What is the Best Flooring for a Kitchen?
The most popular flooring materials for a kitchen are ceramic/porcelain floor tiles, solid hardwood and vinyl, but that only tells half the story. There are several other top kitchen flooring options for you to consider, including engineered hardwood, laminate and natural stone.
January 23, 2023, by: Greca Fotopoulos
Here at Home Flooring Pros one thing we know for sure is that there are no hard and fast answers when it comes to the right kitchen flooring for your home. What’s right for you might not be right for another.
In this report, you’ll learn which are the most popular kitchen flooring options in 2022 and how they stack up against the most important criteria that you look for when choosing a kitchen floor, including durability, ease of cleaning, great looks and value for money.
The best flooring for kitchens is the flooring you install based on your consideration of the following…
Key Criteria for the Best Kitchen floor:
- Durable flooring for high traffic
- Flooring that is quick and easy to clean
- Attractive flooring
- Waterproof or water-resistant flooring
Once you’ve wrestled with these four key features you then have a subset of much more personal considerations that may affect your final choice…
Personal Criteria for a Kitchen Floor:
- Flooring that suits your lifestyle
- Flooring that suits your style
- Flooring within your budget
- Flooring with DIY potential
- Flooring with a decent ROI
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.
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. According to a Houzz kitchen trend survey in 2021, tile retook the top spot as the most popular flooring for a kitchen, followed by hardwood in second place and vinyl in third. It goes without saying that we will take a much closer look at all three of these flooring materials below.
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 floor materials that might be perfect for you. In this kitchen flooring report we will start with the most popular kitchen flooring, tile and work our way down.
FLOOR TILE (CERAMIC OR PORCELAIN)
Why is tile flooring the most popular kitchen flooring option for homeowners? Let’s run through our key criteria:
Durability: Nothing really competes with tile for durability (except maybe concrete!). Impervious to high traffic and spills, only dropping something really heavy can damage your kitchen floor tile. For longevity, be sure to buy a good quality floor tile with a decent thickness, at least a quarter inch or ten millimetres thick, and you might want to choose porcelain which is denser and therefore harder wearing than ceramic. And don’t skimp on professional installation, a perfect subfloor and professional finish are important for kitchen floor performance.
Ease of cleaning: Tile floors score high for ease of cleaning. Use a broom or a vacuum for a quick clean up of debris and a steam mop or spin mop for a deeper clean or grim and spills. One note: grout lines can discolor and hold dirt, another good reason to hire professional installers for a smooth finish and the application of grout sealants.
Good Looks: In our kitchen floor tile ideas post we showcase 41 different tile ideas and frankly that just covers the most popular styles and trends. Whatever your tastes, whatever your existing kitchen decor and interior design preferences may be; there is a floor tile out there with your name on it. The only real limit is your budget.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: And of course tile floors are super popular in the kitchen because you just don’t have to worry about spills, standing water or even a washing machine/dishwasher flood. A well installed tile floor is impervious to water.
Now let’s turn to some of our more personal kitchen flooring criteria, for brevity we’ll group some of these together:
Lifestyle and Personal Style: For the busy house hold with pets, kids and/or lots of entertaining, floor tile is a really great option in the kitchen. For older and more sedate homeowners, tile can be hard and cold underfoot and presents slip hazards when wet/damp.
As for personal aesthetics, as mentioned above your options are only restricted by your imagination and budget. Farmhouse, contemporary, minimalist or transitional you can have whatever you want with floor tiles.
Budget Friendly and ROI: Is tile flooring budget friendly? Well the raw material can be, you can buy decent quality ceramic floor tile for as little as $0.80 to $1.00 per square foot. At that price though you won’t get much in the way of style. The more attractive and unique the tile the more expensive it will be, with top end porcelain kitchen tile easily reaching $40 per sq/ft at the big box stores. The real cost of kitchen tile flooring is the labor costs to install which can range be $4 to $15 per sq/ft…so all in all kitchen tile isn’t very budget friendly.
