Currently, anything goes concerning kitchen floors. In the old days, there were basically two choices, tile and linoleum. Today, we see hardwood, linoleum, cork, laminate, and many different types and style of linoleum.
Let’s start by looking at what does NOT work well for most people’s kitchen floors.
Cork flooring is all the rage today, but it’s not a very good choice for kitchen floors in most cases. Although its surface is treated, it is just too porous, and if you have kids or a dog rummaging through the kitchen on a regular basis, forget about it. It is not durable. In other parts of the home cork flooring is very popular and it’s very easy to install. In most cases, snapping squares together is all that is involved.
Marble tiles are beautiful but still a better choice for bathrooms. Smooth / or polished marble is very brittle and not durable. Marble is a rock, but most people don’t realize how brittle it is, and at up to $15 per square foot it’s too expensive to replace if something happens. “Tumbled marble” looks great, but it’s far too porous for the kitchen. As you could actually spill coffee and wine on polished marble, it’s not a good idea for tumbled marble that does not clean up as well and can absorb stains. Breadcrumbs would find their way into every nook and cranny too.
Some types of hardwood; Be mindful of the seams between the hardwood planks. Wide seems and gaps will collect crumbs which may be cleaned via shop vac, but heaven forbid something sticky gets down in the cracks. If you are looking at hardwood for the kitchen, choose hardwood that goes together with the smallest seams possible.
What selections work best in the kitchen:
Laminate flooring used to get a bad rap, but it is highly improved today. Laminate, actually a “picture” of real wood, will fool quite a few people today, and the layman cannot distinguish between laminate and real hardwood. Laminate is absolutely our # 1 choice for large families and those with pets. Your kids can slop jelly bread on the floor, the dog can overturn it’s dish, and your husband can drip paint all over the floor and most laminates will laugh it off. Before you turn you nose up at laminate, go out there and see what’s available. You will be pleasantly surprised.
The old stand-by, tile. Most tiles are either ceramic or porcelain. “Porcelain” does not mean the tile looks like your smooth white toilet. It comes in all the shapes and sizes of any other tile. All you need to know is porcelain is much more durable that terra cotta or ceramic tile and will pass the bowling ball test. If you drop a bowling ball on ceramic tile, several will crack and need to be replaced, where porcelain will probably be just fine. You will find porcelain to be about 25% more expensive than most ceramic tiles though.
Tile cleans up very well with the exception of the grout lines. Grout lines are a stain and dirt magnet. Make sure you double seal your grout lines, and clean and reseal them every 2 or 3 years. Unlike your tile, your grout will eventually absorb stains. Clean grout lines will give the kitchen a very clean and polished feel while grungy grout can be a dark cloud over your kitchen.
We are putting hardwood in both categories because some will work in the kitchen. 3/4 inch hardwood, or engineered hardwood can work just fine in the kitchen if the seams are very tight and you don’t mind a few inevitable scratches and nicks. The final word on hardwood is its “hardness.” Most hardwoods are compared and ranked against “oak” or “red oak” as a measure of hardness. Make sure you buy a hardwood that is no softer than oak if you have an active family. For example, dog scratches will plague all but the hardest of hardwoods.
Finally, let’s look at linoleum flooring. OK, a top New York City interior designer still will not be caught dead using laminate, and it gets a bad rap. However, like laminate “hardwood” flooring, it is very much improved. Unlike laminate, linoleum won’t fool too many people, often designed to look like ceramic tile, but noting beat’s it in terms of cleanup and durability. If you are putting your money into a granite countertop and new appliances, a linoleum floor is just fine, and will last for many years with minimal effort. As the cheapest option, it will be there for you if your budget is squeezed.