Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Antique Bathroom Sinks: The Hole Truth

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!

1 comment:

  1. What a useful article. We are currently using a single stem, modern faucet which left two holes on our antique sink so I was looking for hole covers when I came across this article. Sadly, we found it too late to be of help for us but I hope that others who choose the antique fixtures route will find it *before* they spend a fortune on faucets that simply won't work. We have probably spent $1000 trying to find a faucet that would work on our antique sink. We did try the bridge faucet (after we found that the widespread weren't going to work) but the faucet set was flimsy so we had to change that too. Our antique sink has VERY wide set holes so we were limited in the options available for a bridge faucet. Because we live in a remote area, shipping is expensive and there is nothing local that will fit the bill so, the modern, single stem faucet... I would also like to add that the faucet problem was only part of the problem with the sink: we bought the sink from a dealer that had the sinks in one section and the legs in another. We searched for two matching legs just to discover that THE LEGS WERE DIFFERENT LENGTHS! That was the beginning of the antique bathroom journey. So, I guess all of this is just a message to others that working with antique fixtures isn't for the faint of heart and LOTS of homework is needed before you actually purchase the item. Koodos to Shop4Classics for these very helpful articles!