Is Laminate Flooring in the Kitchen a Good Idea?
Laminate flooring continues to be a popular kitchen flooring option, especially for those homeowners on a budget looking for a wood-look flooring. Newer water-resistant and waterproof laminates make laminate an even more appealing kitchen floor with strong DIY potential.
In this kitchen flooring report we look at laminate, still a very popular choice but now in around 4th place behind, ceramic tile, solid and engineered hardwood and vinyl.
ARE LAMINATE FLOORS THE BEST KITCHEN FLOORING OPTION?
It would be a stretch to rate laminate as best flooring for a kitchen. But it is worth considering.
Homeowners with a perspective on laminate that is stuck in the 1990s can’t believe we even suggest it. Why? Because some laminate back then soaked up water like a sponge. One good spill could ruin a patch of flooring.
But most laminate flooring manufactured today is water-resistant, and some is waterproof. Laminate can be a good kitchen flooring option because it is tough, cost-friendly, good looking, easy to maintain and, yes, unafraid of a spill or two.
WHAT IT IS – TYPES OF LAMINATE
Most laminate flooring is built the same way. Its core is plywood or fiberboard that’s quite rigid. Glued to the top of the core is the image layer – an actual photograph of genuine wood plank flooring or stone tile flooring. That’s why it looks incredibly authentic.
The top layer is a scratch-resistant and durable wear layer, transparent, of course. And attached to the bottom of most laminate flooring is a thin foam (standard) or cork (premium) underlayment to dampen sound and slightly cushion the floor.
Now, since water is the big concern for using laminate in the kitchen, there are three types to consider: Standard, water-resistant and waterproof.
Standard laminate ($-$$) offers little protection against moisture. Sure, a few drops won’t hurt it, but wet-mopping is not recommended, and steam mops are a LOL NO! Spills should be dried up pronto – like, drop what you’re doing and get a towel fast. Obviously, standard laminate is not for kitchen use. The unprotected core will swell with extended exposure to moisture. Damage is irreversible.
Water-resistant laminate ($-$$$) is sealed on the top of the core, offering limited protection from moisture. But large spills and standing water left on the floor might do the “sneak and soak,” getting around the coating and into the core. This type of laminate flooring is OK for a kitchen if you’re on a budget, wet floors don’t happen much in your home, and you will be quick about drying up spills. Discover more water-resistant laminate flooring.
Waterproof laminate ($$$-$$$$) is the best kitchen laminate flooring. Its core is sealed on all sides including the ends of the planks.
>Buying Tips: Read the fine print! Some brands are marketed as “waterproof” laminate, but when you read details, it is water resistant, which means very little and offers no guarantee against damage.
Look for a warranty. Flooring we consider waterproof is backed by a warranty of at least 24 hours against water damage from standing water on the surface of the flooring. The warranties cover what Pergo calls “everyday household spills” and not leaking appliances, burst pipes or floods. But that’s fair – and that’s what homeowner’s insurance is for.
>Installation Tip: To maintain the waterproof warranty on most brands, the perimeter of the room must be edged in waterproof quarter round or similar material specified by the manufacturer to prevent spills from getting around the laminate and into the subfloor.
Check it out! Our Laminate Buying Guide is a great place to continue exploring just what this popular flooring is.
So what’s the truth when it comes to laminate kitchen floors? Let’s look again at the main pros and cons of installing laminate floors in the kitchen and consider the smart buying options and tips.
PROS AND CONS OF INSTALLING LAMINATE IN THE KITCHEN
When considering flooring for the kitchen, laminate is a popular choice for those who want an aesthetic upgrade from vinyl sheet flooring but have a limited budget for the project. That’s a good place to start with the advantages and disadvantages of laminate flooring.
