Although wood is a simple, classic flooring material, today's choices of finishes and wood types can be overwhelming. Use our advice to select the best look for your kitchen.
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.
Choose flooring strips with square edges. These create tight seams that block out debris; a floor with beveled-edge strips will collect food and dirt.
In general, wipe up spills immediately to prevent stains. Follow the flooring manufacturer's cleaning guidelines. To protect floors from wear and sand and grit damage, place rugs at outside entrances and in front of the appliances and sinks. And use protective tips and pads under furniture.
This varies depending on species, finish, and thickness. Plan on paying about $11 or more per square foot for an installed oak-strip floor.
Unless you want a monochromatic look, the floor and the cabinets should have contrasting looks. For instance, if you choose a dark floor, you may want cabinets painted a pale color or made from a light wood. Remember that the floor you choose may look different at home than in a showroom. The amount of light in your kitchen will make floors appear lighter or darker.
Wood floors work especially well for open plans, melding the kitchen into a family room or dining space.