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How to Choose the Right Kitchen Flooring

Zillow

You scoot chairs across them. Kids play on them. Family pets sprawl out on them. No doubt about it, kitchen floors take a beating. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before selecting a new floor for this all-important room.

John Petrie, president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and owner/designer of Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, PA, encourages homeowners to think about how they want their new floor to look and function.

“It’s also really important to think about where the kitchen is in relationship to the rest of the house,” he says. “If it’s right off the garage or pool and it’s where kids are going to land with muddy boots and wet towels, you need to take that into consideration.”

All kitchen floors should be durable and easy to clean, but some households are tougher on their floors on a more frequent basis. A family with a 5-pound shih tzu dog, for instance, won’t be as hard on a floor as one with a 150-pound bullmastiff. Similarly, the floors in a household with many active children will likely take more of a beating than those in a kitchen belonging to a single senior.

Tiles often come in multiple sizes. Source: Houlihan Lawrence. Photograph via Zillow

Tiles often come in multiple sizes. Source: Houlihan Lawrence. Photograph via Zillow

Certified kitchen designers, says Petrie, will work with homeowners to refine flooring choices.

“I always start by asking a client, ‘What do you want?’ Then we work through dozens of questions to determine whether we can make that material work for them or if there’s a good alternative,” he says. “I don’t tell clients they can’t have a particular flooring, but it’s my job to help them find products that work both in terms of function and style.”

As you begin your floor covering research, here are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to some of the most popular products.

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tile is a safe bet for nearly any style and budget. Options for color, size, shape and pattern are nearly limitless, so you can create the look that suits your tastes, whether you prefer country or contemporary.

Pros: Ceramic tile is an attractive, affordable, durable and easy-to-clean flooring choice.

Cons: It can be hard and unpleasant to stand on for long periods of time; cushioned mats can be used to offset that discomfort. Tile can crack as floors settle, and a glass dropped on it is almost sure to shatter. When wet, tile floors can be slippery. Also know that grout needs periodic sealing and special cleaning to keep stains at bay.

Cost: $3 to $8 per square foot, uninstalled.

Porcelain tile

Porcelain tile is a subtype of ceramic tile and comes in countless shapes, colors and styles.

Pros: Porcelain tile is created with color all the way through the tile, so damage is less likely to show. Manufacturers such as Emser, Marazzi and Anatolia are increasingly using new high-definition printing techniques to create tiles that are replications of materials such as hardwood and natural stone. “The tile goes through 15 or 16 screenings, and the results are so realistic that you really have to get close up to see if it’s wood, marble or tile,” says Petrie.

Cons: The tiles are even harder than ceramic, so standing on them for long periods of time can be uncomfortable. Grout requires periodic sealing and special cleaning to keep it looking fresh.

Cost: For basic porcelain tiles, expect to pay $2 to $4 per square foot, uninstalled. Specialty porcelain tiles generally cost $6 to $14 per square foot, with hand-painted tiles costing upward of $75 per piece.

Kitchen tiles can be treated to complement the cabinetry. Source: Scottsdale Real Estate. Photograph via Zillow

Kitchen tiles can be treated to complement the cabinetry. Source: Scottsdale Real Estate. Photograph via Zillow

Hardwood

Wood flooring has made a major comeback in both new and remodeled homes. From Petrie’s perspective, wood’s popularity has always been strong — especially oak, maple, cherry and mahogany.

Pros: Wood floors are comfortable underfoot and have a warm appearance that seamlessly blends the kitchen with adjacent living spaces. They’re considered a good investment, often increasing the value of a home.

Cons: Wood floors are susceptible to water damage and scratches. Floors can be finished with oil and wax, but this finish is less resilient in a kitchen setting and requires regular waxing. Wood flooring that is factory-pretreated is often a more durable choice for a kitchen. Wood floors in kitchens typically need to be resealed every five or six years.

Cost: $5 to $12 per square foot, uninstalled.

Laminate

Laminate flooring comes in a variety of styles imitating natural dark wood, light wood, bamboo or stone. Its affordability makes it attractive to many homeowners.

Pros: Laminate flooring can be installed directly over existing flooring, significantly reducing labor. The product is less expensive than hardwood or tile. Laminate flooring is less prone to scratches and marring than natural wood flooring.

Cons: Water exposure can cause laminate flooring to buckle or warp. Laminate cannot be refinished and has a significantly shorter lifespan than natural wood flooring or tile.

Cost: $1 to $6 per square foot, uninstalled.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring comes in either tiles or sheets. Available in a wide range of colors, designs and styles, vinyl is easy to cut. Vinyl sheets often require professional installation, but the tiles are a fairly easy do-it-yourself project.

Pros: Vinyl floors are durable, long-lasting and are often backed by warranties of 15 years or longer. Vinyl can be installed directly over the subfloor or over a previous vinyl or linoleum installation. These floors are easy to clean and offer the kind of cushioning desired by those who spend a lot of time standing.

Cons: Vinyl is manufactured using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and this causes the flooring material to emit volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the air, especially when the flooring is new. Drop a knife on your vinyl floor? Slide a chair across it? Be careful: Vinyl can easily be scratched or gouged.

Cost: $1 to $5 per square foot, uninstalled.

Concrete

Concrete floors provide low-maintenance cleanup in this kitchen by Balance Associates Architects. Photograph via Zillow

Concrete floors provide low-maintenance cleanup in this kitchen by Balance Associates Architects. Photograph via Zillow

Concrete can be a beautiful, low-maintenance and sustainable option for residential kitchens.

Pros: Concrete flooring is tough. While it’s possible to scratch or chip a concrete surface, you’d have to work pretty hard at it. A sealed and properly maintained concrete floor can last indefinitely. Concrete can be mixed and set to achieve an endless variety of color and textural effects.

Cons: Concrete floors are hard — if you drop a plate on one, it’s likely to break. They can also be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time. Concrete floors need to be sealed or waxed every three to nine months, depending upon the level of traffic.

Cost: Expect to pay $3 to $6 per square foot to polish a plain gray slab to an attractive sheen; more elaborate stains and scoring will cost anywhere from $5 to upward of $17 per square foot.

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Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.


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