The Search for a Vintage Farmhouse Sink

From the time I started sketching up our new house on graph paper nearly two years ago, I knew I wanted a vintage farmhouse sink for the kitchen. Not a modern apron front farmhouse sink that are popular today, but an antique one from the 20’s or 30’s. Those weren’t my only demands though, no…I also wanted it to have a single basin, high back, and double drainboards. I was basically searching for a needle in a haystack….a very expensive needle, as it turns out.

vintage sink

SOURCE – $2,695.00 + plus shipping

vintage farmhouse sink

SOURCE – $2,395.00 + shipping

Aren’t those sinks gorgeous?! They are vintage sinks that have been professionally refinished and the price reflects it. So then I started searching for vintage ones that hadn’t been refinished, and didn’t have much luck there either. They were still expensive ($500 – $1000 or so) and most were in the northeast (I’m in Texas) and the owners either only wanted to sell locally, or shipping was crazy expensive.

highback farmhouse sink

SOURCE – $695 local pick-up only (NY) or $845 + shipping. Still needs refinishing ($$$).

I almost gave up on my search and settled for a regular, non dream sink, but then in my searches I stumbled upon a blog called Retro Renovation that had done a post about farmhouse drainboard sinks. And buried in that post was a link to a company called NBI Drainboards that makes vintage sink reproductions.

NBI drainboards homepage

I quickly searched the site, clicked on the “early century models” button (they also had mid-century) and there it was…exactly what I was looking for.

early century vintage sinks

double drainboard farmhouse sink

Also, it was only $1,000, brand new and ready to go. Admittedly this price would have knocked the wind out of me before I started my search for a vintage sink, but after lots of shopping and disappointment this seemed like a pretty solid deal.

So just to be clear, these are reproductions…which means that they’re not actually vintage sinks. They’re also not made of cast iron or porcelain, but rather an acrylic material called Bio-Lok. You can read all about it on this page of the NBI Drainboards website, and it also includes a couple of videos of a sink being beat up with a hammer, boiling water being poured all over it and a hot pot being left on it’s surface, all without damage. The sinks also had excellent reviews, so I showed Adam and we agreed that these sinks were the best solution.

Now for the disclaimer – I ended up contacting the company and speaking with the owner (it’s a very small company) and we agreed that in exchange for a using, photographing, blogging about, and generally spreading the word about NBI Drainboards he would send me a sink for free. So this sink ended up costing me nothing, but that doesn’t change my review or story about it, promise. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, lets continue…

A few weeks later I received my sink, and I immediately ripped it open to lay eyes on my beauty.

I instantly had two thoughts, the first being that it was beautiful, exactly what I wanted, and I couldn’t believe it was actually sitting on my front porch and going into my new house. The second thought was that the bowl was insanely shallow and I had to return it.

In our last house we had a huge abyss of a sink. It was a gaping black hole that I cold pile dishes in and still not be able to see them from across the room. I loved it.

butcher block counter with undermount sink

This sink basin was nothing like that. When Adam got home he agreed it was crazy shallow…and then proceeded to remind me that this is an exact replica, and if I wanted a vintage drainboard sink then I was going to end up with a shallow sink basin. At least this one had the advantage of having an enlarged drain hole so that you can have a garbage disposal, something that you couldn’t do with a real vintage sink. So crisis number one adverted…time for sink crisis number two.

While designing our house Adam and I spent months….years…saving inspiration pictures (mostly on Houzz, the best site for this kind of stuff). We saved the picture below as what we wanted for our sink/cabinet setup…

Adam, being a cabinet guy, liked the custom look of this. The vintage sink was on it’s own cabinet, which was slightly lower than the other cabinets and slightly deeper. The countertop came right up to and slightly overlapped the edge of the sink, and the whole thing was very well designed and had a furniture quality to it. You can see how Adam drew it into his sketches…

kitchen sketch sink wall

Adam started building our kitchen cabinets in January, and as soon as we knew what sink we were getting and the dimensions he went ahead and built the sink base cabinets.

Then the sink arrived, and we quickly realized that there was only one way to install the sink, and that was as a drop in. Our custom cabinet and design was not going to work. Such a bummer.

So Adam built new sink cabinets, regular height and flush with the other cabinets. I don’t have pictures of the original cabinets in place (because they never made it to install), but here is the second set.

farmhouse kitchen in progress

(The first set didn’t go to waste, we ended up using them on our laundry room.)

Here is the sink in place after we poured the concrete countertops

vintage sink reproduction

vintage farmhouse sink-2

As you can tell, we are not finished installing it. We still need to tile the wall, frame the window, and do some sort of trim behind the sink so there isn’t a gap.

highback vintage sinks are shallower than the countertop

We knew that filling a gap between the back of the sink and the wall was going to happen no matter what, because vintage sinks aren’t as deep as countertops and cabinets….every installed vintage sink I’ve seen had some sort of box built behind it. We plan to trim out the sides after it is all tiled and then add an extra deep windowsill for plants and whatnot.

