A Funny Decision- Utility Sink



Today reminds me of when we were planning our wedding.  I distinctly remember that annoyance of not caring a whit about napkins but having to decide what we wanted.  Now we are making house decisions, for a small reno project.  And I have a funny decision to make- what to do about the laundry room utility sink.

It is a cast concrete, deep double sink.  It is an aged behemoth.  I googled it and found (by Tim Carter):

I’m a master plumber, and I’ve owned and moved several of these monster sinks. Believe it or not you’re the proud owner of a collector’s item. You’ve got a marvelous precast concrete laundry tub that’s nearly indestructible.

My research shows the first generation of these wonderful sinks was displayed for the world to see at the 1867 Paris Exposition. A man by the name of Joseph Monier was a gardener who started making steel-reinforced concrete tubs and pots because he was dissatisfied with clay and wood pots that would fall apart.

Concrete is strong when you try to compress it, but if you try to stretch or bend it, it’s weak. Steel is exceptionally strong if you try to stretch it. When you combine the concrete and steel in the right configuration, you can make beams, columns, suspended slabs, bridges, boats and even laundry tubs!

I was lucky enough to have concrete laundry tubs in the first two houses I owned. The sinks come in different models, with one-, two- or three-basin sinks. The sinks weigh hundreds of pounds.

I believe the reason they’re so strong is because the manufacturers decided to make the concrete mix quite rich. They added enough Portland cement so the concrete probably tested out at 6,000 pounds per square inch or higher compressive strength. Years ago when the sinks were made, this extra cement probably only cost the manufacturers a nickel since there’s not that much cement volume in each sink. What a wise decision it was!

The top lip of your sink is made from steel so the edge won’t chip. The workmanship that went into creating these sinks is of the highest quality. I’ve seen hundreds of them in my career and all of them are impressive.”

Got that?  Collector’s item, indestructible, Paris exposition!  But of course everybody else on the internet says to break it into pieces so you can haul it out of there, and replace with a nice new, clean white plastic laundry tub.

What to do?  To complicate the decision, our sink’s metal stand is CEMENTED INTO THE FLOOR, so our nice new porcelain tile would have to be cut around it.  AND, it is so close to the house wall that no wallboard can squeeze behind.  It seems crazy to work around it.

And yet… I have such respect for this large piece of utilitarian concrete.  It came with my little old house.  It’s like the brick exterior- made to last forever.  Just as I felt sorrowful at taking out our old wooden casement windows with their iron weights in the frames for vinyl replacement windows, it makes me so sad to consider breaking this sink and paying money for a sorry replacement.

But I think we will.


3 thoughts on “A Funny Decision- Utility Sink

  1. Oh, wow – what a decision! Your house sounds lovely, and I appreciate the background knowledge you shared to help us appreciate both the behemoth sink and decision you have to make! Thanks for making me laugh, too!


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