What is the best material for a kitchen floor? (with photos)

Kitchen with parquet flooring.

The best material for a kitchen floor is one that stands up to regular traffic, is easy to clean, and is not easily damaged or stained by spills of water or food. Most builders recommend wood, tile, linoleum, or a laminate designed specifically for the kitchen. The floor must also match the decor of the room and meet the needs of its users; a family kitchen in a modern home will likely need a different type of flooring than a formal kitchen used primarily for entertaining adults.

Why the kitchen floor is different

Kitchen with tiled floor.

Kitchens are full of activities that don’t usually happen in many other parts of the house, including cooking, storing food, and cleaning. A floor that stains easily or absorbs water is usually not a good choice; most kitchen floors are not covered with carpet, for example, because it would be difficult to keep them clean and dry. Porous flooring materials such as limestone or marble can look great, but they are also more likely to stain when juice or wine is spilled.

Some people prefer resilient floors.

Items often fall to the kitchen floor as well, so it’s best to choose a material that won’t be damaged by the occasional drop of glass or vase. Some common flooring options, like tiles, can crack or break when hit, so they’re often the best choice in kitchens where small children aren’t playing. Keep in mind that if you’re standing in the kitchen for long periods of time, a very hard floor like tile or stone can tire your back and legs more quickly than a material with some flexibility, like vinyl or linoleum.

wooden floors

Homeowners who care about the environment can consider a bamboo kitchen floor.

One of the biggest benefits of hardwood is that it is a long-lasting material. Unlike ceramic, stone or synthetic flooring, it is usually easily repaired and can be sanded and restored to a new look. Longevity makes hardwood an excellent value, although the initial cost can be high. While hardwood has many useful factors in its favor, it can pose challenges depending on the flooring substrate and finish applied to the wood.

Most natural finishes reflect light and can make a kitchen appear larger. The wood’s natural colors can also help hide signs of dirt or stains. Some hardwoods, such as bamboo, are also a sustainable option for an environmentally conscious kitchen.

Tile is a popular choice for kitchen floors, but it’s also more susceptible to cracking than some other floors.

Other important advantages of wooden kitchen floors are the availability of practical and cosmetic finishes. Many hardwoods can be treated with polyurethane or a water-based finish to help reduce stains and make your floor easier to clean. Cosmetic finishes expand the color gamut for hardwood floors, making it easy to match any design style.

The homeowner should select a kitchen flooring material that is not only attractive but also functional.

There are many different types of hardwood that can be used in a beautiful kitchen floor. Popular varieties include red oak, maple and ash. More exotic woods, such as teak, can create a luxurious, if somewhat expensive, finished kitchen floor. For cheaper options, consider engineered wood, which combines a top layer of hardwood with bottom layers made of cheap plywood.

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Some homeowners choose to smooth and finish a concrete floor with paint or stains.

The main disadvantages of hardwood include the potential for water damage or dents. High humidity levels in the kitchen can cause floorboards to bend or warp, creating an uneven surface. Large spills of water can allow mold to grow under the floor’s surface and cause unsightly stains. When heavy objects such as kitchen tables or heavy kitchen utensils hit the hardwood floor, they can leave dents or scratches. Pets can also cause harm; its claws or fingernails can scratch the floor, and urine can dull and discolor the wood.

tile floors

Linoleum is hypoallergenic and naturally resistant to bacteria.

Ceramic flooring has been popular for centuries and can add elegance to any kitchen floor. Matte tiles are often a better choice than satin-finished varieties, as they are less likely to be slippery when wet. The toughness of well-made tiles should prevent dents or warping, although cracks can occur over time. An added benefit of tile is that it is possible to remove and replace individual cracked tiles without having to tear the entire floor apart.

There are three main varieties of tile used for flooring: ceramic, porcelain, and stone. Ceramic tiles are often inexpensive but chip easily and must be sealed to increase their strength. Porcelain tiles are less likely to crack, and come in a wide range of vivid colors and patterns; they require a special kind of adhesive to be anchored correctly, however. Stone tiles are the most durable, but typically cannot hold paint or synthetic finishes well. Most types of tile require regular refining treatments to seal out moisture and guard against damage.

While the tile is usually resistant to mildew and stains, the grout laid between tiles can cause some problems. Some types of grout will stain quickly, and can grow mildew and mold if not cleaned regularly. To avoid this, it’s best to use grout that has been treated for stain and mildew resistance. Stone tile poses additional challenges, since grooves in the stone may make it more difficult to clean the floor thoroughly. Standing on hard stone tile for long periods of time can also lead to leg or lower back pain.

