Kitchen Flooring: A Town Topics Column

by Lasley Brahaney Architects

QWe need a new floor in our kitchen. We entertain a lot and have a very active family. What do you recommend?

AWhen choosing a kitchen floor, your top consideration should be quality. If you use your kitchen a great deal, don’t cut corners with flooring even if it means paying more than you anticipated. If you scrimp, you will regret it. Kitchen flooring that’s made well and installed properly will pay for itself over and over again. Did I mention quality?

When we ask our clients to share the features they look for in a kitchen floor, we hear some or all of the following requirements (but not necessarily in this order). The floor must be Resilient (R), easy to Maintain/clean (M), Comfortable (C), Beautiful (B), and Green (i.e., eco-friendly – not the color) (G).

Most floors have some of these traits, but finding flooring with all of them can be challenging. For this reason, you should consider the features most important to you and choose your flooring accordingly.

Let’s consider some popular kitchen flooring options and see how they stack up against our criteria. I’ll set aside “Beautiful (B)” because that tends to be subjective (go ahead and consider that one privately):

Hardwood (R/M/C/G) — Hardwood seems to go with any style, is relatively warm underfoot, easy on the back and legs, and a relatively quiet option. The maintenance and durability of a hardwood floor vary depending on the hardness of the wood species and its finish. Even though hardwood may scratch, it can always be sanded and refinished.

Linoleum (R/M/C/G) — Linoleum (brand name Marmoleum) is making a huge comeback in these days of heightened sensitivity to the environment. You may hear “linoleum” and have images of your elementary school cafeteria, but if you do some research, you’ll be amazed how far this product has come and how green it is. Made from linseed oil, rosins, wood flour, jute and ecologically responsible pigments, you’ll enjoy all the qualities we’ve discussed above while feeling good about making an eco-friendly choice.

Tile (stone, ceramic, quarry, or terra-cotta) (R/M/G) — The colors and patterns available in tile allow for an abundance of design options. It is extremely durable and will look good forever. Tile is generally easy to clean but grout can discolor over time (hint: the larger the tiles, the fewer the grout lines). On the flip side, tile can be cold underfoot and unforgiving on a cook’s back, legs and dropped china. The hardness of a tile floor can also make for a noisy room.

Vinyl (M/C) — Available in sheets or tiles, vinyl is popular because it comes in many styles, colors and patterns. It’s easy to clean and maintain, comfortable on the back and legs and is an affordable option (pssst…. don’t forget what I said about quality. If you do go with vinyl, choose the highest grade possible). A downside to vinyl is that it’s not a natural material; when it appears as something else (i.e., stone), it may look fake.

Some materials not as commonly used but still worth considering are concrete, laminate, bamboo, cork or even rubber.

Looking for the ideal kitchen floor can be challenging. Identifying the characteristics that are most important to you will make your choice easier – especially if you keep in mind that choosing the highest quality materials and installations will give you the most satisfaction