Return on investment isn’t clear cut either, a lot will depend on personal preference. If a prospective buy likes your tile flooring then you’re in luck, if not then they will be factoring in the cost of kitchen floor replacement before making you an offer. If ROI is important to you then chose a popular tile flooring style.
DIY Potential: We’ve covered this already. Tiling, both floor and wall tiling, requires a particular skill set. It’s not beyond a proficient DIYer but for a perfect finish we highly recommend a professional tile installer.
Although floor tile edges out solid hardwood as the most popular kitchen floor option there’s barely anything in it. In fact if you combine solid hardwood with engineered hardwood (more below) then the desire for wood as a kitchen floor far outstrips tile…but why? Let’s work through the key criteria again:
Durability: Solid hardwood has a deserved reputation as a lifetime flooring material, but like all flooring the devil is in the detail. Well maintained and well installed solid hardwood will certainly last you many years, but it is not an install and forget flooring. Refinishing and/or recoating will be required and greater care needs to be taken with day to day maintenance and cleaning than, say, ceramic tile or vinyl flooring. Also, do yourself a favor and choose a hard hardwood like oak or ash; soft woods like pine dent and ding way to easily for a kitchen floor.
Ease of cleaning: Cleaning solid hardwood isn’t rocket science, it’s fairly quick and straight forward but requires a little more care and a lot less water than other kitchen flooring types. Depending on your initial installation and swelling/shrinking over the years you may end up with small gaps between your hardwood planks that can in turn trap debris, making cleaning that little bit more involved, so we’re going to mark solid hardwood as a 3 out of 5 when it comes to ease of cleaning.
Further Reading: How to Clean Hardwood Floors
Good Looks: Solid hardwood is all about the good looks and is the number one reason why wood flooring is such a popular kitchen flooring choice. It doesn’t have the range of tile, wood is wood after all, but it does come in many different colors and with many different finishes which allows you to match it to almost every interior design trend that you might care to mention.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: As I’m sure you know by now, solid hardwood flooring and water don’t play well together. Water and other liquids can cause solid hardwood to buckle, swell or stain, so no, solid hardwood isn’t waterproof. However, it’s worth not over dramatizing the situation, clearly the popularity of solid wood as a kitchen flooring preference demonstrates the fact that many homeowners install solid wood planks in the kitchen without regret. Furthermore, solid hardwood can be coated with water resistant sealants and coatings that will at least protect your hardwood long enough to allow you to clean up any spills.
And what about the more personal kitchen floor criteria? Lets’ take a look:
Lifestyle and Personal Style: It’s hard to think of a lifestyle or personal style preference that can’t be satisfied with solid hardwood. Appealing to you and old alike solid hardwood exudes a warmth and class that can’t be matched by any other kitchen flooring material.
Budget Friendly and ROI: The answers here are clear cut. Quality solid hardwood planks and hardwood installation do not come cheap. On average you can expect to pay between $4.00 and $10.00 per sq/ft for pre-finished solid wood planks and then professional installation can run to at least $3.00 to $4.00 per sq/ft rising to $4.50 to $7.00 dpending on your subfloor and the complexity of the job.
On the flip side solid hardwood really shines when it comes to return on investment. Solid hardwood is so popular that as long as the flooring is in good condition a wood kitchen floor will definitely add to the desirability of you home and therefore the selling price.
DIY Potential: Like tile, we highly recommend professional installation of solid hardwood in the kitchen. Hardwood installation is a specialised skill and having spent a lot of money on a premium flooring material it would be unwise to jeopardise the results with sun-standard installation.
For many years the budget flooring market was dominated by laminate, but vinyl flooring is making all the headlines these days and modern vinyl kitchen flooring should be a serious consideration for your kitchen.