Laminate Floors

Laminate flooring looks like wood or tile, but is actually made mostly with synthetic materials. It is made up of multiple layers, including a moisture-resistant core, a decorative layer that is essentially a photograph of another material, and a hard, clear top finish. This type of floor is often less expensive than hardwood or stone, and is usually easier to care for. The pattern on laminate is also less likely to fade or wear down than materials like vinyl or linoleum.

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Unlike many other types of flooring, laminates are usually not glued directly to the subflooring. Instead, each piece has slots and tabs that fit together, often snapping into place. The floor “floats” on top of a layer of foam or film, which helps reduce noise. Laminate boards can separate, however, leaving gaps that may fill with dirt and debris.

Although laminate is relatively moisture resistant, it can warp if exposed to water for too long. Laminates are easy to scratch, so furniture that will be used on this flooring should have felt pads attached to the feet. Dirt can also scratch the floor, so it should be swept and cleaned regularly.

Vinyl Floors

For many homeowners, vinyl flooring is the most practical. Made from synthetic materials, it’s typically less expensive than hardwood or tile, and high-quality vinyl is very durable. This type of flooring is also easy to install; it often comes in self-adhesive sheets that simply require a backing paper to be peeled off and the sheet pressed to the underflooring.

Cleaning a vinyl kitchen floor is also usually very easy. Spills can simply be wiped up, and the flooring is designed to reduce the chance of staining as long as it is quickly cleaned. Most floors can be mopped with just water or a no-rinse floor cleaner. Sweeping the floor regularly can help keep dirt and other coarse particles from working their way into any patterns or crevices, or scratching the vinyl.

Vinyl flooring is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Sheets or squares can be made to look like wood or stone without the expense and other drawbacks of those materials. Vinyl is also relatively soft, so it doesn’t cause the same stress on the back and legs that tile can. This means that items dropped on the floor are also less likely to break, making it a good choice for families with children and pets.

An inexpensive vinyl floor may peel or curl at the edges of the sheets or squares, however, making the flooring uneven and unattractive. In some cases, the colors or designs are only printed on the top of the flooring material; over time, this layer can be worn down, leaving dull and mismatched spots. Vinyl can also suffer from cuts pretty easily, and wearing shoes with pointed heels may also cause dents.

Linoleum Floors

For decades, linoleum has been considered the best choice for kitchen floors. It is made from natural materials like felt or canvas, linseed oil, and wood resins, which have made it popular as a more environmentally friendly choice than options like vinyl. Linoleum shares many of the same benefits as vinyl: it’s stain resistant, durable, relatively inexpensive, and comes in a range of designs.

Linoleum is often associated with the 1950s, however, and may not fit in well with a very modern home. As such, it does not add as much to the value of a home as hardwood or stone flooring can. It’s also a little more expensive than vinyl, and does not always come in as many color or pattern options.

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One of the big disadvantages of linoleum is in its installation. Any unevenness in the subflooring under the kitchen floor will be visible on the surface, so this material should only be used on a kitchen floor that’s perfectly flat. It most often is sold in long sheets, so any damage to the floor means that the entire sheet must be replaced. Most experts recommend that linoleum be installed by a professional to make sure it fits correctly, is smooth, and is sealed to prevent water from getting under the flooring.

Although the surface is water resistant, any moisture that gets underneath the linoleum will cause serious damage. Chemical cleaners should not be used on a linoleum floor, so it may be more difficult to clean than other materials. Because of the linseed oil used in making linoleum, this flooring can also have a slight odor that some people may not like.

Choosing the Best Flooring

Ultimately, each type of kitchen floor material has its pros and cons. Which one is best for your kitchen depends on how you use the room: if you don’t do a lot of cooking or if the kitchen is more a place to entertain adult guests, then how the floor looks may be more important than whether it’s comfortable to stand on for several hours. That same beautiful floor may not stand up to the spills and wear of a family with kids and pets, however.

Keep the rest of the flooring in your house in mind as well when choosing a kitchen floor. If the flooring changes abruptly from one room to the next, it can look strange. Many people choose the same flooring for the kitchen, breakfast or dining room, and foyer, especially if these areas are close together; keeping the flooring throughout consistent different areas of the house can improve the flow and look of the rooms.

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