Sink for the Cottage Half Bath!

OOF. I’ve been working on several different posts and a million other things and I can’t seem to get anything done. I’m all over the place. So…hi, folks! Long time no see. Missed ya.

sink1

The big news today? Not that big. I bought another old sink. My life is basically non-stop action and excitement with a heaping scoop of filth thrown in for fun.

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a cute cast iron sink to go down in the half-bath on the first floor of the cottage, and this one fit the bill! It’s probably from the 40s or early 50s, super heavy, and—despite the grime and filth, in excellent shape! I love the simple lines (which to me don’t really scream any particular era—just simple and classic), and the flat section at the top where it’ll meet the wall seems like a perfect spot for a bottle of hand soap and a cup for toothbrushes or whatever. It’s a pretty small bathroom, so I like that this particular sink has that little storage opportunity built-in. I’ll still put in some kind of cabinet or shelving or a medicine cabinet or something, but it’s a start!

sinkprice

The best part? BOOM. $25 dollars. This entire project has definitely come with some unexpected costs, so saving money here and there on stuff like this really helps keep the budget more in check.

sink2

There’s a few things to think about when buying vintage enameled cast iron fixtures, and the first is really to inspect the condition of the enamel. I don’t mind a little etching and minor staining (which can often be improved with non-abrasive cleaners or plain old white vinegar), but major chips, cracks, or areas of damage—especially where water will hit—will rust and degenerate over time.

Damaged enamel doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a good buy, especially if the shape is super unique or something, but all of the repair solutions that I know about will never really measure up to an original enameled coating. There are epoxy-type patching compounds you can buy at most home improvement stores, which you basically spread on, let dry, and sand smooth, but the finish is never going to look seamless or perfect—it’ll just insulate the cast iron from further rusting. You can also get stuff like this reglazed professionally (typically they come to you, mask everything off, and spray a new coating on the fixtures), which looks nice at first but isn’t all that durable—you generally have to have it redone about once a decade or so, and it scratches and chips fairly easily in the meantime. The most durable solution I know of is sandblasting and powder-coating. In this process, the enamel finish is blasted off until the cast iron is bare, and then the entire thing can be powder-coated, which is essentially a very tough, durable paint treatment that can be done in a million different colors. It also tends to be pretty affordable, but prices vary. That’s the plan for the downstairs bathtub in my house, since it’s in super solid shape overall but the enamel has seen much better days, and I was quoted $300 to have the work done…which is much less than I’d spend on a brand new tub! This is the same process that my pal Anna had done on her bathroom fixtures, a radiator, and some exterior metal work, and all of them have held up beautifully!

I don’t know of a way to actually have something completely re-enameled (anyone?), though, so the best thing is really to try to find fixtures that don’t need this kind of repair work in the first place. It also keeps costs down, duh-sies. This sink is in great shape, so a little scrubbing should take care of it!

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The second thing to think about is the metal cleat that the sink hangs off of. If you’re installing one of these bad boys, bear in mind that they are HEAVY mo-fos and you may have to open your wall and install some wood blocking for the cleat to screw into. Anyway, often vintage sinks get separated from their original cleat. I bought this sink from the Historic Albany Foundation, which is a fun salvage place with good stuff at great prices, and luckily for me they had a big bin of these cleats to peruse, so it was just a matter of finding one that fit! If your sink is still in production (like the Kohler sink I bought a while ago), you may be able to just order the cleat directly from the manufacturer, and if you’re really in a bind, lots of people get them custom-made by a metal shop for a fairly nominal cost. Anyway, there are options! If you love the sink, don’t fret if it doesn’t have the cleat.

By the way, the nice man at the salvage place told me that often you’re better off with a steel cleat than a cast iron one. Cast iron becomes more brittle over time, so sometimes the cleats are cracked or broken either prior to or during installation. I know that rusty little thing looks like bad news, but it’s very solid and I was assured should hold everything just fine.

faucets

Lastly, the taps! As much as I don’t really mind double taps on old sinks, especially for a half-bath, I gotta say I do prefer a single faucet. Often cast iron sinks that are originally made with double taps can be elegantly converted (Anna did this in her bathroom, too), but the cost of the plumbing work and the faucet/knobs/escutcheons definitely adds a few hundred dollars to the price. So potentially your cheap $25 sink really becomes a $300-$400 sink, which is still fine, but maybe not the kind of deal you thought it was.

ANYWAY, I know this thing looks REALLY gross, but I’m guessing some Barkeeper’s Friend and some TLC will clean it up. Maybe a few new little parts, too, but hopefully that won’t be a big deal. The faceted shape of that little faucet is so cute, though, right? I like it.

