FLOOR MATERIALS

No doubt there is no other floor in your home, that will take as much abuse as the one in the kitchen.  Spills and drips are every day occurrences, from water to hot coffee and anything in between.  Added to liquids being dropped there are harder objects that may touch the floor albeit accidentally, such as silverware and saucepans.  With the kitchen being the heart of the home, it will have it’s share of foot traffic from humans, pets and chair legs going back and forth from the kitchen table.

For good reason, the durability and moisture resistance are must-haves for a kitchen floor and why, not too long ago a resilient material such as linoleum or hard ceramic tile were so popular.  Other issues to consider nowadays though are the amount of time you are likely to be standing in your kitchen.  You may wish to opt for a flooring that offers a little give under foot.  If your kitchen is more of an open floor plan linking the kitchen with the family room, you may want a floor that will comfortably flow throughout the entire space.

The choices for kitchen flooring are more numerous than ever.  In addition to the look, you’ll want to consider the moisture resistance, durability and comfort underfoot of your preferred material.  The right material for your kitchen floor will be unique to your family’s needs but no matter what, a kitchen floor should harmonize with the textures and colors of the cabinets, countertops and backsplash.

WOOD FLOORING

Many homeowners prefer hardwood floors for their living rooms, dining rooms and other public spaces in the home. So why not use it in the kitchen too?  Wood offers a rich, warm look and provides a relatively forgiving surface. Today’s hard polyurethane finishes stand up well against the rigors of the kitchen.

When installing new wood flooring, hardwoods such as red oak, maple, birch and Brazilian cherry make hard-wearing surfaces.  Softwoods such as pine and fir will show scratches, dents, dings and other signs of wear (which to some, simply adds character and beauty).

Another option is engineered wood, which is plywood with a solid top “wear” layer.  Ideally suited for installation over concrete and below grade because they’re not subject to cupping and swelling from moisture as solid wood. They are also known as “floating floors”, which simply means that they are not fastened to the sub-floor, allowing for expansion due to changing moisture conditions.  The downside to engineered floors is the number of times it is possible to sand and refinish.

TILE FLOORING

Unlike wood, tile is impervious to two major elements in the kitchen, water and foot traffic.  Ceramic, porcelain and stone tiles rated for kitchen use, are essentially immune to spills and drops.  Offering endless choices of colors, textures and patterns, tile is a wonderful opportunity to add creative expression to your floor.

To avoid slippery-when-wet situations, avoid polished stones and shiny ceramic glazes.  Instead, choose a honed stone finish or ceramic tile that’s either textured or unglazed.  It is important to note, that all stone tiles and some ceramic tiles require frequent sealing to prevent the absorption of stains.  In the case of limestone and marble, sealing is required to prevent disintegration as a result of contact with acidic foods such as wine and fruit juice.  As for grout, unless you choose an epoxy grout, it will need sealing to prevent darkening and staining over time.

Remember also, that almost anything that falls onto a tile floor is likely to break.

RESILIENT FLOORING

Resilient flooring options include vinyl, polyurethane, rubber and linoleum generally available in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures.  They are often very thin and as such, often times can be laid on top of an existing floor. Nowadays, some patterns include faux stone or tile.

This type of flooring is typically available in sheets that are 12 foot wide, which may result in no seams and a very waterproof floor.  The downside is the material is fairly soft making it susceptible to denting and tearing.

Tiles measuring 12 inches by 12 inches are also available in these materials, allowing for a mix and match of colors.

CORK AND BAMBOO FLOORING

Not only do cork and bamboo bring wonderful hues and complex textures to the kitchen floor but they are environmentally friendly.  Cork is made from the bark of a Mediterranean oak tree, which regenerates every 10 years or so.  Bamboo is made from an Asian grass, which matures in about 6 years.  Thus, these products are much more renewable than wood, which requires many decades to reach harvestable size.

Cork is typically sold as a tile or sheet that’s very easy to install and because it contains millions of air pockets within it’s cells, the product is extremely soft and warm underfoot and makes excellent soundproofing as well.  It needs to be sealed to protect it from moisture, although this is often done in the factory.

Bamboo is more like wood in terms of hardness and feel and it typically  comes in a light “natural” color or “caramelized”, which results in a mellow brown that is created when the manufacturer heats the bamboo, caramelizing the sugars in it’s fibers.  Bamboo, like cork, needs sealing, typically with polyurethane on site.