What's the Best Wood for Your Kitchen Floor?

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 it 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 regular wear. So you may wonder: Does hardwood flooring belong in the kitchen? Sure—as long as you're willing to wipe up spills and stick to a maintenance routine. There are plenty of durable kitchen flooring options that you don't have to be afraid to use. Take a look below at our kitchen flooring options and see what's right for your family. 

Finish

Most of today's popular kitchen flooring 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 permeates the wood instead of just coating the surface. Acrylic-impregnated floors are more expensive, but are a more durable kitchen flooring option 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.

Sheen

Hardwood flooring finishes come in sheens from low-shine satin to high-gloss. Sheen is what gives your floor a reflective shine and will help bounce natural light around the room. Each sheen has its appropriate place in your home, but there's one style we recommend the most for kitchens. Satin-sheen finishes make the best flooring for kitchens because they hide dirt and food particles; the higher the sheen, the dirtier your floors may look. The lower luster also does a great job of hiding footprints or floor scratches that occur in high-traffic rooms. 

Species

Not every wood flooring material is the same. 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 rustic kitchen design ideas, 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.

Aside from durability, consider the color of the wood flooring you desire. Oak and maple are on the lighter end of the spectrum, followed by teak and cherry. Walnut or mahogany are good options for dark kitchen flooring.

Edges

Wood flooring is installed by laying interlocking planks. Those planks can be cut to various sizes and styles, and you can choose how you'd like the edges to be cut. A square edge ensures a smooth, almost undetectable seam from plank to plank. Other edges, such as a beveled edge or scraped edge might have a rustic look and mimic the feel of real wood. To get the best flooring for your kitchen, we suggest choosing flooring strips with square edges. These create tight seams that block out debris; a floor with beveled-edge strips will collect food and dirt.

Upkeep

You should be prepared to take good care of your hardwood flooring. 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—unprotected chairs sliding around will do some serious damage over the years. 

Cost

Cost varies depending on species, finish, and thickness. You will pay per square foot, so keep the size of your kitchen in mind while shopping. Soft woods, while not recommended for kitchen flooring, are on the lower end of the cost spectrum at  3–6 dollars per square foot. Exotic wood flooring looks very nice, but will set you back up to 14 dollars per square foot. You also may need to budget for hardwood floor installation if you're not doing it yourself. Many services charge 4–8 dollars per square foot, depending on the material. Plan on paying about 11 dollars or more per square foot for an installed oak-strip floor.

Complementing Other Wood Surfaces

Unless you want a monochromatic look, the floor and the cabinets should have contrasting looks. For instance, if you choose dark kitchen flooring options, 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.

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