Hardwood flooring in the kitchen is the first in a series of posts looking at the best use of hardwood, both solid and engineered, in every room of your house. After our post about Laminate floors in the kitchen we had few emails asking what our opinion was of a kitchen with wood floors, so here is the Home Flooring Pros view.
Hardwood flooring shouldn’t be ruled out of the kitchen. It’s true that moisture is hardwood’s nemesis, but most kitchens aren’t as humid and wet as full bathrooms or damp basements, two locations where solid hardwood isn’t the best option. Still, it’s worth noting the advantages and disadvantages hardwood brings to the busiest room in the house.
You can also check out our favorite kitchen flooring ideas here.
Here are the pros and cons of hardwood flooring for kitchens. The section concludes with tips and suggestions to consider if you decide to install kitchen wood floors.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wood Floors in a Kitchen
Here are the pros and cons of wood flooring for kitchens. The section concludes with tips and suggestions to consider if you decide to install kitchen wood floors.
Pros of wood floors in kitchens:
Lots of Options
You have multiple hardwood species and style options for the kitchen, and they are all naturally beautiful.
Wood floors in the kitchen maintain consistency in a home with an open floor plan where the hardwood flooring is used in adjoining areas.
Wood flooring is more affordable than tile and polished concrete, and competitive with LVT, when the cost of materials and installation is considered. DIY installation is easier than tile and concrete too.
Longevity and Value
Kitchen wood floors offer outstanding value over the 50-100 years they last, and homebuyers are drawn to hardwood.
Warmer than tile
Hardwood floors in kitchen settings are warmer and easier on feet compared with stone and ceramic tile, especially when you’re standing during prep and cleanup.
Easy to clean
Wood kitchen floors are easily maintained.
Not very problematic
Properly sealed wood resists staining and water damage, and kitchens aren’t as wet and messy as sometimes perceived.
Cons of wood floors in kitchens:
Lengthy exposure to moisture from leaking pipes or appliances probably will damage hardwood floors in the kitchen when tile and concrete would not be harmed.
While they will last indefinitely, kitchen wood floors should be lightly sanded and recoated every 4-7 years for moisture protection and refinished as needed, perhaps every 12-17 years depending on wear, if their beauty is diminished.
Home Flooring Pro tips for installing hardwood in the kitchen:
- To protect against scratches and dents, use hardwood in the kitchen that has a high Janka Hardness rating. The best domestic woods are hickory (1820), hard maple (1450) and white oak (1360). Imports to consider are Ipe/Brazilian walnut (3680), Santos Mahogany (2200) and Jarrah (1910). Avoid pine and other coniferous woods due to their softness and water absorption.
- Choose a hardwood flooring product with rich and varied character, so accumulated dings and scratches won’t stand out. This will delay the need for refinishing. Top hardwood flooring manufacturer Coswick speaks to this point, saying,
“Highly textured wood species and wirebrushed finishes work so well in kitchens and other high trafficked areas [because] most surface damages blend almost seamlessly into the existing texture.”
- Seal hardwood floors in the kitchen after installation (site finished vs. factory finished hardwood), so that a layer or two of sealer bridges the gaps between planks to prevent moisture from seeping between them.
- Consider an oil-based polyurethane sealer because it will allow the wood to “breathe,” releasing moisture. Water-based polyurethane traps moisture.
- Put pads on the bottom of chair and table legs to prevent dents and scratches; pick up and move rather than drag heavy items.
- Clean up spills promptly.
- Don’t allow wet shoes or an umbrella to sit on hardwood.
- Never use a steam cleaner on hardwood because moisture can be forced into the joints between planks.
- Shut off the water, call a plumber and your hardwood flooring specialist immediately if you discover a leaking pipe or a refrigerator or dishwasher that is wetting the flooring.
- If you’re still leery of wood floors in the kitchen, consider engineered hardwood. It has a solid wood top layer over a composite wood base. The base is less susceptible to warping and expansion/contraction caused by absorbing moisture and then drying out. The downside to engineered flooring is that the hardwood layer isn’t as thick as solid hardwood, so it can only be refinished once or twice compared with three to five times for genuine hardwood.
The bottom line is that there is no reason to avoid using wood floors in kitchen areas. One of the leading experts on home renovations agrees. Tom Silva, of This Old House, is a fan of wood floors in kitchens. While he’s been misquoted elsewhere, his full comment on the subject is,
“While some feel it’s an unusual choice now that there are so many different flooring options, I personally think hardwood is an excellent choice for the kitchen. Everybody ends up spending a lot of time there, and wood floors can add a great deal of ‘homeyness’ to the kitchen.”
