When embarking on a kitchen renovation or whole new build, flooring is one of the most important decisions you'll face. But while there is an abundance of options, not every material will be equally suited to the kitchen's high-impact demands.
The kitchen floor must be able to withstand daily wear and tear, heavy foot traffic, dropped dishes and spills galore. But it also needs to look good and complement the style of your home. Here are a few of the most popular options.
“Timber flooring never goes out of style,” says renovation expert Belinda Westblade of Homemade Harmony. “This classic floor lends natural beauty and warmth to your kitchen, but spills need to be wiped up immediately, so moisture doesn't seep between the boards. Timber floors are also easily scratched but can be sanded and refinished.”
One thing to be aware of though, is that solid timber flooring can't be laid straight onto concrete because of the danger of moisture moving up from the concrete into the timber. They'll need layers of polyethylene and plywood to separate them, which will add an extra cost and can also raise the floor by 38mm. In a room renovation this has the potential to cause problems with doorways or transition points.
“There are some great new, timber-look laminates that are durable, scratch- and water-resistant,” says Belinda. “This makes it a great choice for families with children or pets.”
Laminate floors are formed from moisture-resistant layers around a core of high-density fibreboard. These extra layers of protection make it suitable for even the wettest rooms in the house and well able to withstand the odd kitchen spill.
“If laminate flooring has a weak point,” says Klaas, “it's the edges of the boards, which are not finished. To overcome this, when laying the laminate ensure that the seams between the boards are so tight that the floor almost becomes impervious to dirt and water. When sealed like this and properly maintained, your average laminate kitchen floor should last a very long time.”
“The advantage of engineered timber flooring is that it is more dimensionally stable than solid wood,” says building and construction consultant Klaas Tigchelaar. “This means it does not expand and shrink the way traditional timber flooring does and so can be laid directly over concrete without the same risks.”
These qualities make engineered flooring well suited to kitchens, being better able to withstand changing temperatures and humidity than solid timber. If your engineered timber floors do start looking scruffy, they can stand some sanding and recoating – look for a thicker timber top layer (4mm is good), which allows it to be refreshed. Laying engineered flooring is also an easier DIY project than solid timber flooring.
Incredibly durable and low-maintenance, vinyl flooring comes in a huge range of styles, mimicking the look of stone, concrete, timber and distressed timber. It also has great sound absorption qualities, is safer for children (read: softer falls), and is easy to clean. “Vinyl sheeting can be a completely impermeable kitchen floor covering,” says Klaas. “It's non-porous, cost-effective, hard-wearing, low-maintenance and it creates a safe working environment, as it's a non-slip surface. It is also easier on the feet than ceramic tiles.”
While vinyl sheeting installation is a job best left to the professionals, laying vinyl planks and tiles can be a straightforward DIY option, if you have a sound, clean and level floor.
“The great thing about tiles is that they can withstand heavy foot traffic, water and spills and don't absorb odours or bacteria,” says Belinda Westblade. “The downside is that standing on tiles for long periods can be tough on legs and backs.” They're also cold (unless you have underfloor heating) and unforgivingly hard – expect breakages if you're prone to butter fingers.
“Ceramic tiles can last forever under normal use, with their only weak point being the grout in between,” says Klaas Tigchelaar. However, there are products that can help seal grout lines, so set a date to apply this annually to keep your tiles and grout looking their best. Tiles are a relatively easy installation for confident DIYers, if you have an even, level surface.
Take a look at our wide range of flooring options and find the floor that's right for your home.
Photography credit: TI Media