Shelfback Lavatory sinks (where the faucet is mounted vertically on the back of the sink) were extremely popular from the mid 1930’s through the early 1960’s, and are still quite popular today with the mid-century aficionado. There were four major manufacturers of Shelfback sinks; American Standard, Briggs, Kohler, and Eljer. All four used faucets of their own design, and the parts aren’t interchangeable with each other. It can be difficult to tell who made the sink, so we’ve written this to help those in need.
How To Tell Who Made Your Shelfback Sink
Standard “Companion” Early Version
Standard “Companion” Sink
This is the sink that started the shelfback craze. Patented in 1932, this particular sink was made from 1932 until the mid-1950’s. It’s characterized by the ceramic “integral” spout, and the faucet handles are always 8” on center apart. The trip waste lever (just above the spout) did have a few different appearances over the years. The stems are always 22 spline, and a retrim kit is available. Click here to see the kit. Faucet is irreplaceable, and we try to keep restored original faucets in stock. Click here to see if any available.
Standard “Ledgewood” or “Marledge” Early Version
Standard “Ledgewood” or “Marledge” Sink
Sometime in the mid 1930’s Standard introduced both the cast iron Ledgewood and the porcelain Marledge sinks. Both sinks used the same faucet. This faucet is characterized by a metal spout that has the trip lever for the drain sliding in and out, directly through the spout. Faucet centers are always 6”, spline count on handle end of stem is 22 splines. Union Brass does make a replacement faucet, our #54-170, click here
Standard “Ledgewood” or “Marledge” Later Version
Circa 1953 Standard “Ledgewood” Sink
Sometime in the early 1950’s, Standard redesigned both the cast iron Ledgewood and the ceramic Marledge sinks. Again, the difference is in the spout. Later versions are known by how the trip waste lever is actuated. These have a lever that rotates around the back of the spout. This lever is made of Zinc and tends to corrode over time. These are not made anymore, but sometimes can be replated. Faucet centers are on 6”, 22 spline count. Some parts are available, but no “kit” per se. Union Brass does make a replacement faucet, our # 54-170, click here
Standard “Companion” Later Version
Circa 1955 Standard “Companion” Sink
Sometime before 1955, Standard stopped making the ceramic spout version of the Companion sink, and started producing this version instead. While it uses the same faucet handles as the previous version, the spout is changed to a metal version and the trip lever for the drain rotates behind the spout. Also, the appearance of the sink is changed to something a bit more modern. Note the hexagonal escutcheons and metal cross handles. Faucets are on an 8” center, and stems have 22 splines on them. Our 86-081/061 retrim kits will work on this faucet, click here. This faucet was used for a fairly short period of time, and was soon replaced by the “Nu-Seal” version below. Our 54-170-8 replaces the original, click here
Standard Nu-Seal Version
Circa 1958 Standard Shelfback sink
This sink was the replacement for the above Companion sink. The porcelain is actually identical, but the faucet features Standard’s “Nu-Seal” (also known as Aqua-seal) type of faucets. These faucets always used canopy style handles (never a cross) and came on both porcelain and cast iron sinks. Faucet centers could be either 6” or 8”, depending on application. This type of faucet was used from the late 1950’s through the early 1980’s. Spout is the one that has the trip waste lever rotating around the back of the spout. There is no retrim kit, but many of the trim pieces are still made. Stems are 22 spline. A replacement faucet would be our #54-170-8, click here
Briggs Shelfback Sinks
Circa 1950’s Briggs Shelfback Sink
Somewhat late to the party, Briggs came out with some shelfback sinks in the 1950’s. All are characterized by their 6” on center distance between the faucet handles and the extremely Art Deco styled trim. Stems for this faucet always have 18 splines on the handle end. Handles can be either lever or cross. Drain is operated by a pull knob that’s integrated into the spout. Briggs sinks are usually marked “Briggs” on the bottom or back of the sink. A replacement faucet would be our 54-170, click here.
Eljer Shelfback Sinks
1950’s Eljer Shelfback Sink
Eljer is always a bit tricky to identify. Usually, the only marking on the sink is a date stamp. Eljer shelfback sinks can be recognized by a few defining characteristics. First, the hexagonal escutcheon behind the handle screws directly onto the stem, rather than being held on by a nut. Also, the lever that controls the drain is not a push/pull version, but uses a side to side motion. It doesn’t slide side to side behind the spout, but moves a simple shaft that goes through the spout. Stems always have 16 splines, handles are held on by a set screw through the side of the handle, and can be difficult to remove. Handles and escutcheons are made of Zinc, and corrode easily. Faucets are on a 6” center. A re-trim kit is available, click here.
Kohler Shelfback Sinks
Kohler made quite a few different versions of their shelfback sink, but they all seem to have two defining characteristics. Every one we’ve ever seen has the name “Kohler” and a part number that begins with “K” and then has 4 digits cast or presses into the bottom of the sink. There are two versions of the faucet, both are a 5 1/2” center between the handles, and both have stems with 19 splines on them. Early versions have lever handles as shown in the photo at left, later versions use a canopy handle. Kohler made shelfback sinks up into the 1980’s for commercial use. Most parts are available at your local Kohler dealer. We do carry a replacement faucet that will work, our 54-170, click here.
Late 1940’s Kohler Shelfback Sink
There were other manufacturers of Shelfback sinks, such as Washington Pottery, Homart and others. None are very common. If you cannot find your sink on the above page, e-mail photos of your sink to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll see if we can help.