More than any other surface in your home, the kitchen floor takes all -- spilled juice at the breakfast table, muddy paw prints from the pooch, even your children's spontaneous games of indoor hockey. That's why this high-traffic room needs a floor that can withstand ordinary wear. So you may wonder: Does a wood floor belong in the kitchen? Sure -- as long as you're willing to wipe up spills and stick to a maintenance routine.
Most of today's wood floor finishes are suitable for kitchens. Clear water-base finishes are often best because they retain the wood's color and can be easily touched up or re-coated. The strongest water-base finish is a factory-applied, acrylic-impregnated finish that penetrates the wood instead of just coating the surface. Acrylic-impregnated floors are more expensive, but are stronger and require less upkeep. Oil-base finishes often fade to an amber color over time, making future touch-ups difficult -- a disadvantage in a high-traffic room such as the kitchen.
Finishes come in sheens from low-shine satin to high-gloss. Satin-sheen finishes are best because they hide dirt and food particles.
Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and cherry, are the most durable. Softwoods, such as pine, will dent -- even if treated with a penetrating finish. For a rustic kitchen, however, a distressed pine floor may be just the look you desire. As you compare wood species, also consider the grain. Oak, for instance, features a pronounced grain pattern that hides dirt and dents better than woods with subtle grains.
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