You needn't fear to tread on wood in your kitchen or bath. New sealants ensure many types of hardwood flooring can survive the rigors of cooking spills or shower drips as long as you diligently wipe up moisture.
Pictured here, left to right, are the three basic board and tile options available: strips, planks, and parquet.
Distressed floor products add the look of instant age and character. The textural knot holes and rasp marks of these vinyl planks mimic old barn wood. The vinyl material ensures easy care. Medium Barnwood BW-35 vinyl planks ($3.60 to $4 per square foot) are 6 x 36 inches.
A five-step process of distressing adds charm to these Southern yellow pine beveled planks made from engineered wood. Grand Vistas II planks in Fountain Hills Henna (about $13 per square foot) are 7 1/2 inches wide.
The surface of these laminate planks is embossed with realistic texture. The Historic Chestnut planks ($3.50 to $4 per square foot) have a no-glue aluminum locking system and an attached underlayment that muffles noise.
Wood counters offer warmth and durability with color and texture. Properly sealed with an oil-base product, wood is a suitable countertop surface for even the wettest parts of the kitchen.
Safely sealed with mineral oil, wood resists water, heat, and stains, yet it is safe for food contact -- regular oiling maintains the finish. Wood counters wipe clean with a wet rag; sanding fixes minor damage. At $65 to $100 per square foot and up, the cost is comparable to granite.
Rich, colorful species such as American cherry, mahogany, teak, walnut, and wenge make wood a coveted countertop surface for trend-forward kitchens.
Sources for custom wood and butcher-block countertops:
The beauty and durability of wood may inspire you to lavish the material on both cabinets and floors in your kitchen. For long-term harmony, be sure the two surfaces are visually compatible.
Kitchen designer Mickie Sweeney says people often assume that because "wood is wood," any kind of wood cabinetry and wood flooring will naturally look good together. Though some woods do make happy couples -- "Cherry works wonderfully with oak," Sweeney says, and hickory blends well with most other species -- other pairings just don't work. For example, she says, "I'd be hard-pressed to do an oak floor with maple cabinets." To head off an unhappy marriage of woods, consider this advice.
Maple A naturally light color and smooth, open grain lends maple a fresh, contemporary air. This wood accepts a variety of finishes.
Red Oak The pronounced, dense grain of this wood looks best on traditional cabinet styles. Midrange and golden finishes are most common.
Cherry Fluid grain and luminous color are hallmarks of cherry. Finishes range from light natural to deep red tones.
Birch Although somewhat irregular in color, fine-grain birch can be finished to affordably mimic other species.
Spotted Gum For fresh looks in wood, more manufacturers have begun to offer products milled from exotic hardwoods from other lands. These spotted gum planks ($6.30 to $6.75 per square foot) from Australia, for example, offer a change in pace from common maple or oak. The planks are 5 1/2 inches wide.
Here are two quick fixes for minor dents as well as cleaning tips for wood cabinets.
For shallow scratches on cabinets, many manufacturers offer putty sticks, felt-tip pens, or small cans of color coating for repairs. Follow instructions, and leave deep gouges to the experts.
Although not recommended for finished cabinets, heat and steam can help minimize dents in door trim and baseboards damaged when new appliances are delivered. First, remove the old finish. Wet the marred area and a clean white cotton cloth, which you should then wring out. Place the folded cloth over the dent, and iron on high. This should swell the dent. After the spot dries, sand and refinish the wood.
Any cleaning routine for wood should use water sparingly. Here are some helpful tips: