Complete guide to buying kitchen floors
From limestone to linoleum, from concrete to cork, there are a host of flooring materials that can enhance the look of your kitchen. But before you set your heart on solid wood or ceramic backsplash, there are a few important points to consider.
“The flooring you choose should complement your kitchen, rather than be the focal point,” says Richard Robson of Paris Ceramics. ‘It should provide a platform for the rest of the room without requiring too much attention.’ The ideal flooring will help create a feeling of space and light, and if you have an open-plan living room then consistency is crucial, so make sure you choose a material that can go all the way through. Certain products may work in the kitchen, but won’t sit well in the living room, for example, and this could affect your overall decision.
“The key is finding a balance between beauty and durability,” says Tony Nicholas, managing director of Nicholas Anthony Kitchens. ‘Always talk to professionals, who will be able to advise you on how different floors will suit your lifestyle.
industrial style flooring
“Concrete adds a contemporary touch to a kitchen,” says Jonathan Reid of concrete surface design firm White & Reid. Colors range from charcoal to antique white, and it’s ideal for open-plan additions, where it can be fitted both inside and out. Concrete is fairly low maintenance once sealed, and one of its advantages is that it can be poured directly over the existing floor without anything needing to be underneath to level it. There are also lightweight versions that can be used on higher floors, but ask a structural engineer for advice.
The resin used in residential projects has a soft, flexible finish that is smooth, comfortable to walk on, hygienic, and also deadens sound. “A silk finish is best for kitchens,” advises John Wilson of Stratum UK resin flooring. “You can go for the gloss, which has a real wow factor, but it doesn’t have the hardness of marble or polished concrete. The glossy finish will eventually dull and will need maintenance to return it to its former glory.’ Remember, resin is a hand-applied system, so there may be minor flaws in the finish.
“Stone comes in such a variety of sizes, colors and textures that it can complement any kitchen style,” says Richard Robson of Paris Ceramics. Choose from rich browns to muted tones in greys, greens and yellows. Even the best quality limestone is porous, but the newer sealers are very effective, and once applied, the floor should be easy to maintain. “For a modern look, opt for oversized tiles with a matte finish,” says Jo O. ‘Grady in Stone Age. ‘The aged surfaces and random sizes, on the other hand, suit traditional kitchens.’
“Porcelain is so versatile and can be made to look like anything from limestone to concrete to even metallics and modern fabrics,” says Surface’s Cressida Johnstone. “It’s maintenance-free and pretty much bomb-proof, so it’s good if you have a dog or messy kids.” The newer ranges include a wood effect, which looks indistinguishable from the real thing.
With about 38 percent quartz, the quartz compound is part stone and part tile, and does not require sealing. One of the great advantages is that you can have a matching work surface in the same material. To add glamour, choose a metallic flecked compound – fabulous paired with stainless steel.
Primarily made from clay and other natural materials, ceramic tiles come in many different shapes, colors, and textures. They are less expensive than porcelain, but tend to be made with fewer straight edges and square corners. This means that the grout lines need to be thicker, resulting in a more grid-like finish. However, glazed Moroccan or Syrian tiles can still be beautiful.
Kitchen floor needs to know
Underfloor heating can be used with most modern floors.
Stone and concrete heat up and retain heat well. But some wood flooring, particularly extra wide planks, certain veneers, and some types of adhesives, can be sensitive to heat.
Most flooring is best installed by a professional.
Some need to be considered early in the kitchen design process, while others can be installed later. Ask the manufacturer in advance.
Even if your floor is sealed, you should clean up spills as soon as possible. And remember to use the products recommended by the manufacturer to make sure you don’t strip oils, lacquers or sealants.
Floors and Work Surfaces
Interior designer Clare Pascoe of Molten London gives us her tips for achieving the perfect combination of floor and work surface. But do you want to coordinate or contrast?
To coordinate, choose materials in the same finish (matte or gloss) and match colors as closely as possible. Choose a material that can be used for both countertops and flooring, or combine, say, a walnut floor with a rich brown stone or composite countertop.
