Butler sinks: need to know buying tips


Copper, marble, ceramic or stainless steel? That is the question. Butler sinks have been around for many centuries, but over the years, the textures and materials changed from the initial go-to component – fireclay – and so many options are now available. A classic choice, yes, but you can now get the style in a range of materials, so they’re befitting a contemporary kitchen scheme too. So if you’re thinking butler sinks equals farmhouse, think again.

You may also be thinking: ‘what are butler sinks?’ and we wouldn’t blame you. There’s some slight differences between this and the similar Belfast sink. Well, butler sinks are a classic rectangular design set into the worktop with an apron-front design (where the front is on display) and a rounded rim. You can also come across the names Belfast and farmhouse – there are differences between each sink (mostly to do with the number of bowls and type of overflow), although these days the names are often used interchangeably.

butler sinks
This Villeroy & Boch two-and-a-quarter butler ceramic sink in White Pearl from sinks-taps.com, priced £509.33, features a beautiful floral pattern on its apron.

A little bit of background…

Butler sinks originated from 17th century London and were often found in butlers’ pantries. They are practical because, as they are built into the front of a worktop, you can easily lean over the sink. Shortly after, they came to Belfast with one notable difference – an overflow to help with drainage.

Seemingly, the reason it didn’t feature in London sinks was to reduce fresh water usage, since it was not as readily available in the capital as it was in the countryside – now that is interesting, right?

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Farmhouse sinks originated in rural France, however, they were popular throughout Europe. Much larger than the other two styles, they were designed for properties without access to running water and were ideal for washing clothing – and even children.

They were made from a fine French fireclay and although many still are today, designs in cast iron, stainless steel, and copper are also available – perfect for the modern kitchen.

Ok, history lesson over. Read on for essential buying tips…

You can add a luxurious touch to your kitchen with Devol‘s farmhouse sink in a Carrara marble. Priced from £2880.

Buying tips

You can’t simply slot a butler sink into your existing design (sorry), so you’ll most likely be buying one as part of a new kitchen. Decide early if you want to go for an apron-front design, as its look, shape, and size will affect the cabinetry you choose to have underneath, as well as the type of worktop you have either side of it. Chat to your kitchen designer if you’re in any doubt.

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Design decisions

The fun bit! Traditionally, butler sinks were made out of a fireclay ceramic, but today they are available in porcelain, cast iron, stainless steel, copper, and marble – to name just a few – and come in a variety of colours, textures, and finishes.

Plus, you will have to consider different features, from double sinks to drainers, waste outlets, and tap holes. Choose a configuration that best suits your needs, family size, and available space as well as the style of tap – or taps perhaps – you’d like to include.

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Need to know

Butler sinks are undermounted, which sadly makes them more difficult to install than other styles. The surrounding worktop will need to be cut to size, and the cabinetry underneath will need to be shorter than the rest to accommodate the apron front.

Don’t forget to take your new sink’s weight into account – both empty and when filled – to ensure it can be secured and sealed properly within your desired design. If your chosen model doesn’t come with a tap hole, be sure to leave room either directly behind or above on the wall to site one. Make sure to ask your supplier to recommend a professional installer to ensure correct fitting.


Expect to pay between £150 and £3000, depending on the size and material chosen. A single bowl ceramic style will cost less than a large marble one with added drainer and waste disposal. Don’t forget to budget for installation, a custom worktop, and cabinetry.

Featured image: With a sleek stainless-steel finish, Caple’s Beless classic Belfast sink is hardwearing, temperature resistant and easy to keep clean.

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