Using (and Not Using) Wood Flooring in Kitchens

I’m still here — and still pregnant! :) The good news is after weeks of hanging out breech, baby girl has flipped finally, just under the wire! Thanks for all your tips and tricks in the comments of my last post. It’s a bit of a waiting game now, but we’re so excited for her…

I’m still here — and still pregnant! :) The good news is after weeks of hanging out breech, baby girl has flipped finally, just under the wire! Thanks for all your tips and tricks in the comments of my last post. It’s a bit of a waiting game now, but we’re so excited for her to come whenever she’s ready.

 photo e29dd46ed6db63c0c96417899cc217a7.jpg

I took on a couple of design jobs before the holidays to help keep me busy the last month of my pregnancy and while I’m home with a newborn. Both involve full gut-reno redesigns of the kitchens, which I’ve not done a ton of in the past. It’s been really a really fun challenge and so far, so good! The cabinets are designed and the counter tops and appliances ordered, but I’m a little stuck on flooring.

 photo 7edb2b4c4b138a9dc894d34eeefe1029.jpg

In both projects the home owners are feeling a little nervous about installing the same wood floors that we’re putting in the rest of their homes, in their kitchens.

I love the look of a warm wood floor against painted cabinets, so it’s hard to not push on this one, but I have to admit I feel some of the same apprehension as we’re getting closer to a big kitchen remodel of our own.

 photo ae813ae02324dfb67e09a0106836adc9.jpg

Both clients have considered wood-look tile, but we are having trouble finding a style that we like enough to use throughout the homes. We sort of feel like our two real options are wood everywhere or stone in the kitchen and utility spaces and wood in the rest of the house. Which means transitions…which can be tricky with more open floor plans…which both homes are.

 photo 94b16bc4b78172b32d846a0ae8f71f86.jpeg
(image from Domino. The slate flooring is in a bathroom and not a kitchen obviously, but the colors of the floors are almost spot-on for what we’re looking at in one of the houses and it’s helpful to see the transition.)
 photo be806fb1de271800b7210083497cf567.jpg

Our favorite stone options are limestone and slate, though we’re still open to pattern. Here are some of the images we’ve been looking at to help us get a sense of what stone or tile can look like in a kitchen space:

 photo 56ddf6e16fde388f33ce8317e5bccb7a.jpg
 photo cf0718856d14e1086c710addd48ef7b1.jpg
 photo 05493ab7b5982bc07fb7faefef2781db.jpg
 photo edf2e49ef0581c3c6cd3237968996a4a.jpg
 photo e220b90a3580bc6873c5d66b22462331.jpg
 photo e58f5e4bff4f5f35b5ff7a8a8b456c1a.jpg
 photo cfb7479c2bc3984f46e00c151da6feba.jpg
 photo bc5f197c0d4499c0190a5046a4c42336.jpg
 photo d591dab87d412be179250c0d1d6e7b1b.jpg
 photo b47e406a7445e8201ce836f315436d7c.jpg
image – another bathroom, but I like this color, size and pattern!
 photo 72d2e36ab9f404de0542e6d33819f71c.jpg
 photo 5483c15ca14d3fad95ac0d8be17a2a20.jpg
 photo 977120d5c7e5afc7b6827d2fa686c7b9.jpg
 photo 22350852b529041511f067aa4f1ee32c.jpg

It seems like it comes down to personal preference and comfort level in the end, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you had any nightmare disasters with wood floors in your kitchen? Or is there a stone that you’ve used and loved? Or maybe you have tips for making a more smooth transition between the two materials?

Join the Conversation

162 thoughts on “Using (and Not Using) Wood Flooring in Kitchens

  1. We installed light bamboo floors in our last house, we lived with them for 7 years before moving. The only problem was that we had a small rug that we kept in front of the sliding glass door that lead out to the backyard. The floors naturally yellowed from sunlight and age… Except for the perfect rectangle under the rug, it stayed the original color. It was fine as long as you didn't move the rug.

  2. I'm actually considering the same thing, except I'm considering the high end vinyl plank. My friend just built a home and she had Armstrong vinyl plank installed, it looks just like hardwood but is softer and so durable and waterproof!

  3. We continued our finish-on-site wood floors into our kitchen and I haven't regretted it for one second. Do people really get water all over the floor of their kitchens? We don't!

  4. I have lived in a house with wood kitchen floors and now in a house with tile floors. I hate hate hate the tile kitchen floors. They are difficult to keep clean, and the grout always looks dirty. The wood floors always were clean looking. Wiped up easily (they were sealed) they looked so much more rich and warm. I would love to replace the tile with wood but I'm afraid the cost will be too much. I have two young kids and the wood floors were never damaged. Even with food spills. And the only reason water would spill all over your floor would be a dishwasher flooding. Your tile would likely be ruined in that situation as well…

  5. Wow! We have tile throughout our downstairs and I love that it is cool during our Texas summers-about 9 months of the year. BUT horribly hard on my feet and legs if I stand in the kitchen.
    We have a little log cabin with ancient wood parquet floors and no problems there and much comfier to stand on. But also no ice maker or dishwasher there…probably why they have survived!
    Good luck with the baby. I'm throwing Ellery out there as a perfect baby girl name….just in case you need one.

