Real porcelain enamel coating to restore your drainboard sink, tub or stove

reporcelain for a sink After Joe was unsuccessful in his attempt to epoxy-coat his vintage porcelain drainboard sink, he replaced it with a new Elkay Lustertone stainless steel drainboard sink. Even though the metal drainboard sink looks great, Joe says he would have preferred to keep his old porcelain sink top and have had the original enamel restored, refinished or replaced. But he didn’t know of a source — and neither did I. Until now.

Thanks to reader TappanTrailerTami, who let us know:

I hate to mention this after-the-fact, but it could be something that Pam can investigate for us, and report on. There is a company in Illinois — Custom Ceramic Coatings — that does actual REAL porcelain enameling (the baked-on kind). I’ve seen them mentioned on a couple of different websites. I don’t know how much the cost is, but I think it would be worth checking out and having the information handy just in case someone here wants to save their current sink. It is my understanding that they are the only company in the country to do real old fashioned authentic fired on porcelain enamel work.

Tami

UPDATE: We subsequently identified a second company — Independence Porcelain — that can do reporcelaining if you have a STEEL base; Custom Ceramic Coatings can do reporcelaining onto steel or cast iron.

where to get the porcelain on a drainboard sink repairedWell, I followed up on Tami’s tip, made a phone call, and yes — Custom Ceramic’s owner John Ballantyne says that, indeed, he does true, old-fashioned re-porcelaining of sinks, tubs, stove parts and even vintage motorcycle parts. He does lots of (all the?) reporcelaining work for companies that take apart and re-manufacture vintage stoves piece by piece, for example.

vintage porcelain drainboard kitchen sinkJohn says can strip and then re-porcelain onto steel substrates, and usually, onto cast iron, although he tells me there is an issue with cast iron right now:

As I told you on the phone, I have been having some trouble with the thick heavy cast iron pieces since I had to change my porcelain supplier.  My old supplier went out of business and we had things matched up pretty good. The stamped steel sinks are no problem.  We are working with the porcelain for the cast and it has recently worked out on some pieces that had failed badly for outgassing. Once I try a couple of sinks that have failed and if they work out now,  then I will return to doing the heavy cast iron again.

where to get all new porcelain enamel for a drainboard sinkThe porcelain re-enameling process is not cheap, because it is time-consuming and requires craftsmanship, materials and the tools and equipment. John explains that porcelain = glass. To re-porcelain a piece, he says, he first must blast away all the old porcelain down to the bare metal. He then applies a “ground coat” — a special primer, more or less — usually two coats, each fired separately. Then, he creates a special chemical mixture of ground glass and other materials — this is called “slip” — and applies thin coats in a wet spray, drying and firing in between. The firing all occurs at up to 1500 degrees F. The “outgassing” he refers to, is when there are problems getting the porcelain coats to adhere to the ground coats during the firing process. Expansion, contraction, chemical formulations — all must be just right or you get bubbles and pocks and flaking or worse.

green porcelain sink

John can create white porcelain, or color-match to about any color you want. Vibrant reds and yellows are more expensive, he warns, because the formula for these colors use cadmium, an EPA-controlled substance requiring special procedures.

re enameling a sinkCosts vary according to the piece. John read to me from his rate card: A 42″ sink runs $750-$800, plus shipping. As you can imagine, shipping can be a substantial part of the expense, too. For example, John is in Illinois, just across the border from St. Louis, and one-way shipping to California for a piece sitting in his shop while we talked was looking like $230. He says he works with a special shipper to help get the best cost possible.

vintage kitchen sink with drainboardsThat said, remember that it’s probably at least $1,500 for an Elkay Lustertone stainless steel drainboard sink. And I bet if anyone ever started making porcelain drainboard sinks new, they would be in that price range or higher.

new porcelain enamel for a stovetopA 40″ stovetop, in white, with four burner holes, would be about $335, John said.

stove grates with new porcelain enamelHe can also do stove grates, with simple single grates starting at $50.50.

Currently, lead times are three-to-four weeks.

