension than the Shaws sink, so you will need to make your sink base cabinet deeper if you need more room for faucets behind the sink.
  • There are two apron heights available.  The inside of the sink is the same size for both.  We prefer this version, the shorter apron, because it looks nice with the typical height of top drawers and allows for larger doors under the sink (which means the garbage/recycling bins can fit).
  • The inside dimensions of the bowl are slightly larger at 27-3/4"x18-1/16"x9".  
  • Overall dimensions are 32-1/2" (apron front) x21-9/16"x9-5/8" (deepest part of the bowl).

Similarities include:

  • This is also a heavy sink that requires support, such as a 3/4" deck.

CAST IRON CARE & MAINTENANCE

  • You should not use abrasive cleaners to clean the porcelain enamel finish. 
  • If the porcelain enamel chips through to the iron, the dark cast iron color will show and exposed iron can rust.  However, Kohler provides a warranty against chips, cracks, or burns for as long as the original purchaser owns his/her home.
  • Gloss reduction, scratching, staining, and alkaline etching of the finish over time due to use, cleaning products, water, or atmospheric conditions are considered normal wear & tear and not covered under warranty. 

Return on Investment for Home Remodeling

The cost of home remodeling projects in Seattle can be a bit shocking, but will your investment pay off?

Although there is no financial crystal ball (...don't we all wish there was?!...), here are some tips for making an informed decision:

  1. Find out the typical annual appreciation for homes in your neighborhood.  You can research data on neighborhoodscout.com, or ask a local real estate agent to provide you with data even more specific to homes like yours.  Using neighborhoodscout.com's 7% average over the last 5 years is a conservative approach, given that the past 5 years includes some of the recession recovery period and factors in both the most and least desirable neighborhoods.
  2. Research the immediate return on investment percentages for project types like yours.  The annual Cost vs. Value report published by remodeling.hw.net is a great resource.
  3. Answer honestly:  What is the least amount of time you will live here?
  4. Include both "hard costs" and "soft costs" when estimating Total Cost of Your Remodel Project.  (And don't forget to add things that might not be included in the contractor's estimate, such as appliances, cabinet knobs, decorative light fixtures, and accessories.)

Sample data:

Current Home Value = $800,000

Total Cost of Your Remodel Project = $600,000

Total Investment = $1,400,000 (assuming that you don't have any equity)

Minimum Number of Years (that you will live in the house) = 10

Immediate Return on Investment (ROI) Factor for project type = 70% (conservative, based on lowest end of the ROI range for upscale Seattle projects)

Average Annual Real Estate Appreciation (conservative) = 7%

Sample calculation:

First, calculate your immediate ROI Value.

Current Home Value + (Immediate ROI Factor x Total Cost of Your Remodel Project) = Immediate ROI Value

$800,000 + (0.70 x $600,000) = $1,220,000

Then use an online compound interest calculator to calculate your home's Projected Value at the end of the Minimum Number of Years.

Then, calculate your Projected Profit.

Projected Value - Total Investment = Projected Profit

$2,399,924.66 - $1,400,000 = $999,924.66

So, although you would have started out with more money invested than you could immediately recoup, in ten years time, you will have more than made up for it.  And, consider the intangible.  You need to live somewhere.  Why not live in a home that is designed to work well for you and will bring you joy for years to come?  I can help you with that.

 

Project Update: Woodinville

Finishes have started being installed at the Woodinville project.  I rarely post photos at this stage of construction because much of the fun stuff gets covered to protect it from damage, leaving me with photos of things wrapped in cardboard with blue tape. 

During design, I did some quick sketches to help the homeowners visualize the shape of the indoor pool area and also to coordinate locations of the air registers with the mechanical engineer. 

Here's one of those sketches: 

The curved beam you see overhead will support a track for transferring wheelchair users from a changing area in the bathroom to the pool.

Now that drywall is up, you can see the shape of the space in real life (although a different angle).  There is currently scaffolding being stored in the pool pit for putting the curved beam up when it arrives. 

The waterproofing and tile installation are underway.  Here is a sneak peek of the tile pattern in the bathroom area.  The large mosaic area slopes to a long, linear drain against the wall.  There will be an adjustable height tub on the left side and a showering area on the right side.  The whole room is designed as a "wet zone."  The green color you see is the waterproofing coating on the waterproof substrate, before the tile goes up.