I’m so glad to report that—I THINK HOPE AND PRAY—winter is pretty much done. There’s still snow on the ground, but it’s melting, and hopefully it won’t be too long before I can really get back to work on the cottage. The lack of heat (or a gas line!) really kind of messed everything up for a few months, but now that we’re more or less out of the danger zone of pipes freezing and stuff, I’m excited to get back in there! Now that things have stalled and dragged out for so long, it’s going to be super exciting to start making real progress again and whipping this place into shape!


56 Comments

  1. So excited for a new post! I can’t wait to see that sink polished and in place.

  2. I remember this sink well from when I was a kid and we spent time in many a mid-century tract house in California. Often paired with pink or aqua speckled tile with black trim. It is a true work-horse of a design, and agree that the small ledge will help with having a place to set stuff down.

  3. Huzzah for melting snow and more cottage work! Is it sad that–besides the warmer weather, of course–one of the things I’m most looking forward to this spring is reading more Bluestone Cottage posts?

  4. I just love those simple little sinks. They still have loads of style, especially over anything new made today.

  5. My grandparents installed this exact sink and faucet duo in their cabin in Colorado in 1955. It also had a pair of skinny chrome legs in the front.

    • Oh cool! I wonder if I need to pick up a set of legs…

    • I’d second the legs suggestion. My childhood home had this type of sink with the support legs.

      Even If I didn’t regularly climb into as a small child, I think the legs would have been needed to support the fixture’s weight.

  6. Love the sink, love the faucet! Props to you. I live out west and was robbed a winter. My parents visited from New York and just ended up staying and staying since you guys had an eternal winter. (Their long visit was a good thing.) I look forward to see your cottage progress!

  7. That’s a lovely sink and at a great price too. Is there something missing from the end of the spout? (sorry, faucet to you) It looks very short and like it might be threaded at the end.

    • I’m not really sure! I’m going to ask my plumber about it. It’s possible that it could use a little filter thing, which would be a good way to save on water, too. Typically old faucets just let water run at full blast, which is definitely more than you need to just wash your hands and brush your teeth.

  8. Cute sink!
    Chrome polish from the automotive supply place does wonders: gets rid of rust & polishes up like a dream all at the same time.

  9. Simple, timeless, INTACT-all good things. Glad the winter is ending & you can head back to Bluestone soon.
    BTW, once things green up a bit I want a full frontal; we never did get to see the planters intact from the street. Thanks!

    • Oh, full frontal you want and full frontal you shall receive. Of the HOUSE, folks.

      (It got too cold and snowy to finish all of the exterior work before winter hit, so just as soon as a few things are wrapped up!)

  10. It’s difficult to re-enamel. But you’re somewhat in luck, because the US have a lot more consumer products than Europe. I was in the same quandary in 2013, and all I could find were american products, and the odd local specialist. RustOleum, Homax, Devcon. “Tub epoxies” they call it.

    I’ve been unable to find similar products on this side of the Atlantic. Don’t know if it’s because of toxicity – or it’s because there isn’t a market. Although I doubt it’s the latter. Please let us know anything works!

    • Don’t I know it! It’s frustrating when in the USA you can apparently pop down to your local Lowes or whatever and pick up some magic product whereas here in Europe you have to trawl the internet to find such things IF your lucky and persistent. What is more – (cry for me) – I’m in France where it’s doubly hard.

      • Don’t get too jealous! Those products I’m sure are super toxic and probably why they aren’t available overseas, but they’re not all that great either. They’re not BAD but don’t typically hold up that well over time…the typical trade-off with cheap and fast!

      • Perhaps we should form l’Organisation de Lecteurs du Daniel pour plus Produits Américains en France. LOLDPAF.

        Another possible explanation is international patents. If one person or company holds the patent for a product, but has yet to expand to other markets, the situation prohibits locals from reproducing it, without offering them the original. Some RustOleum products are sold in France – but in very limited distribution, and the local retailers aren’t at all helpful.

      • LOLDPAF ! Join NOW!
        Rustoleum in France you say? Hmmmm (typing rustoleum feverishly into searchbar…)

      • According to RustOleum themselves; GiFi and Leroy Merlin. But not all shops, and nobody knows which. RustOleum Tub & Tile should be available in Deutschland via Jansen (http://jansen.de), but I haven’t achieved contact.

        Considering ESA landing on a comet, DIY needn’t be this difficult.

