Even the most exacting old-house owners determined that every last spice jar and cup hook in their kitchen should be genuinely historic may quail when it comes to choosing an appropriate kitchen sink. Salvage dealers often stock only a handful, compared to dozens of clawfoot tubs and lavatories. “I don’t get a lot in,” says Tom Sundheim of Architectural Artifacts in Denver. “The kitchen was always the first room that anyone remodeled.” Unlike the bathroom lavatory, which might have been made of marble or china with fluted edges, the kitchen sink was likely to be prosaic in both shape and material, and to have become chipped and stained over the years. So when it came time to update the rest of the room, off it went to the local landfill.
When you do find kitchen sinks at a salvage yard, they’re predominantly the white enameled cast iron kind that graced a majority of kitchens from roughly 1900 to the 1940s. There were other materials used over the last century or so, but how do you know what’s right for your old house? Keep in mind that no choice is radically wrong. Our forebears were apt to use any number of materials, depending on available local resources, and these all changed over intervening decades.
However, you can make some assumptions based on region (heavy stone was expensive to ship from New England quarries, for instance) and technology (stainless steel wasn’t widely available until the 1940s).