Alternatively, contrast finishes in the same colour, or contrast color in the same finish, such as a dark matte floor with a pale matte composite countertop. You could even contrast the two, like a matte slate floor with a polished white granite countertop.
Keep in mind that kitchens are a long-term installation, make sure you don’t get tired of the finishes or colors you choose.
Wood, wood-style and other natural floors
Renewable and recyclable, boards can be a real asset when selling a home. However, solid wood can move and warp if used in a kitchen, as it is sensitive to moisture and heat. “Decide how inert you want the floor to be,” says John Davies of Plastik Architects. ‘Solid wood will change over time, so if you want your floor to stay the same, choose other materials.’ Wooden floors can be finished with a polyurethane lacquer or natural linseed oil, which hardens, seals and protects the wood. Most sealants will withstand many years of traffic before they need to be reapplied. Choose any gloss level, but keep in mind that high gloss tends to show marks. “Uniform boards give a modern look,” says Steve Maltby of Junckers. Knotted boards are more rustic.
Constructed from multiple layers, engineered wood typically has a softwood or plywood base and a wood or wood-effect top layer. “Water and wood are never a good match, but while solid wood can open up or warp, engineered boards have a central core that stops the upper and lower layers from moving,” explains Bill Worman at Element 7. Although engineered boards may feel less solid, they come in a variety of widths and finishes and are perfect for achieving a natural wood look.
Laminate flooring is made of synthetic materials combined with natural and recycled ingredients. It comes in various formats, colors and designs, including wood, stone and tile. And companies like Pergo have now introduced laminate with antimicrobial and antistatic properties, which are ideal for kitchens. It’s super durable, resistant to stains, wear, and fading, making it perfect for high-traffic areas. Prices vary wildly, but you get what you pay for: choosing a cheap laminate can result in boards that bounce and don’t fit well and will always be a false economy.
A far cry from the curly orange tiles of the 1970s, modern cork flooring is available in a wide range of colours, patterns and finishes. Resistant and naturally antibacterial, it is also ideal for people with allergies. “There are 40 million air cells in every cubic centimeter of cork,” says Paul Heatley of cork flooring company Wicanders, “which makes it very comfortable on the feet. It also has outstanding acoustic benefits.’ The cork is harvested without damaging the tree. In fact, removing the bark means the trees live longer.
With a higher fiber rating than any hardwood, bamboo is incredibly durable and less likely to split than other solid woods. Usually pre-treated by the manufacturer, it can be stained or left in its natural color and then sealed with a gloss or matte lacquer. Bamboo releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than trees and is a fast growing grass, so it can be harvested every 3-5 years, making it a very eco-friendly product.
Silky, warm and tactile, rubber flooring comes in a wide range of colors and textures. Architects say they use rubber because it’s so tough, yet feels soft underfoot. It really is as tough as old boots, says Julie Mellor at Dalsouple. If it doesn’t wear out in an airport, it won’t wear out in your kitchen either. Choose a smooth surface or low profile studs in a kitchen as they are easier to clean. Use products and polishes recommended by the manufacturer for the maintenance of the rubber floor, especially at the beginning, since it is softer when it is new.
Similar to the feel of rubber, the ingredients in linoleum, the main one being linseed oil, are all natural and sustainable. “Natural products like this have inherent benefits,” says Therese Magill of Forbo Flooring. “They are really sturdy, but at the same time tactile and warm to the touch, which makes them comfortable on the feet.” Linoleum is also hygienic: bacteria cannot live on it and it does not harbor dust mites, making it ideal for people with allergies.
Modern, high-quality vinyl is a world away from old-fashioned sheet vinyl. Exceptionally durable designs replicate the look and feel of any material, from natural materials like wood, limestone, slate and marble, to more contemporary finishes like zinc and glass. It can also be warmer and quieter underfoot than the real McCoy. “Vinyl flooring like Amtico is a good option if you don’t have time to maintain a delicate surface, but still want the look of a natural material,” advises Tony Nicholas of Nicholas Anthony Kitchens.