Durability: Although it doesn’t have the same longevity as tile or hardwood, vinyl flooring is a very durable product as long as you go for quality. By quality we mean a vinyl floor product (sheet, plank or tile) with a thick wear layer; wear layer being the top layer that you walk on. A vinyl products’ overall thickness is measured in mm (millimeters) and can be anywhere between 2mm and 8mm.
However, it’s the thickness of the wear layer that you to consider for durability and this is measured in mil (1 mil equals one-thousandth of an inch). We recommend a wear layer anywhere between 12mil and 20mil (even thicker for a commercial space). A high quality, well installed and well-maintained vinyl floor can last between 10 and 20 years.
Ease of cleaning: Vinyl flooring is super easy to clean, even easier than tile as you don’t have grout line to worry about. Ease of cleaning is definitely one of vinyl flooring’s top selling points if you’re looking for a hassle-free kitchen floor.
Good looks: Kitchen vinyl’s increased popularity in recent years has been driven mainly by its improved appearance. Vinyl flooring mimics tile and hardwood and the top vinyl flooring brands offer a much broader selection of styles and colors, with a much improved and realistic appearance. Installing viny as a kitchen option is now a little more aspirational rather than a budget driven compromise.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: Like floor tile, vinyl is a great kitchen choice because of it’s waterproof and stain resistant qualities. A pets’ spilt water bowl is not an emergency and food splatters while cooking can be wiped up with ease when you’re finished cooking.
How does vinyl flooring stack up against the other more personal criteria?
Lifestyle and Personal Style:
We’ve mentioned most of the lifestyle benefits above but we should also emphasise the comfort of vinyl. Vinyl falls under the umbrella of “resilient flooring” being both firm but also cushioned. 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!
As for style, although not as attractive as real tile or hardwood, vinyl does have the benefit of mimicking both so you actually have a greater range of kitchen style choices with vinyl. At Home Flooring Pros we think vinyl is best suited to contemporary, modern or urban kitchens.
Budget Friendly and ROI: Vinyl rightly has a reputation as a great budget kitchen floor with plenty of options in the $1 to $4 per sq/ft price range. That said, for the reasons described above, Vinyl is no longer seen as just a budget option so for the highest quality vinyl flooring you should also expect to see many vinyl products in the $6 to $10 per sq/ft price range which is clearly comparable to hardwood flooring. To get some idea take a look at the beautiful sheet vinyl flooring options from Astra that retails at over $6 per sq/ft.
As for ROI, vinyl flooring has a decent return on investment when it comes time to sell your home. Kitchen vinyl won’t add value to your property but potential buyers will note one of two things. Either they will recognize that your kitchen viny flooring is a durable and easy to maintain floor that is one less thing to worry about or they will register that it’s is easy and cheap to remove the vinyl when they move in and begin their kitchen remodel. Either way it won’t put off buyers.
DIY Potential: Unlike tile or hardwood, vinyl flooring is a great candidate for DIYers. As you will see in our kitchen vinyl flooring report there are several different vinyl flooring options and each have them have a different installation method. That said, every type of vinyl flooring is suitable for a proficient DIY enthusiast.
tear so don’t drag heavy or sharp objects over this type of flooring. Read more of our vinyl cleaning tips.
You know solid hardwood is one of the best floors for a kitchen so why do we need a separate section for engineered hardwood? Don’t all the same pros and cons apply? While there are some similarities the differences are significant so let’s look again at our key criteria for premium kitchen flooring:
Durability: Engineered hardwoods lifespan is shorter than solid hardwood (between 20 to 40 years which is still plenty long enough) mainly because it can only be refinished once or twice over its lifetime. But in many ways top-rated engineered hardwood is more durable than solid planks thanks to its construction and the super tough factory pre-finish applied to most engineered wood planks.
Engineered hardwood is simply more stable than solid wood which makes it a realistic choice in basements, bathrooms and, yes, kitchens. Just make sure you buy an engineered floor with a thick wear layer, 3mm and up is best.