Although, sink crisis number three might get in the way…

back of sink is higher than the window

Adam and I did a ton of math and figured out exactly how high the window had to be so that the back  of the sink stopped exactly underneath. The good news is that we were right on the money, the bad news is that we had to install the sink as a drop in and now the back of the sink is taller than the window. I was pretty much convinced the sky was falling when we realized this and Adam seemed unconcerned…so we will see. Usually I’m the calm “it will all work out” person when it comes to projects, but this time it’s him…so I’m guessing he has a secret genius plan or something.

So, now that we’ve been moved in for almost two months, what do I think of the sink?

I actually LOVE it, I’m pretty sure it’s the most functional thing I have ever owned. Why did we ever move away from double drainboards and high backs? It makes so much sense.

1920’s vintage sink replica

The shallow sink basin isn’t a problem at all…actually kind of the opposite. We use the drainbords for piling up dishes (dirty on the right, clean on the left) and that leaves the sink open for other things or for rinsing stuff before it goes in the dishwasher. Also, I don’t let dishes pile up like I used too, because now they are right there in my face.

It also wipes up beautifully. No longer do I have that grimy strip of countertop between the faucet and the wall that is hard to clean, it’s all one solid piece. The Bio-Lok material seems to hold up really well and I don’t foresee any problems…although I do have a scratch on the basin because I was dumb and scrubbed a super heavy cast iron griddle in it without putting a rag down first. You can’t see it because the color goes all the way through the sink, but I know it’s there.

vintage faucet for a high back sink

I also discovered that very very few faucets will work with a vintage high back sink….you pretty much have two or three to choose from (nearly all faucets have a reach that is too long). The faucet I bought is by American Standard and I found it on Amazon, it’s very heavy and well made…but I mostly love it for the porcelain handles and charming soap dish.

double drainboard kitchen sink

And so, that is the story of our sink. If you are in the market for a vintage sink of any style I urge you to check out NBI Drainboards, they have it all. Here are links to all their stuff…



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  1. Jan Horwood says:

    I like the look of that high back and drainboards. So much nicer than the old counter strip and wall or back splash! I’m guessing that the material your sink is made of is actually better than the older materials. It looks awesome, and will look even better when it’s all built in. Some desires are very strong, and it’s nice when you actually are able to get what you want. :)

    • I know, it’s funny how some aspects of the house I’m just like “ehhh….whatever”, and others I know exactly what I want and refuse to settle. For some reason this sink was something I really cared about….though I probably wouldn’t have cared so much if it wasn’t going right in the center of our house.
      Ashley recently posted..DIY Concrete Countertops, Part II – The PourMy Profile

  2. I always have felt that with the basin being so shallow and the faucet so high. There would be a lot of splash issues with these sinks. Glad to hear you aren’t having those problems.

  3. Your reproduction looks great! We were very fortunate, living on the East Coast, that we were able to find an actual vintage one just like this for $110 at a salvage yard! It needed a little cleanup, but this is such a great design–we just love it!

  4. I’m anxiously waiting for a baby post! Aren’t you due soon???!!

  5. Love it! It looks perfect, and for a reproduction, it seems like a very well-made repro! Just curious, why wouldn’t the custom cabinet design work? You said “it had to be a drop-in”, is that something that came with the install instructions or was that a conclusion y’all drew together? Loving all the house updates– Husbeast and I are hoping to build in the next few years and I keep referring to your blog when we talk about some of our ideas!

    • There were ways we could have made it work, but none of them were ideal. We could have poured a separate countertop on the lower cabinets and then placed the sink on top of that, but Adam thought it would look cheesy. Basically the sink is very light and isn’t made to support itself like a heavy cast iron one would, so having it sit on the lip of a cabinet wouldn’t be sufficient. I know it seems like you could make it work, but Adam assured me you couldn’t…I know because I pestered him quite a bit with all my “ideas” before resolving to make it a drop in. I don’t remember if the instructions specifically said it had to be a drop in, though it did say that you could NOT wall mount it because the sink material won’t support it.

      Thanks about the blog and congrats/good luck on building soon…it’s quite an adventure!
      Ashley recently posted..Gold Stenciled TableMy Profile

  6. Well, you’ve pretty much sold me on a vintage sink–and I’m dying over that soap dish!! The area surrounding my kitchen sink is such a mess because our soap is outside the sink rim, and thus all the water droplets and soap scum go everywhere–argh. But this–this! A soap dish over the faucet?! Whoever thought to take away that feature? I do have one question, however. You said you bought your faucet from Amazon–is that because the faucets NBI Drainboard sells don’t work for the early vintage sinks? Just curious, because some of their faucets are really cute (yes, I went to their website as SOON as I finished reading this post) and not too expensive, but if they don’t work for these particular sinks, then like you, I’ll have to go elsewhere. Thanks for keeping us all up-to-date on your building adventure!