John says that he started his business in 1997, after running a large porcelain plant in St. Louis. He got his start when he reporcelained the exhaust pipes on his Harleys.

Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and tile of any age:

be safeIMPORTANT UPDATE:
If you are the owner of an older porcelain enamel bathtub or sinks — or are considering buying one — please see my May 2, 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them.

Links:

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

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Comments

  1. Barb says

    I wanted to have my 1947 66 inch double bowl, double drainboard porcelain sink (on a Youngstown steel cabinet) done by John but I can’t wait 1.5 – 2 years. I found a company in Independence, MO, close to Kansas City. It is Independence Porcelain Enamel – http://www.ipe-porcelain.com. It has been in business since 1922. I took my sink last Friday. Jeff tells me it will take about 2 weeks. It will be sandblasted and fired at 1600 degrees. It was a good size company and has been in business for a long time so I am optimistic for good results. Cost will be $550.

    • pam kueber says

      THANK YOU, BARB, for this hot tip! 1600 degrees hot! We will follow up and plan a story! Yes, let us know how it turns out!!!

      • Barb Patchett says

        Hi Pam, I loved Todd’s cobalt blue cabinets on the Retro Renovation website. I didn’t know who to go to. I went to Black Diamond Harley-Davidson Dealership and asked who was the best sandblaster and powder coater. They said Jeff Gulledge of 2boyzblasting in Marion, IL. Jeff is doing the inside and outside of the cabinet in soft satin white and the front in Bentley Blue (vivid, shiny cobalt blue). Cost for sandblasting and powder coating inside and out is $600. I am anxiously awaiting my new porcelainized sink and new Youngstown steel cabinet. Now, I just need to get the rest of the kitchen renovated.

  2. Elizabeth says

    I spoke with Jeff in Independence, he doesn’t do cast iron sinks. I was actually able to talk with John in Illinois. He’s still looking at a 2+ year waiting list for sinks!
    I spoke with an amazing architectural salvage guy in rural Missouri that has someone who will do cast iron tubs but not sinks (too much daily use with pots, etc) . The guy that does tubs is Bob his number is (573) 578-1331

    • Cara says

      I’d suggest powder coating- see my post above. So far I’m very pleased with the performance & plan to have my too large to be re-porcelained kitchen sink done this summer. It has to be better than the epoxy stuff.

      • Cara says

        Well, Pam, the spray on coatings certainly don’t hold up worth a damn, so the alternative would be to throw out the sink but that’s unacceptable to me. I think if one makes sure to use a sink protector, the wear & tear would be reduced. It’s worth it to me to baby the sink a bit. I imagine it would be worth it to many with irreplaceable old sinks.

        Powder coating holds up in marine environments so it certainly seems worth a try. The bathroom sink I had done is like new & that wasn’t the case with the epoxy that I had to have redone almost yearly. John the re-porcelainer recommended it.

        • Cara says

          I could, Pam, if I didn’t mind that it’s pitted, chipped & rusty & looks terrible. It’s in a rental property & is a very cool cast-iron double drainboard, high-backed sink & deserves to be kept!

          I feel pretty optimistic about the powder coating based on John’s recommendation to do it as well as the quality of the bathroom sink.

      • Nora says

        I have a 54″ Youngstown sink that came with my house. About 10 years ago, I redid the kitchen. I took the sink to a place in Denver that powder-coats. As I recall, not cheap (>$1k?), but it looked great. Ten years later, the sink is holding up OK. No chips, but the sink basin is no longer shiny smooth, so it stains. The rest is still shiny, and it looks good. I’m toying with the idea of the Elkay stainless replacement, though.

  3. Sherry Lokesak says

    Looking to reporceline drains in the floor that are 12x12x8. Do you service Pennsylvania? And can you do it?

    • Sarah says

      Hi Jayne,

      I just spoke with John after several attempts. He’s just a one-man show and very busy, so don’t give up. He’s a really nice guy! I will warn you though, his wait-list is 2-1/2 – 3 years!!! Obviously, we can’t wait that long as we’re going to be renovating the kitchen in a couple months, so we’re going to clean it up as best we can and install it, then when we’re finally at the top of the list we’ll bring it over to him. Not the idea situation, but worth it to preserve the sink and we can wait! Good luck!