Laminate flooring pros:
- Water-resistant and guaranteed waterproof brands are available
- More visually appealing to many than vinyl sheet flooring
- More affordable than hardwood, luxury vinyl tiles and other common kitchen flooring choices
- DIY installation is easy to moderate in terms of difficulty
- Pro installation is cheaper per square foot (+/-$4.50) than installing ceramic tile (+/-$13.50) or natural stone (+/-$20)
- Resists scratches, dents and stains, especially better grades of flooring
- Can be cleaned easily with a dust mop or a damp cloth where needed
- Resists fading
- No defects as you’ll occasionally find in hardwood
- Softer and warmer under foot than ceramic tile, concrete and stone
- Available in a wide selection of faux wood and tile choices, the two primary flooring types it mimics
- Stands up to water slightly better than hardwood
Laminate flooring cons:
- Doesn’t match the natural beauty of hardwood or the elegance of ceramic tile
- Susceptible to warping or staining from standing water (as is hardwood flooring), if you don’t choose a water-resistant or waterproof laminate
- Cheaper grades with a thin wear layer may need replacing within 10 years
- Can’t be refinished, as hardwood can
- Louder than carpet or vinyl
- Lower return on investment compared with hardwood, tile or stone when selling a home
For further analysis of the pros and cons of laminate vs other home flooring options click here.
This simple chart shows types of laminate flooring for kitchen installation and their cost. We include standard laminate, which is not suitable for the kitchen, just for comparison.
|Type||Cost Range||Average/sq. ft.|
|Standard||$.89 – $1.99||$1.35|
|Water Resistant||$1.59 – $2.89||$2.45|
|Waterproof||$2.59 – $5.39||$3.65|
For more in-depth pricing take a deep dive into the cost to install laminate flooring.
Expect estimates for the labor to install kitchen laminate flooring of $2.75 to $5.00 per square foot. Why the wide range? There are a few key labor cost factors for kitchens:
Kitchen Complexity – The more trimming required in your kitchen – around an island or peninsula, in several doorways or around built-in dining – the higher the cost per square foot. Labor estimates are lower for kitchens with an open floorplan.
Kitchen Size – Cost per square foot drops a little as the amount of flooring goes up. If you’ve got 60 square feet of flooring in a galley kitchen, your cost is going to be closer to $5/sq. ft. If your kitchen is 300+ square feet, cost might be closer to $3 or $4/sq. ft. This is because the installer factors in travel time and cost, setup/cleanup time and other “overhead” factors. If they are spread over more square feet, then cost goes down.
Removing old flooring and installing underlayment separately will also raise labor cost.
HOW TO BUY THE BEST LAMINATE FOR YOUR KITCHEN FLOOR
Be a smart kitchen flooring shopper with these tips.
- Know how well it fights moisture. Is it really waterproof or just water-resistant flooring marketed as waterproof? Read the warranty coverage!
- Remember that you will get what you pay for in durability. Review the information above on Abrasion Class ratings and the wear layer to be sure. And if shoes are allowed in your kitchen and it sees a lot of them, get premium laminate flooring if you want it to last.
- Avoid VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are a menace to indoor air quality. Many quality laminate brands meet low-VOC/no-VOC standards from testing organizations like FloorScore and GreenGuard. Look for those labels to have healthy kitchen floors.
- Know your neighborhood. If you’re never going to move, then install whatever kitchen flooring you want. But if a move is possible, then choose laminate only if it fits the neighborhood. If most homes around you have hardwood or ceramic tile in the kitchen, laminate won’t impress buyers and might hurt your resale value.
A lot of manufacturers make kitchen laminate flooring, meaning it has some level of resistance to water. Basic, better and best quality options are sold, and sometimes manufacturers make flooring choices in all three tiers.
Here’s a brief breakdown of brands in each category.
Budget Kitchen Laminate:
This is the cheap stuff in the range of $1.35 to $2.00. Anything cheaper than that probably isn’t sealed to prevent water damage.
Options in this range include TrafficMaster sold at Home Depot, Mohawk Home at Costco, Dream Home at Lumber Liquidators, Home Decorators Collection, Tarkett and entry-level laminate lines from big manufacturers like Shaw, QuickStep, Mohawk, Mannington and Bruce.
Most brands make laminate kitchen flooring in this tier. Pricing is $1.85 to $3.50.
