Selecting the Right Kitchen Flooring Material
When it comes to kitchens, most homeowners want a flooring material that will stand up to water, scratching, and the general wear and tear of this busy space. Knowing the pros and cons of each type of flooring material can help homeowners make informed decisions about the best kind of floor covering for their kitchen.
Durable Kitchen Flooring Options
Floor tile comes in several different forms, each offering a very durable and beautiful flooring choice for the kitchen. Ceramic or porcelain tiles are made of clay, and often glazed to make them decorative and colorful. Porcelain tile is very dense, and nearly impervious to moisture, creating a strong, long-lasting, and stain-resistant floor covering. It comes in hundreds of different options, from contemporary patterns to tiles that mimic stones of all types, including marble, slate, and limestone.
Ceramic tile is available in sizes ranging from 1”x1” mosaics to 24”x24” and beyond. The trend in floor tile today is larger sizes, rectangular shapes, and fabric textures. Tiles that look like leather, linen, or wood planks, and tiles that mimic wallpaper patterns have been especially popular over the past year.
In addition to ceramic and porcelain tiles, floor tiles are available in natural stone options. Slate is a popular choice for flooring, as its natural color and texture variations hide dirt and stains. Limestone, granite, and marble tiles can also be installed on the floor, and offer a wide variety of beautiful colors and patterns for the home. Like ceramic tile, stone tiles come in all sizes, ranging from tiny mosaic patterns to larger 24”x24” sizes.
Floor tile is not without its problems, however. Because tile is so hard, it is very unforgiving – both to dishes and to a homeowner’s legs and back. Most people like to use area rugs over their tile floors, as they can be cold, and difficult to stand on for long periods of time. The very thing that makes tile durable also causes trouble when a plate is dropped on the floor. Inevitably, the plate will shatter, and sometimes the floor tile will chip or break, as well.
Tile installations always include grout in the joints, which can stain and discolor over time. Stone tiles are porous and can stain. Therefore, homeowners need to be aware that slate, marble, granite, and limestone tiles must be sealed periodically to prevent staining.
Concrete is a relatively new floor covering option for the interior of a home. Although it is commonly found in garages and basements, it is now found in kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms. Concrete can be embedded with chips of glass, small pebbles, and even shells the homeowners picked on their last vacation. It can stain, however, and needs to be sealed periodically to prevent discoloration from dirt and grease.
Warm Flooring Choices
Hardwood flooring is another option for kitchen spaces. Although there is a little more maintenance to wood, it adds warmth to the room both visually and literally. Wood flooring is easier to stand on, as it is not as hard as floor tile, and it feels warm underfoot.
Wood is available in numerous species, stain colors, plank widths, sizes, types, and textures. From domestic cherry to exotic gum, there is sure to be a look for every home and personality. Wood can scratch, so homeowners do need to use care when maintaining their floor. Sweeping the floor regularly will minimize scratching, as will the addition of felt pads to furniture such as chairs and stools. Water should not be allowed to stand on a wood floor, as it will warp the planks over time.
Laminate flooring often looks like wood, but it is very different. Laminate consists of a photo representation of wood (or whatever pattern has been chosen, including stone and tile looks) with a plastic wear layer over the top and a fiberboard backing. This composition is much like the laminate countertops used in kitchens and bathrooms. Laminate floors cannot be refinished the way a wood floor can, but they are much less expensive than real hardwood. They can scratch, and if a board is damaged, it must be replaced, as it cannot be repaired. Laminate is relatively easy to maintain, as it does not require sealing.
Another nice flooring choice, and usually the most economical option, is vinyl flooring. Vinyl comes in sheets, usually 6 feet in width, and in tiles. Generally, the tiles are thicker than the sheet vinyl, offering a more durable surface. With looks that imitate slate, ceramic tile, wood planks, and even pebbles, vinyl is not the same product it was in the past. Vinyl feels warm underfoot, is forgiving on the legs and back, and is very easy to maintain.
Green Flooring Options
For environmentally-conscious homeowners, there are numerous green floor covering options appropriate for kitchen use. Cork flooring, for example, is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. Cork is an eco-friendly flooring option since the tree does not need to be destroyed in order to harvest the bark. It comes in tile or plank shapes and installs much like a wood floor. The maintenance is also similar to wood. Cork is very durable, soft, and resilient, making it easy to stand on for long periods of time.
Bamboo flooring is also considered a green flooring choice, as it is made from a quick-growing grass that is readily renewable. With the density of oak flooring, it is durable and beautiful. It has a look of its own but lacks the strong grain pattern found in some wood species. It is installed and maintained in the same way as a wood floor.
One past flooring choice that is making a comeback today is linoleum flooring. Available in sheets or tiles, linoleum is made from linseed oil, wood dust, and pine rosin. The colors range from colorful and vibrant to neutral and subdued, and most options have a marbled pattern. Linoleum does require a bit of maintenance, as it needs to be stripped and polished periodically. Like wood flooring, it can also discolor slightly with changes in exposure to sunlight; however, this discoloration is not permanent and can be reversed.
Each type of kitchen flooring has good qualities and bad. Homeowners who educate themselves about their options will be able to select the very best floor covering option for their lifestyle, family, and home.