Best Choices in Kitchen Flooring

A kitchen is central to family activities, and its floor will get lots of hard use over many years, not just from standing while cooking and cleanup but from kids and pets and spills and dropped glassware.

Savvy homeowners choose kitchen flooring based on looks, durability, ease of cleanup, comfort (when standing on it), and – if they have a large expanse – its quietness. Be sure you factor in all these criteria when you select your flooring because your floor’s performance will be as important as its looks over years of use.

Choices in kitchen flooring

Laminate

Washing a ceramic tile floor

Laminate flooring is typically made with an embossed pattern layer bonded to a compressed wood fiber core. It has a clear-plastic top layer for permanent protection against scratches and spills and an underlayment that absorbs noise.

Laminate floors are popular for many reasons: They are inexpensive, very durable and require little maintenance. They come in many looks, including various wood hues, stone and tile. Supplied in approximately four-foot lengths that may be 5”, 8” or 16” wide, they are very easy to install and can be laid over an existing floor or a concrete or wood subfloor. Disadvantages include their lack of warmth compared to wood, their hardness and clack-clack noisiness. Some buyers have complained of chipped corners during shipping.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring comes in sheets, snap-in planks, and peel-and-stick tiles. Advantages of vinyl floors are easy cleanup and maintenance as well as a wide choice in patterns and colors. Tiles and planks may allow water to seep to the subfloor, so sheets are preferable in a kitchen.

Vinyl varies in thickness and structure. In standard vinyl the pattern lies on the surface and so can be damaged if scratched. In inlaid vinyl, the pattern goes all the way through. Compressed vinyl (VCT) is made from ground recycled vinyl. It is very hard and used in commercial installations. A very thick core will feel cushiony when you walk on it. Be sure to do so before you choose.

Installation of vinyl tiles is an easy do-it-yourself task, while installation of 12-foot wide sheets can be tricky because the underfloor must be level and the vinyl must be cut carefully to fit walls that may not be square. An adhesive is used to glue the vinyl to the underfloor, and a self-levelling adhesive is available to fill low spots. A disadvantage is that the edges of sheets can curl.

Linoleum

Popular in the 1950’s linoleum is being used again because it is inexpensive and made from renewable natural materials: linseed oil (from flax seeds), tree resins, cork and wood flours, ground limestone and organic pigments.

Available in sheets, tiles, and click panels, linoleum provides a durable surface in vibrant colors. It is harder to clean than vinyl, and its greater stiffness makes the sheets harder to install as well.

Ceramic tile

For variety of colors and patterns, there is no match for ceramic tile. But it has several disadvantages: While the tiles are easy to clean, the grout between the tiles is not, so keep in mind that the larger the tiles, the less grout you will have to clean. Ceramic tiles are cold, hard on the legs, and very hard on dropped glassware.

Kitchen with cherry wood cabinetry Hardwood

Chosen carefully, hardwoods make ideal kitchen floors They have a warm homey look, and are quieter and softer than laminates. Finished with a polyurethane varnish, they will have a durable, impervious surface that takes traffic and works well in any style kitchen. While wood can scratch, it can also be sanded and refinished.

Cork

The opposite of ceramic tiles in some ways, cork can be used as kitchen flooring if it is sealed well. Advantages include comfort derived from the cork’s elasticity; sound-proofing; thermal insulation; durability; fire resistance, and easy replacement if damaged. Like a wood floor, it can be cleaned with a vacuum or damp mop. A cork floor will last for decades, but should be resealed every year or two, depending on traffic.

Cork tiles, made from scrap that comes from the winecork industry, are available in dozens of colors and several shapes and sizes. For kitchen use, cork tiles must be glued down using a brushed adhesive over a smooth concrete or plywood subfloor.

Bamboo

Bamboo flooring is made from renewable bamboo, a rapid-growth grass. Several types are available for flooring, including woven bamboo, “solid” bamboo and engineered bamboo, all very durable, though woven bamboo is the hardest. Bamboo is available is several colors and can also be supplied unfinished.

How to choose flooring

Pick a few possibilities from this list based on the criteria that are important to you, research their looks on the web, and then go see them and walk on them in shoes and in your stocking feet to see how comfortable they are. If you order on the web, be sure to order samples to verify finish and color.

Make sure you know how to install your choice. Some require removal of existing flooring and professional installation. Chosen carefully and installed properly, your new kitchen floor will give you and your family many years of use.

Next, check out more specific design choices that will help you decide how your dream kitchen will look, so you will get the most benefit from your kitchen renovation: cabinets, countertops and backsplashes, walls and window treatments, lighting, and appliances.

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