Wood or Tile on the Kitchen floor?

I can’t tell you how many clients have asked me over the years if they should install a tile floor or wood floor in their new kitchen. It’s often followed by a heated debate between homeowners. I typically take a neutral position and outline the pros and cons of each and let them decide. In fact, about half of my projects involving kitchen renovations are split between both materials. Here ‘s my take on the question.

Paper or Plastic?

113-1315_IMGYou’ve heard that many times, (probably not the husbands, because they don’t grocery shop) but it’s a similar debate with kitchen flooring. If your keen on being “green” and don’t want to dissect a few more trees, your tendency might be towards a tile floor. But if you consider much of the hardwood that’s used in household flooring , other than the obvious exotics, comes from tree farms, then it’s less of an issue. This post isn’t to debate the merits of if wood or tile are considered “green” products, but to discuss the pros and cons of each material under your feet.

Kitchen is where it’s AT!

In today’s fast paced lifestyle with kids running in and out, off to soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, college, grade school, pets, and all that stuff, the kitchen is perhaps the most used space in the house. Just for kicks, take a day and keep track of the time you spend in your kitchen. It’s staggering when you really think about it. If this is where you spend most of your time together as a family in your household, what do you really want to put under your feet. That’s the $64,000 question.

Tile is King!

Not really, I think it’s a prince. Many people that are upgrading from a sheet vinyl floor tend to select tile for their new kitchen flooring. What’s so good 143-4365_IMGabout tile? Tile has positive attributes that can’t be ignored such as:

  • Durability
  • Relatively easy to maintain and repair
  • Resists staining
  • Resists water damage

The Con’s of tile are:

  • A cold surface to walk on, – socks, or bare feet
  • Hard on your feet
  • Can crack easily
  • Requires a strong floor and an extra tile backer subfloor layer. (remember never to install tile directly on one layer of ¾” plywood, you are asking for cracking)

Wood for everyone!

I know it’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you have hardwood throughout the house, it’s a much more natural choice. The benefits of wood flooring in the kitchen are:

  • It’s warm to the touch
  • It’s more forgiving and moves with the floor, so it’s far easier on the feet.
  • It doesn’t require an extra subfloor layer (can be critical in limited height and threshold situations)
  • It can match your existing flooring or compliment the cabinetry in unique ways.

The Con’s of a wood floor in the kitchen are:

  • Spills must be wiped up immediately or it will stain or cup the flooring (so pray your dishwasher or kids don’t make a liquid mess)
  • It damages easily (dropped pots, sliding chairs, dropped utensils, scraping shoes, etc)
  • Gaps can develop between the joints that collect all sorts of food stuffs.
  • Shows wear and tear much more quickly than tile.

Now, what’s your opinion?   Let me hear it so I can throw my two cents in.


9 Responses to “Wood or Tile on the Kitchen floor?”

  1. Chris Jones Says:

    My sister got her “dream” kitchen. They installed tile. Well, guess what? On the nephew’s graduation party one of the tiles cracked. I guess that the house shifted, and the floor moved under the weight of a HUGE football player.

    We put a wood/ laminate product in our kitchen and are quite pleased.

    We understand that there is much more maintenance.

    • Sounds like her dream was shattered, or cracked for that matter. The cracked new tile could be a result of many factors. Most flooring systems in homes are of wood joist construction. They will flex under live loads such as people. Tile is susceptible to cracking under these circumstances. Ceramic tile is much more likely to crack under normal floor loads because its inherently brittle. I always recommend choosing a porcelain tile for heavily trafficked areas because it’s stronger than ceramic. Even if it chips, it is typically color through and doesn’t show the damage as much.

      When installing tile on top of wood floors, especially in older homes, always install a cement tile backer board on top of the plywood sub-floor. This will help limit tile cracking and floor flex. Also, large (8″ or bigger) tiles are also more susceptible to cracking due to their surface area and wood flex below. People are in love with those huge tiles, but if the floor is bouncy, cracking will occur.

      As to laminate flooring such as the ever popular “Pergo”. Think of it as akin to walking on your old kitchen Formica counters. Sand, dirt, stones in shoes and normal wear and tear will scratch it, and it’s difficult to repair/ replace. That’s one of the drawbacks in a high traffic area. Tile, in the instance noted above, will be much easier to repair.

  2. Chris Jones Says:

    If you get one of the newer wood/ laminate products from Maine there are tricks to fix accidents.

    When something falls on the wood… Get a soft cloth and dowse it with water. Put it on the gouge and heft a HEAVY weight on it. The real wood on the top of the laminate will reshape itself to it original state.

    • Sounds like you’ve done your homework. It’s a tricky way to address an accident, but as in any product that is laminated, you have to be careful not to expose it to long term moisture or it will delaminate. I believe you could also use an iron to wick the moist water from the towel and bring up the woodgrain. Sometimes you just can’t repair a deep dent/ gouge, no matter what method you choose. Just keep in mind not to let the area get too saturated or you’ll end up causing some delamination of the surrounding wood product. Thanks for the comments

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  6. My wife and I are remodeling our kitchen at the moment, but we can’t decide on what flooring to use. I like that you mention how wood can match your existing floor or compliment the cabinetry. We have dark wood cabinets already, so getting matching floors would look really good I bet. Thanks for sharing!

    • Derek: Take a door off of your cabinets to the wood flooring store, and compare them side by side for the match you like the most. Best of luck. – Doug Shoop

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