We heartily agree.
Kitchen Wood Flooring Alternatives
If you have considered all the variables – location, budget, ease of installation, humidity – and still feel that solid or engineered hardwood is not suitable for your kitchen, there are a number of alternative options that – though never exactly like the real deal – will nevertheless give you the classic look of hardwood. Let’s have a look at some examples.
Wood Look Laminate: Timeless Aesthetic, with warm brown stain
A truly classic look, opting for solid hardwood with a warm brown stain is an aesthetic that works with both traditional and modern furnishings, making it a great choice for flooring that can adapt as styles and tastes change.
Here’s the perfect example from Armstrong, an oak floor from their Paragon solid hardwood collection – here in the Bending Creek colorway.
But if the price of solid oak is beyond your budget, then a cheaper option would be a good quality wood look laminate, which frankly only the very trained expert could tell apart from a true solid hardwood. Here is an example of a gorgeous warm brown laminate with a hint of red tone, also from Armstrong, but this time featuring acacia wood in the Cayenne Spice colorway.
Pros of laminate over hardwood:
Usually much cheaper than hardwood; easy installation.
Cons of laminate over hardwood:
Can warp in very humid conditions, choose the best quality you can find and ensure it is properly sealed.
Wood Look Luxury Vinyl Plank: Transitional Aesthetic, with gray undertones
If you’re looking to bridge the gap between classic and modern, then you’re aiming for transitional décor which can be enhanced with a traditional hardwood floor in dark brown that has a hint of gray tone and texture to give it a more modern feel. A lovely example of this is the engineered maple from Mannington Maison Versailles collection in the Fountain colorway.
Now, as we’ve said, engineered hardwood is a good choice if you are somewhat concerned about humidity levels in your kitchen; however, if you are truly, very concerned then opting for the more resilient LVT flooring is the way to go. Here’s an example, also from Mannington, featuring a textured hickory design from the Adura Seaport collection in the Wharf colorway.
Pros of LVT over hardwood:
Very good for humid situations; modern technology allows good quality LVT designs to look very authentic.
Cons of LVT over hardwood:
Might lack that real feel of wood underfoot – LVT is essentially a product made of vinyl and high density fiberboard.
Wood Look Vinyl Sheet: Contemporary Aesthetic, deep gray
Gray toned hardwood flooring is very much of the moment these days, so if you want to create a kitchen design that is resolutely contemporary then choose one of the many pre-stained and beautiful gray toned hardwood floors. Here is a great example from Shaw Floors, from their engineered Acacia collection, in the Cocoa colorway.
If you like this look, but have a very limited budget plus concerns about humidity then you might consider installing vinyl sheet. As with LVT, modern printing techniques makes the designs on today’s vinyl sheet look much more like the real thing. For example, have a look at the lovely details on the City Park vinyl sheet collection from Shaw Floors, here in the Signage colorway that mimics beautiful gray-toned hardwood planks.
Pros of vinyl sheet over hardwood:
Best for low budgets; continuous sheet of vinyl is a very good option in highly humid situations – no cracking and minimal likelihood of leaks causing damage.
Cons of vinyl sheet over hardwood:
You would need to see a sample up close to check how authentic it looks; definitely does not feel anything like real hardwood.
Wood Look Ceramic Tile: Minimalist/ Scandi Aesthetic, with light and airy tones
If the previous options seem too dark for you, then you might prefer the light and airy aesthetic of minimalist or Scandinavian interiors. The key to this look is to choose a floor that is as close to the natural wood state as possible, one that is just very lightly stained, or perhaps whitewashed. This one from Bruce Flooring – their solid oak in Snow Peak colorway – is a perfect example.
However, the one concern you might have about putting such a light wood in a kitchen environment would be potential damage from dirt and food spills that could stain. A decent polyurethane finish should be protection enough, but if your kitchen is going to be a seriously high traffic zone then an easy-clean, hard wearing, wood look ceramic tile could be a better option. Here’s an example from Marca Corona – from their Cottage collection in the Gray colorway – that captures the minimalist/ Scandi aesthetic perfectly.
Pros of wood look tile over hardwood:
Hard wearing and easy to clean; excellent for highly humid environments.
Cons of wood look tile over hardwood:
Whilst it will certain look like the real thing, ceramic tile does not have the same softness; the better quality wood look tiles are not any cheaper than decent hardwood flooring.