In the master bathroom, cabinetry is being installed.  You can see the unique pattern of bamboo plywood on the face of the cabinet sides.

Although the pretty things that will be seen and touched every day are being installed and everything is moving along nicely, this phase of construction always SEEMS slow because of all the detail work that goes into the final stretch.  That, and the fact that things get covered up and protected as quickly as they can!  The first day that the homeowner will really get to see everything all at once will be the "punchlist" meeting, which is when the team gets together to create a final list of minor items that need to be completed before the contractor's final pay application is approved.

I can't wait to show you this project when it is finished!

Sneak Peek: Madison Park Before & After

Remember this house that I posted about a while back on Facebook?  The one that tons of realtors had shown to prospective buyers without selling it?  Just look at that stack of realtors' cards that was on top of the flyer on the kitchen counter... (and that wasn't even all of them!)

We finished remodeling all three floors a couple of months ago. In order to make better use of the square footage, we made significant changes to the floor plan on both the first and second floors while completely renovating the kitchen, laundry, and all the bathrooms.

My client just sent me these before and after photos she took of the kitchen from the same angle, and I wanted to share this little piece of the transformation with you! 

Remembering Elizabeth Wright Ingraham

REMEMBERING ELIZABETH WRIGHT INGRAHAM

This morning while driving to get coffee, I was listening to the usual pre-election ridiculousness on National Public Radio. I have only to wonder for a flash of a second what Liz would have thought of things (or of a certain candidate) in order to hear her voice and ROARING laugh — clear as a bell.  

Sidebar:  I would share what I can hear her say about that candidate, but this is not a political post. (And, now I can hear her say, “But, Carol… why NOT a political post?!  We all must SPEAK UP and DO something!”)

MY INTRODUCTION (a.k.a. ’THE INITIATION')

I had just moved to Colorado Springs and was working as an architectural intern in a small office.  Our office was right in the center of downtown, in the same building as a movie theater, a French bistro, a chocolate shop, and Liz’s two-story office, accessed through a narrow pedestrian alley.  Her office was next to a Thai restaurant, which always smelled like fried rice.

Liz loved hanging out will all types of creatives, of all ages. About once a month, several young professionals including several architectural interns, an architectural illustrator, and a landscape architect would pack their lunches and head over to Liz’s office to gather around her conference room table.  

I had no idea that attending the first time was a kind of initiation. When I got there, I noticed that the guys who invited me were unusually quiet. They had taken their seats, ready to observe the show. You see, Liz examined everyone who came through her office doors closely. If you weren’t up to snuff, you quickly became the target of an interrogation. If you did measure up, the energy shifted to banter. The interrogations were especially fun to watch (as long as they didn't shift over to you!)

For Liz and myself, it was banter.  Always banter.

Years later, I brought two summer interns from our office to lunch with Liz. It was my turn to sit back and enjoy the show. These girls were quite young, the kind of young that thinks nothing of wearing spaghetti-strapped sundresses and flip-flops to the office. Liz leaned in:  “What are the branches of the government?…You mean you don’t know?!...Who did you vote for?…What do you think of this legislation being proposed?…Do you read the paper...AT ALL? Watch the news?”  

One of them passed the test (barely, she was let off the hook after she correctly listed the branches of the government). The other did not.  

COLLEAGUESHIP

She was old enough to be my grandmother, yet we were peers. She introduced me to clients and her own children as “a colleague of mine.” This meant the world to me.  Back then, the only thing you could call yourself when you didn’t yet have your architect’s license was 'intern'… and this was when White House intern Monica Lewinsky was in the press, so it was a job title that opened itself up to some embarrassing comments. Not to mention the fact that everyone assumed that ‘intern' was synonymous with 'unpaid student'. (It’s not. You have to work for a minimum of 3 years under the direct supervision of a licensed architect as an intern before you can complete the examination process and actually call yourself an architect. Unlike doctors, who get to use the term doctor when they are still completing their residency.)

Over the years, I returned many, many times to Liz’s office.  With the group, without the group. It didn’t matter. I would drop into the office and shout up the stairs, “Hi, it’s me!” She’d answer with a enthusiastic, “Oh, CAROL! How ARE you? Come on UP!” And, when I’d leave, she’d send me off with, “Force on, Carol. FORCE. ON."