Tell me about kitchen flooring materials

We are about to pull the trigger on redoing the kitchen floor; the people who flipped our condo building in 2003 — well, let’s just say they didn’t use the finest of materials. We have a guy lined up to do the project for us, and he’s coming tomorrow to take a look and measure, and then we’re just waiting for him to be available (I think within the next few weeks).

Right now we have hardwood floors throughout the whole house, except the bathrooms and a bit of back hallway. It is in fine shape everywhere except those portions of the kitchen near the sink, fridge, etc., where it is completely beaten to hell. I never wanted wood floors in the kitchen anyway, but wasn’t going to spend money on it until there was a need, and now there’s a need.

So I love the look of various kinds of natural stone (slate, travertine, etc.), but am a bit apprehensive about the maintenance. So I guess the other main options would be ceramic and/or porcelain tiles, something not polished and with some texture so it’s not so slippery when wet.

Also, if we planned to live here forever, it would be one thing, but we’re thinking of selling in the next couple of years to buy a single-family house. So I don’t want to buy anything crazy expensive, but OTOH I don’t want the absolute cheapest thing just because it’s the absolute cheapest thing. (And I found a local flooring place where one can buy stone tiles at comparable prices to ceramic or porcelain tiles.)

Thoughts? Experiences? Many have mentioned that tile is hard on the back and knees, cold, etc. but I’m not particularly concerned about those issues as I have a gimpy ankle, so I have to wear cushy and supportive footwear in the house anyway.

For the kitchen, I’d go with tile for ease of cleaning. Have heard good things about cork, though- which we will try for hubby’s office and kitchen. (Both rooms currently have concrete floor.)

But what material for tile? Ceramic? Slate? Travertine? Porcelain?

What is the look you are going for? Modern? Traditional? European? That’s going to influence what type of tile you use.

Is there a “natural break point” in the kitchen so that the transition to hardwood doesn’t look odd?

What is the thickness of your hardwood? Standard is 3/4", but older systems might be thinner. You want to make sure your tile is not too thick as that you have a mismatch in height.

In any event, I’d go for larger tiles to minimize grout lines. Depending on the size of your kitchen, 12 x 24 might be good.

If you’re thinking tile, take a look at Congoleum Duraceramic. You can do it with or without grout. It’s less expensive than ceramic, is easy to clean, and is supposed to be durable. It looks pretty good to my eye - almost like ceramic, and much better than the vinyl I’ve seen.

We have it in our downstairs bathroom, and our (grizzled and cantankerous) flooring guy was really impressed with the quality of it for the price we paid.

Former remodel designer here. For the situation you describe I strongly suggest a middle grade porcelain. Maybe Italian. You really can’t tell it from stone and it wears like iron. Also, it’s not porous so it resists staining unlike real stone. Cork is beautiful in looks in feel but, imo, a bad choose for the kitchen.

I’ll worry about the look once I figure out the material. We have what I guess is a “transitional” sort of kitchen; not super-traditional, not super-modern. Light cherry cabinets, not very ornate, black granite countertops. I’m mostly worried about function, which is the part I can’t see with my own eyes, and there are lots of design options once I figure out the material.

Not really - the whole kitchen/living/dining area is one open space. That’s why I wanted something that won’t look too jarring, color-wise. And it’s why we’re replacing the kitchen floor instead of just refinishing it; I couldn’t figure out a way to refinish just the kitchen floor and not have it look different that the rest of the unit, and I wasn’t about to have all the floors refinished! The rest of them look fine; just the kitchen is banged up.

No idea. I’ll leave that issue up to our friend who is going to do the work.

The kitchen is pretty big; about 15’ x 20’. We cook a lot.

We have porcelain ceramic tiles 12 by 12" that look like stone. Also did under floor hot water heating. Checking the company’s line they have a look that can go with any style.

Plus is it is very durable and nothing to maintain.

Downside is no bounce: drop a glass and it will shatter.

Ceramic is the way to go, then. Any natural material is going to need maintenance-- sealing every year or so. Slate is in right now, but I think that has “fad” written all over it. It’s also a pretty dark material.

I think even Home Depot has some pretty nice ceramic tiles these days-- some with a little texture to them.

Be aware that tile is going to be considerably more expensive to instal than hardwood. If you’re just doing the kitchen, that might be too bad.

Be sure to pick out some tiles that are no more than 3/8" thick (that’s pretty standard), and be sure your tile guy puts down backer board before tiling. It’ll probably just 1/4" board so he or she can make the tile level with the hardwood.

Stay away from big box stores for flooring!

There are three grades of tile:

Wall - breaks, chips, shatters if looked at.
Counter - these have the funny edge pieces. If those are not available, it is probably a wall tile.
Floor - intended to have hard things dropped on it.

The big box stores have crap tile (and laminate and vinyl and…) which they sell as “floor tile”.

Pay now or pay later - cheap tile is a poster child of that expression.

I have installed one travertine tile shower floor. It is very porous and needs to be completely sealed with grout worked into the pores (you can buy it already grouted). I guess people like it because it is not slippery, but I would worry about the maintenance for a kitchen application.


:: bump ::

So our flooring guy says that if he installs tile on top of the existing hardwood floor, it would mean that the new floor would be around 1" higher than it is now, which would mean that he might have to shave down a couple of doors (which I’m not terribly concerned about - the front door that leads to the front vestibule, and the door that leads to the deck off the kitchen). He says he talked to his friend who he was thinking of tapping to do the demolition and subfloor, and his friend says it’s not a good idea to rip up the existing floor because you don’t know what’s under there, and because there is some risk of damage to the existing cabinets, etc. (which does concerns me).

