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Kitchen Flooring Options: How to Choose

The kitchen is one of the most heavily trafficked rooms in the house. So how do you pick the flooring that will best meet your needs and stand the test of time? We break down 7 Kitchen Flooring Options to help you decide with confidence.

budgeting for a kitchen remodel: flooring

Whether you’re looking for natural materials, something extra-durable, or sustainability is most important, there’s a kitchen flooring option for you. Let’s start with one of the most popular choices…

Hardwoods

Hardwood floors, or solid wood flooring as it’s also called, can be made from a variety of different types of natural wood. Among the hardest is Hickory, Oak varieties fall in the middle, with American Cherry being softer, which can show dents and scratches more than the others. Black walnut is also a popular option, but on the softer side as well.

Hardwood planks are typically 3/4″ thick and usually installed by nailing them down. While solid hardwood is available in both pre-finished and unfinished boards, for the best durability, it’s recommended that you get prefinished floors from the manufacturer. The finishes usually come in a wide range of colors, but the planksoften don’t exceed 4″ in width.

kitchen flooring options: hardwood floors
Oak flooring / photo credit

When it comes to maintenance, they’re easy to clean and if they do become damaged or severely scratched, they can be fairly easily refinished. However, humid or damp conditions can lead to warping over time. This is especially true if the floors are installed against concrete slabs, as humidity traveling through concrete can cause solid hardwood to distort.

The look and feel of real hardwoods do come at a price. They typically average in the $10-$15 per square foot range.

Price: $$$

Durability: Hickory is hardest; Walnut and Cherry are softest; Oak is in between

Engineered Hardwoods

If you like the look of natural hardwoods, but need something a bit more budget-friendly, engineered hardwoods may be the kitchen flooring option that’s right for you.

Engineered hardwoods feature a real wood layer on top, then layers of plywood below. The plywood acts as a buffer from hot or cool temperature changes to protect the wood above from damage and warping. This makes them a better choice than hardwoods if installed against a concrete subfloor. They can be installed by nailing them down, by gluing down, or as floating floors.

engineered hardwood
Engineered birch / photo credit

They’re less expensive than natural hardwoods, coming in on average at around $4-$7 per square foot. And they work great if you prefer larger plank widths. While they come in thicknesses as small as 3/8″, for best results, a thickness of at 1/2″ is recommended. They also come in a variety of colors.

While they are more durable than natural hardwood floors, they can be more difficult to repair; most types can be sanded and refinished only one time, as the top hardwood layer is relatively thin.

Price: $$

Durability: High

Laminate flooring

Laminate is a popular choice for flooring that has the look of wood, but without the sometimes high price tag.

Laminate flooring consists of a base layer of fiberboard covered with another layer that is designed to appear like wood. A clear protective layer covers the upper layer, which helps prevent scratching and stains. The boards themselves usually don’t exceed a thickness of 1/2″ and are installed by locking edges that snap together; no nailing or glue required. This makes them an attractive choice for DIYers.

kitchen flooring options: laminate

While they’re fairly durable and water-resistant, they can become gouged if heavy objects are dropped on them, and water can cause them to swell if it gets between the planks. As for longevity, they typically only last about ten years and cannot be refinished.

Laminate comes in a variety of style options and costs on average between $1-$3 per square foot.

Price: $

Durability: Medium

Luxury Vinyl Plank

Luxury vinyl plan, or LVP, is another hardwood alternative that won’t break the bank. It’s a synthetic product that’s much thicker than traditional rolled vinyl, making it semi rigid. The thick core layer is printed over with natural-looking finishes.

It comes in a range of style options to mimic different types of wood, from oak to maple to walnut — and also comes in styles that look like natural stone like marble or granite. It’s installed by snapping the vinyl planks together.

kitchen flooring options: luxury vinyl plank
photo credit

LVP is a popular choice these days due to its design flexibility. It can be made to closely match real wood grain and stone surfaces, and it even can include a distressed look with dings or scratches to appear more “worn-in.”

It’s among also among the most durable kitchen flooring options, with good water and stain resistance. That makes it a great option for heavy use and for households with pets.

As for cost, it averages about $3 per square foot.

Price: $

Durability: High

Linoleum (Marmoleum)

Ok, I know what you may be thinking, but the linoleum of today is different from the drab colors or wacky patterns of yesteryear. With brighter tones and more contemporary styles, linoleum is making a comeback, and it may just be the right kitchen flooring option for you.

Linoleum is an eco-friendly product, made with linseed oil. One of the most popular manufacturers is Marmoleum, which stands for “marbelized linoleum.” It includes more than 100 color options and you can even create customized designs.

marmoleum
photo credit

As for installation, it can be rolled out in sheets or laid down as planks, both using adhesives. Or you can use click-into-place tiles. When it comes to durability, Marmoleum can scratch fairly easily, so consider adding pads underneath chairs or tables that rest on it. It is also not fully waterproof, so liquids should be cleaned up as soon as possible.

Despite the wear issues it can last in excess of 25 years, but it’s also a bit pricier than some other materials. On average, Marmoleum will run you about $7 per square foot.

Price: $$

Durability: Low-to-medium

Cork

Another environmentally-friendly kitchen flooring option to consider is cork. It harvested from the cork oak tree and is a totally natural and easily replenishable material. Cork flooring is made with ground up, compressed pieces that are combined with resins and shaped into sheets. 

While cork is a sustainable choice, it is not as durable as some other options. It can be susceptible to water damage, so spills should be cleaned up promptly to prevent staining. And it should be sealed regularly. It can also be damaged via scuffing, pets, or heavy furniture. However, you can refinish its surface when necessary by sanding it down and then applying a new finish sealer.

cork flooring
photo credit

Traditional cork tiles that are installed by gluing them down. Newer laminated cork planks usually feature locking edges for a floating floor installation. Both are fairly easy jobs and good for DIYers.

In addition to being a green option, cork’s soft, bouncy feel not only helps insulate your floors and create warmth in your space, it also can help dampen sounds and it’s fairly easy to install. As for cost, it is a midrange kitchen flooring option, averaging about $6 per square foot.

Price: $$

Durability: Low-to-medium

Bamboo

If using a renewable resource is important to you, but you’re looking for something more durable than cork, you may consider bamboo. It’s made from the fibers of the bamboo grass plant, which regrows after harvesting. It’s greater durability over cork means that it is more resistant to scratches and dents, but heavy humidity exposure can cause it to crack.

kitchen flooring options: bamboo flooring

Bamboo flooring comes in 3 main varieties:

Stranded: Bamboo stalks are shredded into small strands, compressed into sheets, then cut into planks. It can be installed as nailed down tongue-and-groove planks or as a floating floor. It’s available in several color options.

Horizontal: Thin strips of bamboo strands are glued together to form planks, creating a visible “grain” in the flooring. It’s less durable than stranded bamboo, but it can be more visually appealing.

Engineered: A thin layer of bamboo is bonded onto a plywood or MDF core. It’s comparable to an engineered hardwood and is the least expensive option. But it’s also the least durable and cannot be refinished.

But what you can gain in strength over cork you may lose in comfort. Bamboo doesn’t have the soft underfoot feel, warmth, or sound insulation that comes with cork. Average cost: $4 per square foot.

Price: $

Durability: Medium

Related Links

For more information and inspiration for your next kitchen remodel, check out the links below:

Are you thinking about doing a kitchen remodel and aren’t sure where to start? We’re happy to discuss your project. Simply schedule a conversation with us!