Do you have a steel sink, stove or other appliance that needs to be refinished? Professional reporcelaining seems to be the way to go for long-term durability. Reader Barb tipped us to a second company that can do this high-heat job — Independence Porcelain Enamel. The company has been in business since 1922 and is located in Independence, Missouri, close to Kansas City.
Note, however, that Independence only reporcelains steel — not cast iron. If you have cast iron, the only source we know of remains Custom Ceramics — and owner John confirmed with Pam yesterday that his waiting list for three years long. Ouch.
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:
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.
Barb wrote to us:
I wanted to have my 1947 66-inch double bowl, double drainboard porcelain sink (on a Youngstown steel cabinet) done by Custom Ceramics in Illinois, but I can’t wait 1.5 – 2 years. I found a company in Independence, Missouri, close to Kansas City. It is Independence Porcelain Enamel, in business since 1922. I took my sink last Friday. Jeff Gaylord at IPE tells me it will take about two 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.
[Editor’s notes re Barb’s email above: Custom Ceramics also can reporcelain steel — for that, the wait is currently about 12 weeks, the company told us; it’s the cast iron work that has the multi-year wait list time. Also note: Independence gave us different firing temperatures when they answered our questions below.]
I contacted Jeff at Independence Porcelain Enamel to verify that they did indeed re-porcelain vintage steel drainboard sinks, and to inquire about the company, pricing and available colors.
Independence Porcelain Enamel
Independence Porcelain Enamel has been in my family since 1983. We are a job shop the specializes in one-time projects, and we also do larger volume runs of commercial products. We don’t do mass volume runs of 1,000s of units though.
Our main business is restoration work. However, we only refinish steel sinks (not cast iron). Colors range from your basic white, black, and almond to reds, blue, greens, turquoise, buttercup yellow, and orange. Our process is we media blast all the old porcelain off and apply new porcelain to raw substrate. Porcelain enamel is a water based slurry that is applied to the substrate then dried to evaporate the water from the slurry. We can then brush any areas (thru or threaded holes) that need to be free of porcelain. Then the piece is fired at 1400 F to 1520 F depending on the substrate (steel or cast iron). It is then inspected and reprocessed with another coating if required.
Here is a before/after of a restored sink. The cost to refinish a double bowl with double drain boards sink in white is $550 plus shipping. Lead time is 3-5 weeks after receipt of sink.
I wondered: How can someone tell if their vintage sink is steel and therefore a good candidate for re-porcelaining at Independence? Jeff replied:
The easiest way is if you look on the underside of the sink. A cast iron sink will have raised lettering and a rough texture. Cast iron sinks will also be very heavy in weight. Steel sinks won’t have raised lettering but a stamp with the manufacturer’s date.
It’s great to to have another source for reporcelaining our vintage steel sinks, parts or other appliances!
So how did tipster Barb’s sink turn out?
The people at Independence Porcelain Enamel were great. So I hope that they get lots of jobs from your article. I stayed up one night searching and searching the internet and then I found them.
The sink is absolutely beautiful. I’m sure it looks exactly like it did when it rolled off the assembly line in 1947. IPE did a fantastic job.
Mega thanks to reader Barb for the tip and to Jeff Gaylord from Independence Porcelain Enamel for taking the time to answer our questions and send photos for this story.