Fireclay Vs. Stainless Steel Sinks: What Are The Major Differences?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Kitchen sinks are perhaps the most important appliance in your kitchen. They are a source of water and are a basin for cleaning, rinsing, and soaking. It is understandable that you should want the best-looking and highest-quality sink you can find for your budget. But when shopping for sink types you may find yourself wondering if a stainless steel or fireclay sink will better suit your needs.

Stainless steel sinks are the best sink option for those on a budget. They are durable, high quality, and affordable. Stainless steel sinks come in a variety of designs, and are light, which makes them easy to install. Fireclay sinks are aesthetically very appealing, and are much quieter than stainless steel sinks. Fireclay sinks are, however, much more expensive than stainless steel sinks, and very heavy.

Both stainless steel and fireclay make for great kitchen sinks. You can’t go wrong with choosing either type, but alas, you must decide. Both sink materials have major perks and unique setbacks. Understanding both sink types and understanding their pros and cons is the best way to understand which type is best for your home.

Stainless Steel Sinks Explained

Stainless steel is perhaps the most common material for today’s sinks. These sinks are found everywhere from professional kitchens to modern state-of-the-art kitchens. These sinks are always made of stainless steel, but can have different finishes, making them look a bit different.

One important aspect to note when understanding stainless steel sinks is the material itself. Stainless steel sinks come in various “gauges.” The gauge is essentially the thickness and durability of the steel the sink is made of.

The lower the gauge, the thicker and stronger the steel. This means the cheaper (lower end) sinks tend to have higher numbers in the low to mid 20s (22 and above). Higher-end and the most desirable stainless steel sinks have lower gauges, in the high teens.

There are many reasons stainless steel sinks are the go-to for many homeowners and designers. Before you go all in and purchase a low gauge stainless steel sink, however, you should know both the positives and the negatives of stainless steel sinks.

Pros Of Stainless Steel Sinks

Highly Durable

Stainless steel sinks are all metal, which makes them very durable. Durability is always an important quality to have in kitchen appliances. If you are constantly chewing it up in the kitchen, and tend to use lots of heavy pots and hot pans, this can be particularly important.

Stainless steel is both heat resistant and crack/chip resistant. This allows you to cook without constant fear of irreparably damaging your sink.


Even though stainless steel sinks are made of metal, they are relatively lightweight. This is especially true when you compare them to other popular sink types like cast iron enamel sinks and fireclay sinks.

Since these sinks are lightweight, they are often very easy to install. They can often be installed and replaced by the homeowner with little to no help from a professional. Since they don’t weigh hundreds of pounds, you also don’t have to worry as much about the weight threshold of the cabinets or other structures below the sink.

Bacteria Resistant

Stainless steel sinks are bacteria resistant and easy to clean. Stainless steel sinks are non-porous, which helps prevent bacteria from forming and growing.

They are also very easy to clean and wipe down. Most stainless steel sinks can withstand a variety of antibacterial household cleaners, which makes them a great option for those who like to clean appliances without having to deal with lots of fuss and a myriad of kitchen cleaners.

Many Designs And Custom Options

Stainless steel sinks come in all sorts of sizes, designs and dimensions. No matter what size your kitchen, or what vision you have, there is likely a stainless steel sink on the market for you.

You can even custom design your stainless steel sink if you have a specific vision. Stainless steel is easy to work with, so anything is possible. Keep in mind custom designs can be quite pricey.


Stainless steel sinks are often very cheap compared to fireclay and other sinks. They may have an expensive look, but compared to other sink types, Stainless Steel sinks are quite affordable. This makes them the go to option for any sink shopper who is on a budget but does not want to sacrifice aesthetic and quality.

Cons Of Stainless Steel Sinks


One of the biggest complaints you will hear from stainless steel sink owners is how noisy they are. The sound of water on the stainless steel can be very loud and off-putting. A slight drip of water is also magnified in a stainless steel sink.

Pro Tip:The sounds often decrease with a thicker gauge steel. Keep In mind thicker gauges may cost you more.

Prone To Dents, Scratches

While stainless steel sinks do not crack or chip, they are prone to dents and scratches. Your sink is still functional with the scratches and dents, but these damages certainly cheapen the look of the sink.

Limited Colors

Stainless steel sinks may come in a variety of designs, but they will always look metallic silver. Sure, you can have different finishes. There are brushed, matte-like steel finishes and reflective, almost mirror-like finishes.

At the end of the day, though, your sink will be silver. This is perfect if you have other silver appliances, but if silver does not go with your kitchen theme, you may need to look for a different material.

Fireclay Sinks Explained

Fireclay sinks are a type of ceramic sink that uses a particular type of strong clay that includes other ingredients including quartz and raw kaolin. Also, fireclay sinks are molded and then heated for upwards of 28 hours, forming a very strong and durable product.

These sinks are molded, not carved. Once they are heated they can not be altered. They are then glazed. Glazes are commonly white (glossy or matte), but can be finished in many other colors or patterns. These sinks are beautiful and timeless. Even though fireclay sinks can really tie a room together, there are several reasons you may want to consider other types of sinks before purchasing a fireclay sink.

Pros of Fireclay Sinks

Visually Appealing

One of the biggest selling points for fireclay sinks is visual appeal. Fireclay sinks look both rustic and luxurious. They have a sophisticated, classic appeal that works in almost any kitchen setup. Simply put, when you install a fireclay sink in your kitchen, it will improve the overall look of the entire room.


Fireclay sinks are much better than many sink types at absorbing noise. The sound of water is absorbed much better than it is in stainless steel and other sink types. This is a huge selling point for those who can’t stand the loud sound of water in a sink.


If properly cared for, fireclay sinks can last for generations. The material can stand the test of time. They are heavy, sturdy and durable. They will last a lifetime when properly cared for.

Pro Tip: Including bottom mats to prevent chips and cracks can greatly lengthen the lifespan of your fireclay sink.

Variety of Textures and Colors

Unlike stainless steel sinks, you can choose a number of colors and even patterns, for your fireclay sink. This is ideal for someone who has a very specific color scheme in mind. This allows you to have the type of sink you want without sacrificing quality.

Cons of Fireclay Sinks

Limited Model Options

Since fireclay sinks are very labor-intensive to build, there is a much more limited variety of options on the market. It is not nearly as simple (or affordable) to custom build a fireclay sink. While there are certainly a number of choices


Fireclay sinks are not cheap. Since they require time, precious materials and labor to make, they cost significantly more than easily-constructed stainless steel sinks. If you are on a tight budget, fireclay sinks will likely not fall within your budget range.

Prone To Chips And Stain

While fireclay sinks are durable, they are still prone to chipping, cracks and stains. It is always a good idea to put safeguards at the bottom of your fireclay sink to prevent chips and cracks. Still, damage can occur.

If you happen to be on the rough side in the kitchen, or have several kids growing into teenagers, be aware that your fireclay sink may start to chip and show visible damage over time.

Very Heavy

Fireclay sinks are also very heavy. They can weigh hundreds of pounds, depending on the model. This means you need a very strong base to set them on. This also makes them quite challenging to install and replace. Unlike stainless steel sinks, installing a fireclay sink is not a one man job.

Final Thoughts on Fireclay vs. Stainless Steel Sinks

While both stainless steel sinks and fireclay sinks are great options for your home, stainless steel is the best bet for those on a budget. Stainless steel sinks are more affordable, easier to install and are still highly durable and aesthetically pleasing. If, however, money is not a concern, fireclay sinks are a great option. They have a great look, are highly durable and can last for generations if properly cared for.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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