  11. That sink is very pretty, I love the square corners and I really like the taps, although they are in a sad state. At least they have mixer tap potential though, all the vintage sinks I found here had two holes in the far corners for two taps, which meant I couldn’t easily change them to a mixer. And a mixer was the single bathroom requirement my partner had, he was meh about everything else so I have to give him the one thing he was bothered about… Damn his unreasonable fussiness!

    • I get it! The types of sinks you’re describing can be converted (that’s my plan for the one in my downstairs bathroom) a lot of the time, but yes—it’s an extra little headache. I’ll have more insight about it when I actually do it! :)

  12. I love that sink. I agree with Martha – I think these often had chrome legs in front.

    When I tried to reuse a vintage sink, my contractor warned that I’d spend a few $100s getting proper fittings and drain. Do you know anything about that? Maybe it was just my particular sink that I had found for free (and subsequently didn’t use).

    • It really just depends on what the sink came with and how standard or non-standard the various parts for it would be, you know? For example, even my kitchen sink from the 50s had to be drilled out a bit (NOT an easy task in cast iron!) because the hole for the faucet was too small for the modern faucet that I installed. Where that isn’t an option, it might take some custom parts or tricky work…it just depends on the circumstances. I’m sorry I don’t know more!

  13. Meant to say, glad you’re posting anything! I’ve spent the last fortnight demolishing and rebuilding my bathroom and all I’ve been able to face in between nights’ plumbing is House of Cards and a beer. I am in awe of your ability to write posts when you must be knackered!

  14. I am happy to see even a junky old sink from you:). And I trust in its future beauties.

  15. I once read one article one time about a guy who does re-enameling–but it’s pricey: http://retrorenovation.com/2011/09/06/real-porcelain-enamel-coating-to-restore-your-drainboard-sink-tub-or-stove/

    I think (as he says) that he’s the only one doing it. It seems to me that this is a business opportunity for a young person–maybe someone you know will consider going in and apprenticing and then you will be able to get all the re-enameling that you like.

    • That’s so funny—I remember reading that now, too! You just have much better recall than I do, oops!!

      It does seem kind of amazing that he’s the only game in town. I feel like there would be a big demand! I think it’d be cool if companies that are making these products in the first place had some kind of a program for that, too, since they have the equipment and the knowledge and all that. I learned the Kohler actually did it for a bunch of vintage Kohler pieces for a specific rehab project (I can’t remember the specifics…), but unfortunately it’s not a service that’s available to the public. Maybe someday!

  16. Ah, you are still alive then. LOL

    Love the little sink.

  17. As Bean said, Custom Ceramic Coatings in Lenzburg, IL does complete re-enameling. It is not cheap to do, but if the piece in question is special or spectacular, it would be worth it. And still might be cheaper than buying new. Here is a snip from an email exchange I had with the owner last year. (I still haven’t gotten the items done, so can’t comment on the outcome.)

    Yes, I can do heavy cast iron again. All of the old lead based porcelain must be blasted off and new applied and fired. For a 5′ claw foot bath tub I get $1250. For a standard 20″ wall hung sink with short backsplash I get $650. This does not include return shipping or crating if necessary.

    • Very cool! I’m sure this is the last thing you’ll be thinking about, but if you do go for it, I’d love to hear about your results!

  18. I had just finished reminding my man that we have to pick up a sink I found on Leboncoin (equivalent to your Craiglist) and I checked MH and TA-DA there was a sink exacly the same as mine (soon to be). Well same-ish, it has the same cut off corners, it doesn’t have that cool little ledge BUT it does have a column. So what’s so special I hear you ask, I’ll tell you – it’s a SMALL sink with a column, not easy to find, trust me, but it’s for the toilet so it has to be small. I paid 47 dollars :)
    One other thing to consider when you buy old sinks etc.and you plan to change the hardware: measure everything (space between holes and diameter of said holes etc.) I got caught out recently, I bought a gorgeous art deco sink for the bathroom and scored a great deal on a brand new high end faucet/mixers/drain set but the holes weren’t big enough and the mixer spout meant having to risk destroying the old beauty by drilling a hole in the back. Plan B was to buy a bridge faucet but the spread between holes is very un-standard. I think I’m going to have to start the search all over again for another sink :(

  19. I love the sink. You are spot on about reglazing. We’re overdue for our ten year checkup!
    One quick thing to remember when using vintage fixtures. Some plumbing codes require a single faucet with a mixer, so check your local codes before you buy and install a fixture that won’t meet code. We have separate hot and cold on our tubs (that we installed 15 years ago) that wouldn’t be allowed today.