Ease of cleaning: The same ease of cleaning rules applies to both solid and engineered hardwood when installed in a kitchen. Engineered wood perhaps squeaks past solid wood because correctly installed you will never get gaps between engineered planks. It’s easy to hoover dirt from the bevelled edges of engineered hardwood.
Good Looks: Beautiful hardwood is beautiful hardwood so we won’t bother debating which type of hardwood will be more attractive for your kitchen. As the name suggest, engineered hardwood is an engineered product so there is something about it that feels more factory built than hand crafted, but at this point we’re nit-picking.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: It’s safe to say that you should take the same care with your engineered hardwood as solid hardwood. The top surface wear layer is solid wood and so the same rules apply when it comes to aftercare.
How does engineered wood kitchen flooring score when it comes to personal kitchen floor criteria? Lets’ take a look:
Lifestyle and Personal Style: Most engineered hardwood (always check with the manufacturer) can be installed over radiant floor heating which might be an important consideration for some homeowners in colder climates.
When it comes to style, there are far more engineered wood plank products available than solid hardwood so you do have a wider choice of options than with solid hardwood. Also if you are tempted by an exotic hardwood floor it will be easier (and cheaper) to find the more expensive hardwoods in engineered form.
Budget Friendly and ROI: The cost of engineered hardwood planks is generally lower than solid hardwood, between $3 and $13 per sq/ft. Installation of engineered hardwood is slightly easier too so you will save money on professional installation.
Given that it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between solid and engineered hardwood its clear that as a kitchen floor choice engineered hardwood is more budget friendly with a better return on investment than solid hardwood.
DIY Potential: As mentioned, engineered hardwood is more adaptable to different settings and is manufactured in a more installation friendly way than traditional solid hardwood planks. That said even solid hardwood is more typically cut into easy to install tongue and groove planks these days. So DIY installation of either hardwood type is possible for the experienced amateur but when it come to hardwood we still believe that professional installation is highly recommended.
Laminate is a very popular kitchen flooring choice for those on a budget although opinion is sometimes split on its suitability for the high traffic and high humidity of a kitchen. Let’s try and get to the bottom of things by looking at the top kitchen floor criteria:
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. Read a few online reviews to see the conflicting views on laminate durability, one will comment on how her floor was wrecked within a week and another will say that their laminate looks as good as new five years on!
The difference in opinion is typically 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. If you can buy a laminate product warrantied for high moisture areas, then that will help.
Ease of Cleaning: A slightly damp mob, Swiffers and vacuums are the tools you will need for quick and easy kitchen laminate cleaning. Laminate flooring can be prone to scratching so avoid abrasive cleaners and vacuum beater bars etc.
Good Looks: Vinyl flooring isn’t the only budget kitchen flooring to raise its game in terms of style. Advances in manufacturing has led to increased realism with textured laminate flooring that more closely mimics the look and feel of hardwood.
Manufacturers have been hard at work producing ever more water-resistant laminate floors which is good news if you think laminate is the best floor for your kitchen. Read our report on waterproof laminate flooring before getting sucked in by some of the marketing claims out there. The best waterproof laminate floors create a watertight top surface that prevents water getting to the subfloor.
What about your personal kitchen floor criteria?
Lifestyle and Personal Style: Laminate flooring as a kitchen floor option is more about budget practicality than improving your overall quality of life. As mentioned above, 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.
Budget and ROI: Love it or hate it, laminate flooring is a great choice for the kitchen if budget and ROI are your 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.
DIY Potential: Yes, like vinyl plank, laying a laminate floating floor in the kitchen is definitely a potential DIY project. If you prefer to leave it to the professionals take a look at the cost to install laminate flooring.
STONE FLOORING (SLATE, LIMESTONE, TRAVERTINE, ETC.)
If you’re already a fan of ceramic or porcelain kitchen tile flooring we would encourage you to go one step further and consider natural stone flooring for your next kitchen floor. 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.
