Buying your copper sink: information and useful tips

Selecting a kitchen or bathroom sink should be easy. There were only a few large companies selling ceramic, enameled steel, cast iron, and stainless steel sinks. In the last decade, there has been an explosion of new products in the sink category and a growing demand for handmade and custom work. There have been several “new” sink mediums that have recently gained acceptance: glass, various stones, brass, copper, and even wood. This article will focus on copper sinks and what to look for before making your purchase.

Copper is man’s oldest metal, dating back more than 10,000 years. Its use in the home in modern times ranges from copper pipes in your plumbing system to some of the best kitchenware available. Restaurateurs, hoteliers, and interior decorators view copper and brass as naturally attractive metals that make a statement of quality, comfort, and beauty. Not surprisingly, copper has also become a popular material for sinks in the kitchen, bathroom, and bar.

Copper artisans abound throughout the world, however, the artisans who have gained a reputation for making sinks have been primarily focused on India, Mexico, and the US. Most shops that make “handmade” copper sinks by hand” are small and the methods used to build sinks go back centuries. The term “hand hammered” has recently become synonymous with Mexican sinks. This term refers to the original ancient techniques that artisans have been using for centuries in this area. The copper sheets are literally hammered into shape and finished by hand.

The results are somewhat rustic, but truly unique and one of a kind. Copper sinks in the US are made using similar techniques, but are more often “smooth” rather than “hammered.” US copper craftsmen are dominated by shops that do custom work primarily for commercial projects like restaurants. You can see examples of all these sinks in the Sinks Gallery. They specialize in handcrafted sinks and have one of the largest selections of copper sinks available, as well as sinks in all mediums, including glass, ceramic, various stones, and even wood.

There are three main differentiators that determine quality: the technical construction, the thickness of the copper, and the company you are buying from. The quality of the construction is made up of several factors: how the corners are constructed, the welding technique and the proper dimensions to facilitate installation. Quality can vary even when considering sinks made in the same city, like many sinks in Mexico. The buyer should make sure that he is buying from a legitimate company that knows the product and is not selling “seconds.” In the world of handmade products, not all sinks are created equal, and there are often two or more levels of quality sold by the same store (ie “firsts” and “seconds”).

Copper starts out in sheets of various thicknesses or “gauge”. Metal thickness can also refer to weight per square foot. The thicker the gauge of copper, the lower the number. Most bathroom sinks are made from 20 gauge (the thinnest) to 16 gauge (the thickest) and most kitchen sinks range from 18 gauge to 14 gauge. When shopping for copper sinks, always ask about the gauge and keep in mind that a thicker gauge sink will cost more, and in many cases is worth it! Light gauge metal may produce a “pinging” sound when the faucet is turned on.

Finally consider the store you are shopping at. If a copper sink seems “cheap” in price, there is usually a reason. I have seen many of the copper sinks sold on the most famous “auction site”. All I can say is “buyer beware”, or more to the point “you get what you pay for”… If something goes wrong with your sink or there is a problem when it arrives, you’ll want to make sure the company you bought from will stand behind your product. Think carefully about buying internationally. Too often a sink that is received is not as it is represented. A reputable dealer must identify your shipping location, clearly state your warranty and return policy, and be available for consultation.

I am a fan of copper sinks. I find them to be tough yet elegant, especially as they age. The rich reflections and nuances of the patina process are constantly evolving. A copper finish is a “living finish” and actually never stops changing color. That said, the evolution of a copper finish is gradual, and as it ages it becomes even more attractive. You can greatly reduce this change by using wax or even a lacquer product, but I personally like to let the copper evolve. Most of the time, this process results in a yellowish-brown weathered copper patina. I like to refer to it as the soul of basins.

Copper sinks often come in various finishes, from a shiny copper finish (like a new penny) to a dark patina (we call ours “Dark Smoke”) and everything in between. The copper finish you choose is a matter of personal taste, but often our customers prefer the more “worn” patinas to avoid the maintenance or uncertainty associated with bright copper. If you want to slow down the patina process, try applying a wax like “Renaissance Wax”. Applied every few months, the wax will provide a barrier between the copper and the environment.

Copper kitchen sinks come in two basic forms: under-counter mount or farmhouse style. The rustic nature of copper sinks lends itself well to the farmhouse sink style. Sometimes referred to as “front” sinks, these sinks come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and configurations, i.e. single bowl, double bowl and even triple bowl. Bathroom sinks are generally available in three styles: vessel (mounted above the counter), “recessed” or under-counter mount. Usually, the style of the lip determines whether the bathroom sink is built-in or recessed. Be sure to order the right lip style to fit your project. A recent trend in bathroom design is to combine a copper mirror frame with the sink in the same patina. This can help create consistency in the appearance of the decoration.

If you have any other questions before purchasing a sink, feel free to call us at Sinks Gallery or Copper Sinks Online – 1-877-320-0800. We will be happy to answer any other questions you may have.

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