Best Flooring for the Kitchen – A Buyers Guide
Here at HomeFlooringPros one thing we know for sure is that there are no hard and fast answers when it comes to the right flooring for your home. What’s right for you might not be right for another. The best flooring for kitchens is a case in point, the flooring you install should be chosen after considering the following criteria:
- Budget and ROI
- Interior design style of your home
- Ease of cleaning
So in this blog post we going to compare and contrast popular kitchen flooring options, looking at the pros and cons of each as they stack up against the criteria we’ve already discussed above.
Image source: jennasuedesign.com
Before we start let’s take a look at the best kitchen flooring options based on popularity. In a previous article we looked at six reasons to choose tile flooring for your kitchen and our advice is backed up by the stats. In 2012 Home Innovation Research Labs published a Builders Practices survey that revealed that ceramic tile accounted for 41% of all kitchen installations that year compared to its big rival hardwood (either solid or engineered) which cornered 31% of the market. It certainly seems true that the majority of online discussion between homeowners, on the subject of their favorite kitchen flooring material, is between those in favor of tile vs those in favor of wood.
However, as we will see there are plenty of other great kitchen flooring ideas that might be perfect for you.
Kitchen Flooring – Tile Vs Hardwood
So let’s look at the two kitchen flooring heavyweights, ceramic or porcelain tile vs hardwood, either solid wood or engineered.
Budget and ROI – Tile edges it over hardwood when it comes to budget simply because of the enormous range of tile options available. This is surely one of the reasons tile is such a popular choice for the kitchen, with tile starting at less than $1 a square foot, no matter what your budget there is always a tile to suit. When it comes to return on investment however hardwood has the edge with buyers generally attaching a premium to natural wood flooring. If a buyer is not a fan of your particular kitchen tile flooring they will not relish the extra work involved in pulling it up and starting again whereas they are far more likely to want to keep a wooden floor, as long as it is in fairly good condition.
Interior Design Style – When it comes to interior design we’re going to diplomatically declare a draw between tile and wood, although you’re welcome to continue the debate in the comments section below. You name an interior design style and we will find you a tile or hardwood product to match! Shaker, urban loft, farmhouse, shabby chic, coastal, contemporary or rustic any of these kitchen styles can be complimented with a tile or hardwood floor.
One advantage a hardwood floor in the kitchen does offer is the possibility of flooring continuity throughout the rest of your home. If you have a large open plan kitchen diner and living room, or if you simply have hardwood in the other rooms of your ground floor, then it makes a lot more sense to carry the hardwood through to the kitchen.
Durability – Both tile and hardwood score high when it comes to durability, although tile comes out on top. That said we wouldn’t recommend going for the cheapest tile in a high traffic kitchen for fear of broken or cracked tiles, always spend as much as you can on a tile and if possible go for porcelain, for toughness and longevity. When installing tile also make sure you have a subfloor that won’t move or shift in any way; a shifting subfloor will lead to cracked tiles and/or grout.
As you know hardwood can be a lifetime floor, but there are caveats when used in the kitchen. Wood flooring will dent, scratch and scuff when installed in a high traffic area, this problem can be offset by going for a rustic look and using a textured wood (think hand scraped or distressed). It’s also advisable to go with a lighter or natural toned wood where possible as they won’t show up dirt, debris or damage so easily. It’s also a good idea to go for a hard hardwood, like ash and oak, rather than a softwood like pine and to take advantage of the exceptionally strong polyurethane finishes available.
And then there’s the problem of wood and water…they don’t mix. Homeowners get very worried whenever they spill liquid onto a wood floor and while you should certainly mop any spills up immediately this is not your main concern. The problem really lies with the number of water damage mishaps possible in a kitchen; from a leaking kitchen sink drain to a refrigerator or washing machine malfunction.
Finally the kitchen, like the bathroom, sees extremes of temperature so the more stable your wood floor the better. This is why, in an ideal world, we would recommend a light colored, pre-finished engineered hardwood floor. More stable against changes in temperature, a very hard, durable finish to protect against scratches and, although not water proof, they are more water resistant against the typical kitchen spills. The image at the top of this post is from a kitchen remodel by designer Jenna Sue and is a perfect example of what we would ideally recommend.
Ease of cleaning – On the whole both tile and hardwood floors are fairly easy to clean. Click here for tile cleaning and here for hardwood care and maintenance. That said you are going to be cleaning these floors a lot more often than your other floors and there are a couple of further considerations.
While tiles are very easy to clean homeowners often forget about tile grout. Grout lines are much harder to keep clean, can sometimes get clogged with hard to remove dirt and they consequently dis-color over time. Be sure to add a grout sealant after installation and look to renew it periodically. You can also go with narrower grout lines and/or a darker grout color to mitigate these effects.
Hardwood to is fairly low maintenance (until the day you have to re-sand them!), but beware gaps between floor boards, crumbs and dirt can easily clog them up and dropped/spilled fluids can disappear down them to your sub-floor. You really don’t want pet urine slipping down between floor boards! This is another good reason to consider engineered hardwood flooring with beveled edges that butt right up against one another.
Stone Kitchen Flooring
If you’re already a fan of ceramic or porcelain tile flooring we would encourage you to go one step further and consider natural stone flooring. In many ways we feel that materials like slate, marble, granite, sandstone and limestone are a great compromise between wood and tile, offering both resilience and a look of nature.
Budget and ROI – Of course the main reason natural stone isn’t as popular as ceramic tile is price. You will need a much larger budget to install natural stone flooring, which typically costs between $7 and up to $40 per square foot depending on quality. Furthermore natural stone is typically heavier and more difficult to work with than tile, which increases installation costs. Given the extra sub-floor preparation and skills needed we do not recommend this as a DIY project. The importance of correctly sealing and re-sealing your stone floor, discussed later, is another expense.