What concerns me more are a) the kitchen floor would then be about 1" higher than the rooms/hallways that lead off of it (the living room, main hallway back to the bathroom and bedrooms, and the den); and b) we would have to move the stove, which isn’t a huge deal in itself, but which would then be 1" higher than the surrounding countertop when it was moved back onto the new flooring.

I’m somewhat concerned that it would look weird, and that it would be a safety/tripping issue to have the kitchen 1" higher up than the rest of the house.

I’m now wondering whether it would potentially make more sense just to refinish the kitchen floor, even if the color match isn’t exact with the rest of the apartment, and save the tile floor for when we buy a house that needs the kitchen gutted?

Thoughts? Who has handled this issue before, and how did you deal with it? And were you happy with the results? I imagine sanding and refinishing would be, overall, less disruptive than ripping up the floor, but my asthmatic self is somewhat concerned about the dust. Though I guess we could stay somewhere else for a couple of days…

In a totally different direction, I have Marmoleum (linoleum - the kind made from jute, not plastic). I think it looks good, it works well in a kitchen, it’s easy to clean, it’s supposed to wear well, and it hides sins. I recommend it.
It might not fit well into your aesthetic, though.

We’ve refinished hardwood floors a few times. I did it myself the first two times, but decided the end result wasn’t good enough, and had a professional do it after that. The dust, and the poly & stain smells were issues for me, but only for a couple of days. We kept windows open and I was just able to avoid the room and I was okay. I have chemical sensitivity, but not asthma. For our recent remodels, I’ve taken to closing off the doorways with plastic and a bedsheet, and it really cuts down on the dust travelling through the house.

Do I understand correctly that the current top layer of flooring is hardwood? Aesthetically, I’d opt for refinishing hardwood every time, myself. As long as the floor was salvageable, that is. Even with different ages and stains between rooms, the look is just really nice.

I find it a little dubious that a layer of tile would add anywhere near a full inch. I’m no expert, though, and maybe I’m misunderstanding the situation. I guess some of the stone options get thicker than anything I’ve worked with.

All of our rooms on the first floor are at least 1/2", some just over 1", off from one another (old house with lots of remodeling and additions over the decades before us). Every threshold has a bar of some kind or another to accommodate the transition. I could see it being perhaps a thing for toddlers, but we don’t even notice and never trip.

I have large white tiles in my kitchen, and i hate them. They are easy to maintain, but the grout always looks dirty, one tile cracked (before we bought the house) because the underfloor has some “give” and the tile doesn’t, it is hard underfoot, and everything anyone has ever dropped in that floor has broken. We had little kids. I can’t tell you how many plates, bowls, and glasses we lost, nor how much time I’ve spent looking for sharp shards so they won’t be underfoot.

I grew up with vinyl, which i liked. Wood is a nuisance in a kitchen, since it scratches and is hard to clean. But seeing as that’s what you have, have you considered just refinishing and getting some area rugs for the highest-wear places?

As for dust… I’ve never had a problem with dust when a wooden floor was refinished, but the finish smells terrible and is probably bad for you. Doing it when you can leave the windows open, and staying away for a week would be ideal.

  1. What sort of wood is in the kitchen? Many used maple which stands up better to kitchen use than oak.

  2. Is it possible to have the flooring people create a decorative contrasting border between the kitchen and the rest of the wood?

  3. Rugs in a kitchen are a very bad idea. Trip carrying something hot and that’s disaster. OTOH painted canvas floor mats stay in place better, are not as much of a tripping hazard, are easy to clean and maintain, and be custom made however you want. We have one under our dining room table, finally showing wear with chairs scraping across it for years and years.

We were told that in order to install tile on top of hardwood, it is wise to install a layer of another material, the name of which escapes me at the moment, to avoid the kind of tile cracking, etc. that other people have mentioned. The tile itself is typically 3/8". I am going to have dinner with my friend the real estate agent (they have also flipped buildings) and see what she has to say. If nothing else, it’ll probably be significantly cheaper and less disruptive than ripping up the wood floor to install tile. But I haven’t ruled out anything yet.

:smack: I don’t know why that didn’t come to mind. I had forgotten the term, but John Mace’s post reminds me: backer board.

Re-skimming the thread, I realize now that you have an open floorplan. That would cause me to at least re-consider my strong preference for simply refinishing the wood, but Dseid’s suggestion about a decorative border might be very helpful, or maybe transition molding (like we have in our thresholds, but longer of course). And, come to think of it, tile or anything else would be an even greater difference in look from the rest of the flooring, so I’d be inclined to just refinish. I’d also only consider ripping up a wood floor as a desperate last resort. But that’s me.

One trick that we’ve been doing with our remodeling, especially for the kitchen we plan to do next spring, is to grab as many free estimates/bids as possible, and pick the brains of the professionals for recommendations. We’ve gotten a lot of great tips, and have been rather surprised at the wide variety of what different guys consider to be standard or typical. Some of the best solutions have come from the fifth or sixth person we talked to.

Another vote for a thick lino. Bluntly, you’re going to drop things and if they drop onto lino they’re less likely to bend or break. And, for when you drop a pot of food, lino is easy to clean.