Sanitaryware-how to tell the good from the not so good.

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Pottery, also known as sanitary ware, ceramics, porcelain and ware.

The first question I had when I started selling pottery was how do you know which is good and which isn't so good?  All the companies say they are the best!

Well, like anything you buy, the quality is down to how long you want to use it for, how many times you use it, what you want to pay for it, and how you want it to look.  Let me explain.

There are four basic areas that affect the quality of pottery and its expected lifespan:

  • The depth of the glaze.  The glaze is the glass-like surface coating which is fired onto the pottery in the kiln when it is made.  The glass enables the pot to be waterproff and protects it from chemicals, such as bleach etc. over its life.  The thicker the glaze generally the longer the life.  Once this glaze goes, wears out, the pot becomes porous, absorbs water and eventually cracks.  The more you use and clean the pottery the faster the glaze wears out.  To make the glaze thicker you have to apply it a layer at a time and each time fire it in the kiln.  This process results in breakages within the kiln.

For example, if I fire 100 pieces of pot once I may get 99 back in one piece, so the 99 pays for the 100.  If I then fire the 99 again I may only get back 80 in one piece so now 80 have to pay for 100.  If I then fire the 80 I may only get 50 back, so now 50 have to pay for 100. You get the gist of this by now.  If you assume that each layer of glaze lasts approximately 5 - 7 years you can soon see how the system works.  If you glaze once you get less expensive cost to manufacture but the product does not last as long in a house.  The thicker the glaze the longer the lifespan.

  • Quality of the clay.  The quality of the clay that is used to make pottery is very important.  The reason for this is that the finer the clay the smoother the finish will be on the item being made.  If you use a poorer grade of clay it will have more grit in it and the surface will have a more rippled appearance.  You may also find that because of the increased grit content the pottery is heavier than an item of the same size made with a finer grade of clay.  The finer the clay the more tonnes of rough clay you have to use to refine down to make it.  It is therefore less expensive to produce pottery with a coarse grade of clay.
  • The overspray (or colour).  The white colour, or whatever colour it happens to be, is applied to the pottery before the glaze.  Each manufacturer mixes their own colour to try to match it to the colour of the acrylic bath. The white colour of the acrylic bath is a worldwide standard set by the acrylic manufacturers.  You need to be aware of this if you wish to mix and match pottery from different manufacturers.

It is usually acceptable to have a toilet and basin from one supplier made to match the bath but if you put a basin from one supplier and a toilet from another and then the bath together it will stand out like a sore thumb.  The thicker the colour is applied, the less fading on the edges takes place and the colour is even over the whole item.

The colour as with the glaze is applied in layers and then has to be left to set before the next coat can be applied.  The fewer coats the quicker the product can be made and the less cost is involved.

  • The design of the item.  The more intricate the design the more expensive the mould is to make and the more chance there is that you will not always remove it from the mould without damage.  Plainer shapes are usually less expensive.  You should also note that basins, toilets and bidets are made as matched sets.  You will often find that the foot of the pedestal on the basin matches the foot of the toilet pan and that the back of the basin matches the toilet cistern lid.

One general point to be made is that pottery is often sold in what is known as a four piece set. That is basin, pedestal, pan and cistern.  Most buyers see the set as two pieces, the basin and toilet, and believe the term four piece set refers to basin, toilet, bath and bidet. If you are unsure as to what is meant when the term four piece set is used, ask for clarification.

 

         

 

 

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