  20. This post has opened my mind to thinking about sinks!! I went around my house to check what kind of sinks I have and I figured out it is those gold brassy fixtures that bother me. Now I can fix them–YAY!!

  21. The Kohler Villager tub may not suit your beautiful house, but it is new, cast iron, and about $350.
    Such a cute sink!

  22. it’s snowing outside as I read this (in midtown)…

    WHEN WILL IT END

  23. Love double taps, especially on the older sinks. So much easier to choose my temperature vs. the crazy single handles you have to move ever where to get the right temp. That sink overall is in such nice condition and what a great price.

  24. There’s another renovation/design website I follow, http://www.momandherdrill.com, and she redid an old bathtub (maybe cast iron?) using products that are meant for boats … I believe her father built boats. Sorry I can’t provide direct links, my work firewall considers her site “malicious”, which is so hilarious if you actually go to her site, but isn’t really something I can complain about as renovation/design perusing is not technically part of my job. Sigh.

  25. I love older sinks. Especially the double taps.

  26. I love the old square sinks. Around here, you can find them at the Habitat ReStore at about that price (though usually without the faucet). I actually like the old school plugs instead of the pull up drain – short of the chain breaking, there’s not a lot that can go wrong with a plug and my mechanical drain stoppers always seem to be problematic.

    • True! Those things seem to break all the time.

      So funny how habitat prices are all over the place! The one up here seems to price stuff like this really high, which is why I didn’t buy it there, although they usually have some nice options. Our Habitat also has a policy of removing all plumbing from this stuff (I think because of concerns about lead), so you always need to retrofit with a new faucet and parts.

  27. Oh I LOVE this sink Daniel. I’m searching for something similar myself. Your fantastic blog is providing me with lots of tips and tricks for my renovation project, which is really only just beginning and I already feel totally overwhelmed!!! Keep up the great work and look forward to seeing the finished results.

  28. Daniel,
    This is neither here nor there–but when I read your blog and see so many salvageable things “thrown away”, I wonder if there are any anti-Grey Garden type houses/people in the world. I imagine that they bought things in the 1950s and kept them pristine and never got rid of them for newer models, Their whole house is vintage but perfect–with a little wear.

    The sink will look great with legs and one of your mirrors in your half-bath.
    M

  29. I had a wall-hung sink in my last place, and came to really love it. The baths in that building were all redone in the 40s. Mine was much larger than yours (or than yours appears to be – you’d never call mine small) and had no legs, as did none of the others in the building. So not all wall hung sinks were designed to be used with legs. Mine, and the others I saw in the building, were all still really firmly attached to the wall, 60+ years later. I remember a similar one in my first childhood home, built in the 30s I think. (Of course, we were warned not to sit or hang on the sink as little kids, lest it come loose from the wall.)

    I want to suggest that you think about having it wall hung without a cabinet underneath, and without legs if it doesn’t appear to have been designed to need any. (I’d look at the underside for evidence of leg marks, and look up that particular sink if you can find it referred to in old house stuff.) The beauty of this in a small bathroom is that you have more leg and foot space when using the sink (and no toe stubbing or toe catching on the skinny metal legs), and visually more floor area, which makes a difference in a small bath – its why wall hung and pedestal sinks work so well in small and tiny bathrooms, despite (and because of) the lack of a storage cabinet underneath.

    I eventually wanted more storage – (my bath wan’t small – it was just narrow, but long )- so I added a sink skirt – you can just hang fabric panels to the underside of the cast iron ones with magnets. It wasn’t a fluffy, gathered one – just some flat panels of classic Provencal stripy fabric that I hemmed with iron on tape on the sides and bottom (no need to hem the top hidden under the sink.) Gave me tons of space to store stuff below, and still room for my feet to fit under when I was using the sink, and looked great.

    Also, if the faucets can’t be shined up nice, and you can find a new one that fits, that would be really nice to do for whomever lives there. My sink I loved, even though the enamel was chipped near the drain, but those old faucets had seen their last pretty days – I’d have replaced them if I’d bought the place (though I’d likely have had the sink re-enameled, too.

  30. Speaking of spring, please don’t forget to show us how your replantings at the front of your house came up!

  31. I have a similar sink in my basement bathroom that I wanted to move up to my 3/4 main floor bath, but because it’s cast iron and super heavy, my people said nay. Apparently, my plaster walls wouldn’t like it. I may look into the chrome legs option though because it’s in really tiptop condition and I’d hate to not recycle a good sink.

  32. Please, you are killing us! We need a new post!

  33. Yes, I agree, another post please

  34. new post! new post! new post!

  35. It doesn’t have to be much. How about some dog pictures?

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