But the top options include Pergo, Armstrong, Mohawk, Mannington, Bruce, Dream Home X20, BerryAlloc, Swiss Krono, Allen + Roth at Lowes and LifeProof at Home Depot. Farbo Marmoleum is a hybrid linoleum laminate floor. The photo layer is replaced with a layer of linoleum. It’s a high-cost laminate that is water-resistant, not waterproof.
Most of these come with a waterproof guarantee, but as always, read the warranty to be sure. Expect flooring costs of $2.50 to $5.00 or more.
You’ll get a waterproof warranty with Mohawk RevWood, Pergo lines with WetProtect, Mannington with SpillShield, AquaGuard by Floor & Décor, Armstrong Audacity, Tarkett AquaFlor, Shaw Repel and Newton.
BEST LAMINATE FLOORING FOR THE KITCHEN
If you want laminate kitchen flooring that will last and look great for 15+ years, here are the characteristics to look for:
Higher AC Rating: There are five grades of laminate based on the construction of the material, especially the thickness of the wear layer. The rating system is known as the Abrasion Class Rating or AC Rating. The rating of each product you view should be listed or the packaging or in the website description:
- AC1 – Moderate residential: Light traffic areas in the home, for example, bedrooms.
- AC2 – General residential: Light and medium traffic areas, for example, living room, home office, dining room.
- AC3 – Heavy residential / light commercial: All traffic areas in the home and light-traffic commercial areas.
- AC4 – General commercial: All residential areas and moderate commercial traffic.
- AC5 – Heavy commercial: All residential areas and high-traffic commercial floors.
Laminate with an AC rating of 3 or higher will give you added protection against dropped items, kids toys, sliding chair legs, the nails of large dogs and other causes of dents and scratches often found in the kitchen.
HPL construction method: Better grades of laminate flooring typically undergo high-pressure lamination (HPL) which serves to compress and fuse the layers more effectively than older methods. HPL manufacturing results in a harder, more stable and more durable floor.
Thick wear layer: This is where good laminate flooring is truly separated from cheaper grades. A layer of very-hard melamine or similar material is fused to the photographic layer (or wood veneer layer in some newer products) to create a tough surface.
The wear layer must resist scratching and dulling and be thick enough to provide many years of protection without wearing through. While it might be difficult to get information on the thickness of the wear layer, it is safe to say that the higher the AC Rating and the thicker the flooring is as a whole, the better the wear layer will be.
The right underlayment for the location: A moisture barrier is important when installing laminate over concrete, for example when installing basement laminate flooring. A sound muffing underlayment is advised when the floor is installed above living space. Foam underlayment helps to insulate the floor and retain its warmth. There are other options too, and each type is available in several grades.
There are also laminate flooring products with underlayment already attached which saves a step in installation. Your installer is the best person to help you determine which one is the right choice for your laminate kitchen flooring project.
An experienced installer: The very important choice of who installs the floor is often overlooked in picking out the style and quality of the laminate. For this reason, it makes sense to select the installer yourself rather than leaving that decision to a general contractor or interior designer.
You’ll get the best results when you request estimates from at least three qualified laminate flooring installers and interview each one about the experience of the crew that will be doing the work. If you’re thinking of a DIY installation make sure you have the tools and are comfortable with cutting laminate floor planks/tiles.
Laminate in the kitchen is a really nice fit in most homes when these tips are considered.
Think about what happens in your kitchen before you buy laminate. And choose a guaranteed-waterproof option if there is an exterior entry door off the kitchen, wet dogs come in the sliding glass door, spill-prone kids roam the room or you wash large items by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher.
It won’t hurt to have a water-absorbing rug in front of the sink – and maybe the stove too if you cook a lot of pasta and soups. If the rug gets wet, remove it for drying.
Stick to cleaning guidelines. If the manufacturer says the flooring can be damp-mopped, go light. Don’t use a steam mop on any laminate.
Waterproof laminate for the kitchen is often also suitable for the laundry room, bathroom or below grade. Read the manufacturer information to be sure.
And remember, if your neighbors are remodeling with better flooring like engineered hardwood or luxury vinyl, then you might have to upgrade from laminate if you want to protect your home’s resale value. And when laminate makes sense on your street, as it does on most, don’t hesitate to use the right stuff in the kitchen.