  4. Chris says

    Hi!
    I know nothing about restoration. I just found your blog today. I am a 29 yr old homeowner of a 1959 ranch (with the full on pink bathroom). The tub and kitchen sink are worn a bit (they have held up beautifully for their age). How do you tell if it is cast iron or steel? I just assumed they were cast iron (all of my dishes are chipped, haha). I had been thinking of looking into getting them repainted at some point. I have never heard about this porcelain coating stuff. Is there any kind of paint or other coating that is more affordable that can be done? I don’t think I could afford the shipping from RI to IL. I will keep clicking around the site and see what else is going on with my home that I know nothing about. lol thanks for creating this resource!
    -Chris

  5. Tina says

    I have a Youngstown kitchen sink w/integral drainboard. The metal cabinet it sits on is toast. A total loss with tons of rust. The sink top itself has survived very well. I have seen some sinks have ‘legs’ instead of cabinetry. Were would I find these ‘legs’ and could my sink top be retrofitted for the ‘legs’? If not will standard cabinetry hold up to the weight of the top?

  6. tracy says

    I just came across this beautiful cast iron porcelain single basin right sided drain board farm sink with apron front..i’m guessing from the 20’s-30’s. I am currently located in the DFW area, and NO ONE around here has any idea or any desire to point me in the right direction to restore/fix this beauty! I have been researching quick fixes because it does have some pretty good chips, rust on the front, but would like an experts opinion…I don’t care if i have to retouch it every year or every ten…does the epoxy spot kits work? i would rather invest $5 every few months then just throw this sink out!

  7. Tina says

    I have a Youngstown kitchen sink w/integral drainboard. The metal cabinet it sits on is toast. A total loss with tons of rust. The sink top itself has survived very well. I have seen some sinks have ‘legs’ instead of cabinetry. Were would I find these ‘legs’ and could my sink top be retrofitted for the ‘legs’? If not will standard cabinetry hold up to the weight of the top?

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Tina, I don’t know the answer to either question. But I will say: I don’t think the sink you are describing was designed sit on legs and even if it could, it would look funny. Most of the designs you are thinking about have tall aprons.

      Talk to cabinet makers about how much weight their sink bases can hold…

  8. Veronica hastings says

    Hi pam I have an old farmers double sided porcelain cast iron sink that needs to be redone. I live in NH and am looking for someone close. Do know of anyone

    • pam kueber says

      Nope. The only place that I know of is the one we wrote about here. A real lost art/science/manufacturing enterprise….

  9. Jessica says

    Does anyone know of a place on the west coast (I’m in Portland) that does this sort of work? I have a 1953 porcelain/steel sink with a drainboard along with its original Westinghouse “electric sink” metal base cabinet and dishwasher that I am interested in having reporcelained. I would also love to get my wall oven and countertop range original to the house reporcelained as well.

  10. Nelly Stromquist says

    My kitchen sink (1943 porcelain/steel sink) has two superficial cracks. I would like to fix this. The entire sink is 59 inches long but the sink itself is only 20 y 17 inches. The rest of the sink is fine. Your suggestions/advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Nelly

  11. Krystal says

    Does anyone know the best place to go and sell your farmhouse washboard sink and cabinets? I just got a new house to strip out before demo and I managed to salvage 2 metal side cabinets and the sink with cabinet attached. They are in pretty good shape considering they were in an abandoned house. Any advise would be very appreciated. Thank you!

    moffitt.krystal@gmailcom

  12. silvana Cefaloni says

    Beautiful work you do. I have a pedestral sink Fawn color, like to enamel it in white . Is there a company here in Montreal, Canada

    • pam kueber says

      Hi silvana, “I” do not do this work. We are identifying companies that do. No, I don’t have any info on Montreal professionals. Are you sure the pedestal sink is porcelain-on-cast-iron or -steel? If it is china, I don’t know that it can be recolored. I’m not an expert on this, though…

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