Let’s measure them up against our main kitchen floor considerations:
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. 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 than 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.
Good Looks: 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 brick floor kitchen) that can be achieved during installation you really are looking at a truly unique flooring choice.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: Like ceramic tile, natural stone tiles are a great waterproof kitchen flooring option. That said natural stone is more porous than ceramic and, as mentioned, you do need to ensure that your flooring is correctly sealed and resealed periodically if necessary.
Natural stone scores high on more personal kitchen floor criteria, let’s see why:
Lifestyle and Personal Style: Like ceramic or porcelain tile, natural stone can be cold (unless you have underfloor heating) and hard on the feet, which doesn’t suit some homeowners. But when it comes to style natural stone is the height of sophistication.
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.
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.
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.
DIY potential: Natural stone comes in tiles like ceramic floor tile, and we recommend a flooring contractor does the work for a professional finish. Furthermore, natural stone is typically heavier and more difficult to work with than tile. 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 is another installation factor best left to the pros.
MORE KITCHEN FLOORING OPTIONS
Are you looking for a more niche kitchen flooring option? Something just a little different? Here are a few kitchen floor ideas that you might like.
Cork flooring will give your kitchen a unique aesthetic which is warm and personal. Like Vinyl it is a resilient flooring which is both firm but with some give. Let’s run through our criteria:
Durability: Quality engineered cork flooring is durable but not in the same league as tile or a tough hardwood.
Ease of cleaning: A higher level of care is needed with cork kitchen flooring. Cork is softer than hardwood so keep the surface clear of dirt and debris by vacuuming or sweeping frequently. Cork floors will also require resealing every 5 years or so.
Good Looks: Cork is beautiful, but its aesthetic is unique and not to everyone’s taste.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: While cork does have a natural water-resistant quality, you do need to take care with engineered cork flooring. It’s the top sealant that provides the real protection and spills should be mopped up to avoid staining.
Lifestyle and Personal Style: Like vinyl, cork is nice and forgiving on the feet and joints but its unique appearance limits other kitchen interior design choices. It’s warmth of color makes it great for informal styles.
Budget Friendly and ROI: As expensive as hardwood and not as sought after by future home buyers cork is neither a budget friendly kitchen floor option nor one that offers a great return on investment.
DIY Potential: Where installing glue down tiles or a floating engineered plank floor we recommend professional installation for the best finish.
CONCRETE & EPOXY
Durability: It’s doesn’t get more durable than concrete!
Ease of cleaning: Super easy
Good Looks: Polished, stamped, stained…there are all kinds of very cool looks for concrete but obviously it lends itself almost completely to a very modern and industrial aesthetic.
Waterproof/Water Resistant: Concrete is porous and needs to be sealed. Once it is then it becomes very waterproof.
Lifestyle and Personal Style: We think it’s clear that this is a very unique and modern kitchen flooring choice. Suited to the young and possibly a passing trend long term.
Budget Friendly and ROI: Installing concrete can range from as low as $2.25 per sq/ft to as high as $30 per sq/ft once to start adding epoxy and other effects. If potential buyers don’t like it at least they know they have a good subfloor to install something new on
DIY Potential: Pouring a concrete kitchen floor is definitely one for the pros. There are some simple epoxy coatings that can be a DIY project
Many homeowners confuse linoleum with vinyl when searching for a quality kitchen flooring solution. There’s not many residential linoleum flooring on the market these days, however there is one quality linoleum product that could be a good fit for your kitchen and that is Marmoleum, a product manufactured by Forbo and sold at independent flooring retailers.
Have we missed a kitchen flooring material that you would like us to include here? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author:
Greca is the lead style writer at Home Flooring Pros (more), with a BA in Technical Art, she’s focused on flooring trends, flooring ideas, and flooring brand reviews.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than creating a home that you love. The hardest thing about this job is trying not to covet all the great floors I get to review; if I could remodel my home every month, I would!”