Another major material decision for kitchen remodels is the flooring. Do you go with tile or hardwood? How about vinyl or linoleum? All of these choices are great options. The only flooring product you shouldn’t use in a kitchen is wall-to-wall carpet. Of course you can use a runner carpet or a kitchen mat, but skip the shag.
Hardwood is an ideal selection if the rest of your home already has hardwood throughout. Bringing it into the kitchen can give your home a more continuous flow. If installed properly, hardwood will hold up well over time.
If you are concerned about the hardwood warping or getting damaged from frequent water exposure, you shouldn’t worry too much. Yes, it can happen. However, it’s probably only going to be an issue if the floor is exposed to a good amount of water over a long period of time.
For example, if your dishwasher or sink develops a slow leak that you don’t discover for a few months, you will probably be required to remove a section of your hardwood and dry out the subfloor. If you spill a glass or bowl of water every now and then, it shouldn’t be a problem. In recent years, hardwood flooring in kitchens has had a resurgence, and it’s more common in higher end kitchens.
You have two primary options when it comes to hardwood floors. You either get a pre-finished product like a Bruce or Bellawood brand flooring, or you purchase it unfinished. Both options are available from suppliers, and they’ll both have a tongue and groove machined into them for installation. You don’t want to install a plain piece of hardwood that you buy from a hardware store. It MUST have the tongue and groove in it, or you will get terrible seams, horrific bucking, and stubbed toes galore. Buy the right stuff.
Pre-finished hardwood is available in a variety of stain colors, and comes in several coats of a polyurethane or enamel coating. The pre-finished boards will also have a small angle cut on the top most edge called a chamfer, so when you install it, there will be a slight groove between each board.
Unfinished hardwood floors won’t have that chamfer. They won’t have a stain, and they won’t have any polyurethane. They get installed the same way as the pre-finished stuff, but after installation they get sanded down, stained, and several coats of polyurethane are applied.
What’s the real difference between these two options? The pre-finished flooring is more expensive, but it’s available in a wide variety of widths, stains, and features. Once it’s installed, it can usually be sanded down, and refinished a couple times if need be.
Alternatively, the unfinished flooring is considerably cheaper, but it requires much more labor to complete. The fresh stain and polyurethane coatings will smell for several days or weeks. To add insult to injury, the polyurethane coating will probably wear out before the factory coating on the pre-finished floor. However, the unfinished floor will have a smoother finish since it won’t have the chamfers; some people prefer that look. The pre-finished flooring also gets criticized for it’s plastic appearance. Either option is acceptable; ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Tile is also a common pick for kitchen floors. Whether a natural product like slate or a man-made ceramic, tile is maintenance friendly and extremely durable. One of the few drawbacks is it can be cold to bare feet, and the grout lines can stain or discolor over time. You can avoid grout staining with common sense measures like not wearing shoes in the house, and cleaning it immediately after spills with a grout safe cleaning product.
Tile is waterproof, but grout is not, which is why you need to seal the grout after installation. Sealing it will prevent it from absorbing any liquids and will also help prevent staining. While tile is becoming less common in high-end kitchens, it’s still a great all-around choice.
Vinyl and Linoleum
Vinyl or linoleum are also fine options for kitchen floors. Although people commonly interchange the terminology, they are, in fact, different products. Vinyl flooring is made from vinyl. Linoleum is made from linseed oil and other natural products. If you are at all environmentally conscious, you may prefer to purchase linoleum, since it’s made from renewable ingredients, whereas vinyl requires petroleum in its manufacturing process.
Both are referred to as resilient flooring. They are both inexpensive, and can be purchased in a large sheet or in tiles. They are glued down to the plywood subfloor or to a thin piece of plywood called luan. These floors are designed to take a lot of traffic and abuse. They take spills well and can clean up fairly easily. You almost never see them in high-end kitchens, but if you are on a tight budget there are a plethora of attractive resilient flooring options that mimic the look of stone or ceramic tile.
As far as prices go, resilient flooring will be the lowest cost option at only a few bucks per square foot. Hardwood will vary depending upon the species, the width, and the customization. You can expect to pay anywhere from a couple bucks a square foot all the way up to ten dollars or more per square foot for very high-end or exotic options.
Tile price also varies, but you can expect the ceramic products to be significantly more affordable than their natural stone counterparts. The best thing to do is to get a measurement of the amount of flooring you’ll need in units of square-feet. Once you know how many square feet you need, you can simply multiple that number by the cost per square foot, which is how the pricing for all flooring products is typically displayed.
Keep in mind that you should add 10%-15% extra square footage to your total to account for waste or installation error. It’s also a good idea to keep a couple extra boards or tiles around as spare parts just in case some get damaged down the road.