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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.

And another UPDATE: Antique Baths Sydney (Australia) also has left comments that they do this work on both cast iron and steel substrates. Check out Antique Baths Sydney here. And, see the comments thread in this story for some back and forth with them regarding their shipping costs.

A note on terminology: I have seen the terms “Porcelain Enamel”, “Enamel”, and “Porcelain” each used to describe the top coating that is baked onto metal substrates on bathtubs, sinks and other products. As such, you may see the various terms used interchangeably on this blog by me and by others who are interviewed or commenting. To verify what types of products you have and what they are made of, do your own research including consulting with the original manufacturer or your own professionals.

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

IMPORTANT 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.

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.

Links:


  1. Kimberly L Sheean says:

    We have a Hoosier Cabinet Porcelain top that needs lots of help. We are restoring the cabinet. The top is 42 x 25 x 1. Any suggestion are appreciated

  2. Pam Kueber says:

    Hi Kimberly, I don’t know the answer to this except to point you to the story that’s written… Seems like it’s tough to find a true enameler these days.

  3. Sue Atherton says:

    Thank you for your enquiry regarding the restoration of your Kitchen sink. The sink has to be cast iron, with porcelain enamel. Antique Baths restore cast iron pedestal Basin, sinks, cooking pots and also the baths using the vitreous enamel fired in the furnace at 850C. With the restored sinks, pedestal basins etc, they would be shot blasted back to the cast iron, annealed in the furnace, then re-blasted, this enables for the vitreous enamel process to be applied and fired. White is not a problem. Other than white and the Ivory, we also some of the art deco colours.

    Antique Baths have restored baths for Melbourne Bath House, in Melbourne, Sydney Harbour Trust and now NSW Rail, with drinking fountains, as the Heritage Council stipulated that Antique Baths had to do the job, as we are the only company in Australia restoring authentically. Not only are we restoring for Australia, but we have baths, sinks, kitchen sinks sent from the USA for restoration.

    Please click the link below to see part of Antique Baths Sydney process of vitreous enameling: ~ http://youtu.be/1Ww22odl0so

    Factory/showroom is at 162 Bungaree Road, Pendle Hill. NSW 2145 Opening hours are 8am-4pm Mon-Friday and Saturday 9am-1pm.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask

    Regards

    Sue Atherton
    Antique Baths Sydney

  4. SUE ATHERTON says:

    Hi Pam
    The customer that sent her sink from Brookline MA she had the crate made and fumigated. I am not sure of her charges from Brookline to Pendle Hill Australia. I have included the charges from her back to Brookline, see below. These prices are in AUD

    Charges for the collection from you and delivery to Brookline MA is
    >> AUD987.60 excluding any applicable Government, Duty / Tax charges in
    >> the USA.

  5. Pam Kueber says:

    So that sounds like about $750 USD to ship one way from Australia to Massachusetts.

    Yikes, the shipping charge is going to be a gobstopper for many in the U.S. I’ll bet…

  6. Dominique Pattin says:

    Hello,

    I’m following these comments regarding shops that will re-porcelain cast iron tubs or sinks. Hoping that something will turn up local to the Boston, MA area.

  7. stefano says:

    Hi:

    do you know where can I get a stove top refinished in the San Diego area, California. Thanks.

  8. Dan Connell says:

    Hi! Do you know of a business/shop that will porcelain coat steel stoves that is close to Chicago, Illinois? Looking for a shop closer to home. Thanks!

  9. Pam Kueber says:

    Hi Dan, the only companies that I know of are listed in this story. Chicago to Independence MO is only about an hour… ?

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