How to Choose a New Kitchen Floor

Advice on selecting new flooring for your kitchen

By Jan Soults Walker

Kitchens are one of the most-used spaces in the house, drawing in loads of traffic that creates wear and tear on your flooring. Add in daily dollops of liquids and foods along with active kids and pets, and you understand why kitchen floors take a beating and need occasional replacement!

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It is no wonder that durability and easy maintenance top most lists of desirable kitchen flooring attributes. But, of course, you also want a great look at a reasonable price.

Architect and project manager Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects in Minneapolis weighs in on how to select the best flooring for you:

. "In choosing a kitchen floor there are a few key things to remember," Schwartze says. "Style—you might love the material, but does it compliment the cabinetry, counter, and backsplash? You want to pick something that enhances eye-level features and doesn't detract from them. If the flooring has a pattern, is there enough area to lay out the pattern?"

Comfort. How does the flooring feel underfoot? "Hopefully you won't have to slave over a hot stove all day, but standing on tile is harder than a wood floor," she says. "A strategically placed rug or runner at the sink or stove can mitigate discomfort. "

Homey Country/Rustic Kitchen
Jerry Locati

Safety. Look for nonslip surfaces because oil, water, and other liquids often end up on the floor. "Will the floor be slippery when wet?" Schwartze asks? Durability and maintenance. "A kitchen floor is the highest traffic area in the house and an area that will have to endure oily spills and stains," she says. "Can the floor take that, is it easily cleaned? And if need be, can it easily be refreshed with a good scrubbing?"

Transitions and continuity. "Be aware of what the flooring is in the surrounding areas," Schwartze advises. "Kitchens in today's homes are usually very open to other rooms, so this is a very important piece to consider. What flooring material abuts the kitchen floor? You want to create an aesthetically pleasing transition and in a remodel you want to avoid any level changes between rooms."

Our Best Kitchen Floor Ideas

Dramatic Contemporary Kitchen
Victoria Shaw

With those considerations in mind, take a look at some flooring options for your kitchen:

Tile. Both porcelain and ceramic tiles offer water- and stain-resistance as well as easy cleanability. The range of color and textures are nearly unlimited and augmented by the myriad patterns for laying tiles. The downside for tile in the kitchen is that it can be cold and uncomfortable for long hours of standing. And, if you drop glassware or other breakables, well, they're goners. Consider pairing tile flooring with a radiant heat system for toasty warmth during colder seasons. Expect to spend from $1-$20 per square foot (more for custom-made tiles) plus the cost of installation.

Natural stone. The gorgeous permanence and variations in color make limestone and its cousin, travertine, as well as slate, marble, granite, and other stones a popular option for kitchens. If you live in a warm climate, you'll appreciate the cool feel of stone under your feet. Porous stone requires sealing to prevent stains and plan on reapplying sealer at least once a year.

Go eco-friendly with recycled tile and stone.

Cozy Transitional Kitchen
TerraCotta Properties

Wood, Cork, Bamboo. Nothing warms the look of a kitchen like wood, cork, or bamboo flooring. Today's finishes make them more durable than ever before, and these materials are comfortable to stand on for long periods. Cork and bamboo are also prized for their earth-friendly sustainability, but many of today's wood flooring manufacturers also use sustainable practices. On any of these materials, wipe up spills right away and install felt pads beneath table and chair legs to prevent scratches. For the same reason, include walk-off mats at exterior entrances to capture sand and debris that can scratch the surface. Cork costs $2-$10 per square foot, uninstalled. Expect to pay $8-$14 per square foot for wood, installed. Bamboo ranges from $4-$6 per square foot, uninstalled.

. As a manufactured flooring material, laminate does an amazing job of mimicking the appearance of wood, stone, tile, and other materials at affordable prices (about $3-$10 per square foot, installed). A photograph of the natural material accounts for laminate's realistic look. Quality laminates feature a scratch-resistant protective layer over the photographic image, but it's not a scratchproof layer. Like wood, take steps to protect the surface. Resilient. Vinyl and linoleum both offer easy-to-clean comfort underfoot while bringing color and pattern to your kitchen. In sheet form, vinyl is water-resistant, but can be challenging to repair when punctured. Linoleum, which is manufactured using natural materials, is biodegradable and more durable than vinyl, but can also be punctured or scratched. Vinyl costs about $1-$7 per square foot, installed; linoleum sells for $3-$9 per square foot, installed.

More flooring ideas:

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