On the flip side potential buyers of your home, should you come to sell, will definitely perceive natural stone as a premium floor, which of course it certainly is, and while this may or may not be enough for you to get a great return on your investment it should make your real estate much more attractive for a quick sale.
Interior Design Style – Much like hardwood, natural stone brings nature indoors and really enhances certain kitchen styles. Rustic, Craftsman (Shaker) or Farmhouse style kitchens will all benefit tremendously from natural stone floors. Stone, like tile, is great in hot climates as they stay cooler but thanks to their texture and patterning they can create a very warm vibe and are also ideal for underfloor radiant heating in colder climates. Talking of appearance, because natural stone is…well…natural, no two pieces are alike and if you factor in the different floor patterns (especially true with bricks) that can be achieved during installation you really are looking at a truly unique flooring choice.
Durability – You don’t need us to tell you that natural stone is durable, it’s thousands of years in the making and will, therefore, certainly last a lifetime. However, that does not mean it is beyond damage. Stone like travertine and marble are prone to scratches and stains and low quality slate can flake and chip. As mentioned above sealing your stone floors to avoid staining is a must and floors should be re-sealed over time. On the whole any wear and tear typically ends up being part of the floors character rather a distraction, but as with all flooring look to order 5 to 10% more than you need to cover yourself for any possible future repairs and replacements.
Ease of cleaning – Let’s make this brief…natural stone is easy to clean just get out the mop and bucket with some ph neutral soap. For more on caring and maintaining your stone floors click here.
Laminate Flooring in the Kitchen
Laminate is a very popular choice of kitchen flooring for those on a budget although opinion is sometimes split on its suitability for the high traffic and high humidity of a kitchen.
Budget and ROI – Love it or hate it, laminate flooring is a great choice for the kitchen if budget and ROI are you main concerns. Cheap to buy, cheap to install and cheap to rip out and replace if a prospective buyer doesn’t like your kitchen; laminate is a great option if you’re not in your ‘forever’ home.
Interior design style of your home – The quality and appearance of the top end laminate floors is improving all the time. Buy one of the better laminate floors and you will have yourself an attractive floor that matches and enhances the kitchen style you have chosen. However, while laminate mimics wood and stone it is nothing like the real thing and so we recommend laminate for modern, contemporary style kitchens.
Durability – Real wood and natural stone have durability built into them, laminate on the other hand is a man-made product and therefore its durability is absolutely linked to how well it was made. A brief jog around the net will throw up conflicting views on laminate durability, one commenting how her floor was wrecked within a week and another saying that their laminate looks as good as new five years on! The issue (mainly) is quality, yes laminate is a cheaper flooring option, but please don’t take that as a green light to go and buy flooring at 79 cents a square foot. Always aim, if you can, for something mid-priced or above.
You notice we said the issue is mainly quality? The other factor to consider with laminate (as with wood) is water damage. Laminate is not, as some buyers sometimes think, water proof. So the same care needs to be taken as with real wood and if you have a significant water damage situation you can expect to replace your floor. If you can buy a laminate product warrantied for high moisture areas then that will help.
Ease of cleaning – Once you understand that laminate is not water proof it is very easy to clean with a only slightly damp mop, Swiffer mop or hoover, just as with hardwood. Read more laminate cleaning tips here.
Luxury Vinyl and Sheet Vinyl Flooring for the Kitchen
Laminate flooring has had a pretty strong grip on the budget flooring market for many years, but vinyl flooring is starting to make headlines again and should be a serious consideration for your kitchen.
Budget and ROI – Let’s talk first about sheet vinyl, it’s even cheaper than laminate both in cost per square foot and installation. A really great choice for rentals, apartments or just refreshing your kitchen on a budget. Luxury vinyl tile meanwhile is challenging laminate in that $2 to $4 per square foot price range. If you want a wood or stone look flooring for cheap there are plenty of reasons to consider LVT. Kate at Centsational Girl demonstrates great use of vinyl flooring in this kitchen remodel which is all part of a property she is preparing for re-sale.
Interior design style of your home – As mentioned sheet vinyl is well suited to contemporary, modern or urban kitchens. Meanwhile LVT, which comes in both planks and tile, is much more versatile and you can find a product to suit most any style, but as with laminate if you are installing a high end luxury kitchen give it the real wood or stone floor it deserves rather than vinyl, luxury or otherwise.
Durability – Just like laminate, vinyl is a very durable product as long as you go for quality. Where we prefer vinyl to laminate in the kitchen is for its flexibility and water resistant qualities. Those of you who spend a lot of time in the kitchen will appreciate the softer cushioned quality of vinyl over other harder floors. And for those fast and furious chefs who seem to forever be dropping or knocking plates or glasses to the floor you will be grateful for a more forgiving surface with a bit more bounce! With spills, either from cooking or the pets water bowl, vinyl is a lot more resilient (indeed much vinyl flooring is called resilient flooring). Of course you don’t want flooding on your floors but you don’t have to fret the same way you do with wood or laminate floors.
Ease of cleaning – And because of this water resistant quality cleaning becomes much easier, just avoid abrasive cleaning products. Sheet vinyl can tear so don’t drag heavy or sharp objects over this type of flooring. Click here for more vinyl cleaning tips.
So that covers the best and most common kitchen options and we would love to hear your experience of them in the comments below. There are other options to consider like concrete, linoleum, cork and bamboo and we will revisit these in future articles.
Tags: kitchen flooring