Sometimes in this space, we say a lot about a little. Today is one of those days. We will be discussing the middle hole on antique bathroom sinks. If a hole is nothing, then today we will be saying something about nothing; which, if you think about it, is saying quite a bit. On with the show…
Early bathroom sinks typically had two separate taps. Sinks had one hole on the left for the hot water tap and one hole on the right for the cold water tap. Between the taps was the subject of today's blog post, the center hole. The center hole in antique sinks was typically used to install a chain stay for a rubber stopper style drain. A chain stay anchors the rubber drain plug to the sink. While far less common, pop-up drains were also available by the end of the nineteenth century. If an antique sink had a pop-up drain, the stopper was activated by a pop-up knob that would be installed through the sink's center hole. Pop-up drains were innovative for the time, so the knob usually featured a white porcelain button labeled "waste" to help the less-sophisticated identify its intent.
By the 1930s, mixing faucets began to grow in popularity and the purpose of the middle hole changed. Mixing faucets have hot and cold faucet handles flanking a center spout. The spout was installed in the middle hole of the sink. As is common today, the pop-up knob was integrated into the spout.
Over time, standards developed for bathroom sinks. Today, the spread between the two outside holes is usually 4" for centerset faucets or 8" for widespread faucets. The faucet holes in modern bathroom sinks are usually 1-1/4" diameter minimum.
Recognizing the significance of the bathroom sink's center hole is important if you wish to restore an antique sink. If the center hole was originally designed for a chain stay, the sink may not support a widespread faucet. The center hole may be odd shaped (e.g. square) or too small. Shop 4 Classics offers antique reproduction taps and chain stays to restore the sink to its original charm. Or, if you prefer a mixing faucet, you may be able to use a bridge faucet with a sink hole cover to cap the center hole in the sink. Sinks that had an antique-style pop-up drain are typically the most difficult to restore because the center hole can be too large for a chain stay, a sink hole cover, or a widespread faucet's spout. If you can not restore the original pop-up drain, it may be necessary to fabricate flanges to retrofit the sink with other options. If the sink was designed for a widespread faucet, you can choose a widespread faucet, a bridge faucet with a sink hole cover, or antique reproduction taps with a chain stay.
In addition to being useful for antique sink restorations, the evolution of the bathroom sink's center hole can be used to impress family and friends as you gather this Christmas to roast chestnuts on an open fire. Best wishes for a joyous holiday season from your friends at Shop 4 Classics!