  7. Wow n wow! Love the sink n the faucet! I had a faucet just like that in an old farm house I lived in many years ago located in the mudroom/laundry room it was great! Thanks for the lead on a retro sink company I never would have thought anyone would do that n am happy to see these old gems still being made! What did Adam use to make the shelf behind the sink. I hate that dirt collecting spot n want to put plants n knick knacks there instead. It almost looks like an enamel finish what is it? Thanks Kari

  8. Looks nice. My grandmothers farmhouse sink had a pump you had to prime to start water. That was put in in the 60’s for her and before that, the pump was outside and she would carry buckets of water in. No indoor plumbing, always had outhouse!
    rose l. recently posted..BLUESY MARIA MULDAURMy Profile

  9. I had that exact sink (only actually vintage) in my old apartment and I loved it and miss it! I loved the drain boards on the side and did exactly what you do with dirty dishes on one side and clean on the other. It was the best, but it was also super old and had a couple of significant chips in the enamel and the basin was scratched beyond belief. I love the idea of having the option of having that sink back in my life someday 😍

  10. Do you miss having the one handled faucet? I’ve never had two handles in the kitchen (even as a kid). I worry that I’d miss being able to turn the faucet on with the back of my hand.

    I adore the look of the vintage sinks and I live in an area where Craigslist has lots of option under $500. However, the NBI Drainboard sinks really appeal to me because they seem like they have all the benefit son modern materials and the vintage shapes. I’m willing to pay extra for a low maintenance option that arrives ready to install. The faucet options are the only thing holding me back.

    • I actually don’t miss it at all and prefer the two handled version. I really only ever use hot water in the kitchen though, so it’s almost like a one handled one…except that it is harder to turn on with the back of your hand since it needs to be pushed forward and not back. With the one handled version I felt like I was constantly readjusting the handle though, since I would hit it with my hand and it would either come on too soft or spraying everywhere, and this one is comes on at the same perfect pressure every time.
      Ashley recently posted..Introducing “Oakmoss”My Profile

  11. Samantha Pereira says:

    I adore that sink! I also adore the fact that your blog is so popular that you can contact owners and do great deals. That’s so awesome! Congratulations… And *high five* … You go girl!

    • Thanks Sam, I really appreciate that….nearly six years of writing a DIY blog is starting to pay off :) I actually reached out to quite a few companies during the building process, Adam and I figured if we were going to buy them either way might as well see if we can leverage the blog and make a trade. Admittedly more companies said yes than I anticipated so I do have quite a few “sponsored” posts in my future, though I would have written those posts anyway…now they just have more requirements.
      Ashley recently posted..Kitchen Progress – Dark green cabinets, a rustic wood countertop, and lightingMy Profile

  12. Darlene W says:

    I’ve found this very interesting. I had emailed you a few days ago to see if you liked this sink after having it for a short time. I’m disappointed to learn it has damaged so easily. I realize you can’t expect it to be bullet proof, but scrubbing a cooking pot/pan is everyday life.
    I have searched high and low for a farmhouse sink and given the configuration of my kitchen I’ve given up. I too located the expensive ones, but cannot bring myself to buy those sight unseen. Too much $$$ involved for something you might not like.
    Best wishes for the continued progress of the home. I’ve enjoyed observing the process.

    • Darlene! I got your e-mail and am so sorry I haven’t e-mail you back yet…I was going to as soon as I finished this post (your timing was perfect) but then…life. The sink did scratch when I was scrubbing that cast iron griddle, but it’s not a normal pot or pan by any means. It goes on top of our stove (it came with it), is crazy heavy, and has sharp edges. I can’t imagine there is a sink it wouldn’t have scratched. I totally understand your frustration with the search though, these sinks are really expensive and no solution is perfect. You know, my brother bought a big sink at IKEA the other day for his kitchen and it was only $300 or something. Maybe it would work for you, here is a link –

      • Darlene W says:

        Oh no, no apologies! I understand totally. I was happy to see this post and thought of it as a happy coincidence. After all, you’re only wrangling three little ones, a fourth almost here and a new house!!! Girl I admire you, I couldn’t do it!
        Thank you for your reply however. I had already been in contact with the folks at NBI; nice people. I learned that sample pieces can be obtained for preview. I’m still on the fence on what to do. Fortunately I’m not in a position that I have to choose right now. It will work out.

  13. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these farmhouse sinks Ashley!!! Pinning for our farmhouse kitchen reno next year :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Listen. I’ve seen this post for like a million years. Your my fav blog. I need something new or I’m gonna have to find someone else.

  15. I live in a 1907 Texas farmhouse and we have a vintage double basin/drain board that my husband’s grandparents installed new in the 40s. I love it so much! Dirty sinks on the right…clean sinks on the left (including a compost pail). We do not use a dishwasher and i do not miss it. I’m glad you enjoy it!

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