Butler vs Belfast Sinks — What's the Difference, and Which Should I Choose?

Choosing between Butler vs Belfast sinks can be confusing as they both look similar...but experts tell us key differences between them

A kitchen with a white Butler's sink
(Image credit: Renato Navarro. Design: Ticiane Lima Arquitetura e Interiores)

Confused between Butler vs Belfast sinks? Experts lay down their differences, pros and cons. After all, the sink is one of the most important elements in the kitchen that can either speed things up or slow them down in the space. It is for this reason that while choosing a sink, you should be completely aware of its practicality and use.

While Butler and Belfast sinks have stood the test of time and are loved designs, experts guide us into making the right choice for the modern kitchen.

What is the difference between a Belfast and Butler sink?

A kitchen with glass cabinets and marble sink with gold detailing

(Image credit: Design: deVOL)

When it comes to kitchen sink ideas, the movement is towards designs that inspire your entire scheme, yet are completely practical. In most cases, there's a debate between the Butler and Belfast sinks.

'The Butler sink and Belfast sink both gained popularity somewhere in the late Victorian period and were made from similar fireclay ceramic construction,' says Kyle Dutton, founder of Kyle Dutton Homes. 'As their names might suggest, however, the two types of sinks originated in different regions of Europe based on function and water availability.'

'The Butler sink was originally designed for a Butler's pantry in London,' says Kyle. 'This sink was designed with a more shallow basin, elongated width, and lacked an overflow. Water was a precious commodity in those days, due to the difficulty of obtaining fresh water in the Victorian city, and was not allowed to be wasted. Butlers used these sinks for everything — from washing the dishes to cleaning the family pet — all while being mindful of water conservation.'

'In contrast, the Belfast sink originated in a coastal city where fresh water was abundant,' explains Kyle. 'These sinks were deeper and were built with a large overflow, allowing excess water to drain out. As water supplies became normalized, the Belfast sink rose in popularity in England with its ability to hold larger household items for cleaning. In addition, wide and shallow Butler sinks were deepened and given an overflow to mimic the popularity of the rival Belfast sink. Today the two are similar in design and make and are referred to interchangeably.'

Which is more practical?

A kitchen with green cabinets and a Butler sink

(Image credit: Gus MacDonald. Design: The Stylesmiths)

'The Butler sinks have a shallower and wider design than their Irish counterparts,' says Hannah Goldberg, founder of Hannah Charlotte Interiors. 'Belfast sinks are deeper and have a weir overflow drain. As the years have gone on, Butler and Belfast sinks have evolved and their size differences are now negligible. But the biggest difference remains the overflow drain or lack thereof.'

Both kitchen sinks are on-trend, and have a unique look that creates a delightful focal point for the kitchen. The Belfast sink, especially has more depth and can hold lots of pots, pans, and other cookware, so are more practical for larger households. 'Butler sinks, also known as farmhouse sinks, typically have a large, single basin with an apron front that extends beyond the edge of the countertop,' says Richard Misso of The Stylesmiths. 'They are deep, making them ideal for accommodating large pots and pans. Butler sinks are practical for tasks like washing dishes and preparing food due to their ample space and easy accessibility.'.

'Belfast sinks are similar to butler sinks in design, featuring a large, single basin and an apron front,' says Richard. 'However, they are shallower than butler sinks, which can limit their capacity for holding large items. While still practical for everyday kitchen tasks, they may not offer as much depth for soaking or washing larger cookware.'

While Butler sinks would be ideal for a large, modern farmhouse kitchen, Belfast sinks would suit an apartment kitchen.

Which costs more?

Give your kitchen sink area some TLC with modern designs and ingenious twists on timeless styles

(Image credit: Day True)

If you're remodeling a kitchen and are wondering which of the two sinks is more budget-friendly, then experts suggest going in for Belfast sinks.

'In general, Butler sinks tend to be more expensive than Belfast sinks,' says Richard. 'The difference in cost can vary depending on factors such as materials, size, and brand. Butler sinks often feature more intricate designs and may be made from premium materials like fireclay or porcelain, contributing to their higher price point. Belfast sinks, while still durable and attractive, are typically more straightforward in design and may be made from materials like ceramic or stainless steel, making them more budget-friendly options.'

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.