Floored by Options: Different Options For Flooring

From vinyl to cork, more kitchen choices are available than ever.

Your kitchen is the heart and soul of your home... make that sole. Yes, we’re talking flooring, and you have more choices than ever. Read on for the pros and cons of each option.

Tile Is Easy To Clean and Stylish
One of tile’s biggest advantages is it’s easy to keep clean—just sweep and mop. The hard surface also is more resistant to stains and bacteria soaking in.

“If chicken blood gets on the floor, it’s easy to wipe off and you know it’s gone,” says Jonathan White, manager of Mill-End Carpet Shop in Virginia Beach. “That’s why most commercial kitchens have tile.”

With tile, you also have a wide variety of design options from 24-by-24 inch, to 2-by-2 inch mosaic to irregular shapes, White says. Porcelain tile—as opposed to ceramic—is freeze resistant and works outside as well as inside, allowing you to flow a kitchen eating area right onto your deck. Porcelain tile also hides nicks better than ceramic tile, he says.

Tile’s strength is also its weakness. It’s hard. Especially if you have joint problems, you’re not going to enjoy standing on tile for hours as you cook, White says. Tile costs about $8–$11 a square foot, installed.

Wood Allows Living Areas To Flow
Hardwood is another popular kitchen choice, especially for those who want to flow their kitchen floor into the dining room, hallway or great room, White says. It’s a little easier on the knees than tile, but not much, he says. Wood is vulnerable to cupping and warping, especially around sinks, dishwashers and freezers where leaks can happen, White says.“When solid hardwood gets flooded, 99 times out of 100, it can not be saved. It has to be torn up and replaced. That’s a bigger endeavor than replacing tile.”

For those who want wood, White prefers prefinished wood because, he says, the finish holds up better. Hardwood costs about $8–$9 a square foot installed.

Cork Is Green, Easy On the Knees
Cork is White’s favorite kitchen flooring and what he has in his own kitchen. “Cork scares Americans,” he says. “When you say cork to an American, they think cork board. Cork is the most design-oriented, functional, most comfortable, most easy to take care of and one of the greenest floors you can put down. It’s made from the bark of a tree, harvested very few years by peeling off the bark like you shear a sheep.” Cork comes in a variety of finishes, as does hardwood, but cork is easy to install—just click it together like laminate.

Cork also is hypoallergenic, easy to clean and soft so it’s easy on the knees. “I cook a lot,” White says. “Having had back surgery, there’s nothing like a cork floor. I can stand for hours and do my food prep. I have a floor steamer I use instead of a mop. I steam the floor and I’m done.” Cork costs about $9 a square foot installed.

Not Your Grandparents’ Vinyl and Laminate
Vinyl has changed—today’s vinyl goes well beyond the cheap-looking, shiny vinyl of the 1960s. “The biggest reason most people don’t consider vinyl is it used to be … ugly,” White says. “Patterns were outdated. Now vinyl is an art.”

Flooring companies send teams of designers to take pictures of rock, slate, hardwood and tile. They use a technique called embossed in register to make the floor not only look like a more expensive floor—but feel like it too. “It’s frightening how realistic it is,” White says. “Now you have a floor that has the durability of hardwood, with the ease of installation of vinyl, relatively inexpensive compared to hardwood and tile, easy to keep clean, and softer and gentler for folks with joint pain.” You can get a top-end vinyl installed for $7–$8 a square foot, White says.

Laminate also has moved into the future. It doesn’t absorb potential stains quite as fast as hardwood, it’s tougher and, like laminate, it offers plenty of design options. “The biggest advantage to laminate over hardwood is you can set fire to it and wipe off the scorch mark,” White says. “If you have kids or dogs who are slobs, you don’t want hardwood.”

Although you can get laminate for .79 a square foot, that comes in the category of ‘you get what you pay for,’” White says. A more realistic price is $7–$8 a square foot.