  6. We just bought our home and gutted the kitchen and took down walls to make an open floor plan. They had tile previously but we decided to add oak to the kitchen to try to tie into the LR & DR. The results are not quite perfect – since we left everything natural the color is not exact, but the floor guys laid 3 rows of vertical pieces where everything met. It gives you the illusion of separation of functions, while still making everything feel like one great room. I bought an antique rug for the kitchen (after using your ebay tip!) and we have anti fatigue mats in front of the sink and stove. LOVE IT.

  7. Def. tile! I may be totally bias because my husband does own his own tile installation business, and I highly value his opinion. We went with a 'wood look' tile in our kitchen and laundry room(we will be tiling the bathroom soon with it also just a darker color). We have laminate elsewhere (I know not as awesome as wood) and we do have an open concept. I just made sure that the tile still had characteristics of tile so it wouldn't compete with the laminate, and went well with our multi colored laminate flooring. Here is a link if you want to see it. I love it and don't regret it.


    and a close up of the tile:


    Hope it helps! I don't have a pic of the transition but I'm very happy with how it turned out. We used a copper colored Schluter strip for our tile transition and then butted up the wood transition to it instead of covering it. And congrats on your baby turning!

  8. We had tile put in our new build kitchen and I HATE it. The grout gets dark and dirty so fast and takes hours and hours to try to scrub clean. I feel like it makes the whole floor look continuously dirty and disgusting. I've sealed it more than once and it doesn't do any good, still gets dirty fast. My parents have hard wood in their kitchen and I love it.

  9. We're having this same debate at our house! I actually love hardwood in the kitchen, but hardwoods in our new house are ruined by people coming in from the pool. You can see the wear straight to the fridge and breakfast nook. So, we have to go with something different unless we want to be refinishing them all the time. I do worry though about grout cleaning and just keeping tile clean looking in general with a dog. Hope you'll show these projects progress with us!

  10. In four different houses, we've had two with wood and two with tile in the kitchen and I have HATED the tile. It looked nice, but it killed my feet. The wood floors were SO much easier to clean, much more comfortable to stand and walk on, and made the whole house feel warm, as opposed to the cold tile. I would choose wood, hands down!

  11. We renovated our home last year and put the same wood floors throughout. We've had no problems with wood in the kitchen. We have young kids and are mindful to wipe up water spills but we love our floors. Much warmer and softer on your feet than tile!

  12. What about doing luxury vinyl plank flooring. Is is durable like tile, a little softer and can look like wood. My sister-in-law redid her flooring in this and it is beautiful.

  13. I love wood flooring in the kitchen but have had several problems. In one house, a malfunctioning dishwasher caused some damage – swelling of the engineered layers. In my current home, the 80 year old solid hardwood shows signs of previous fire damage, probably from a gas stove. I've had tile as well, where there was no transition strip and it was fine. The tile wasn't as awesome as what you're showing. If I were to design from scratch, I would choose either wood or tile depending on what worked best with the overall look – they both have their pros and cons.

  14. We have wood floors in our kitchen and through a good part of our first floor. We love them! I think they are easy on our feet and look so warm with our white cabinets. I look forward to refinishing them in the near future, but they have held up so well in our 20 year old house! If we ever move, I would definitely want hardwoods in the kitchen again. Good luck! I know whatever you end up choosing will be fabulous and with so much thought and love! Your clients are very lucky!!

  15. In our old house, our fridge had a slow leak in the back, which we were unaware of for days, and needless to say our wood floors were pretty busted. Fortunately most of it is under the fridge, but I kind of like tile or stone for this reason. While it is cold underfoot, rugs can soften it up.

  16. I an open floor plan with wood floors in my main areas and halls, and a slate/granite pattern in my kitchen. While the slate is beautiful, I find it really dysfunctional for a kitchen! It's so uneven, which makes it a nightmare to sweep and mop, and also if there are chairs or barstools, they often get caught on the edges of the slate when you try to move them. I am looking forward to the day when I can replace it, merely for reasons of functionality.

  17. I also have had both wood and tile in the kitchen, and wood is much better. I really can't stand our current tile and am waiting for the day we can afford ripping it out. Have you considered cork? The look is very different, but there are more and more colors and styles available (planks, tile, striated, traditional look). We put cork in the bedrooms of our previous house and LOVED it. We wished we'd put it in our kitchen as well. It's squishy, easy to clean, and looks interesting. I'm a fan of the traditional cork look, whereas my husband likes the look of wood much better, and we were able to find a style that suited both of us. Good luck!

  18. Tile is not the easiest on your feet and when you drop something it shatters into a gazillion pieces. If you are actually going to use the kitchen to cook and put it through its paces on a regular basis, wood or cork is the better option. If you just want it magazine ready and only order carryout and eat cereal then go for tile.

  19. We have wood laid throughout our house and therefore in the kitchen and bathrooms. We didnt want breaks in the visual. The key is the maintenance, namely the solution you mop with. The brand we were recommended is OSMO – they have a huge range for all kinds of flooring – Wash & Care. Its a gorgeously thick and silky liquid which you dilute with water and use with a regular mop (albeit you squeeze as much of the water out as you can). You can really see how it conditions and protects the floor like a good hair conditioner does. We've had our wooden floor in the kitchen 5 years now. We have 2 young kids and I do a lot of cooking! But the floor is still soft, sheeny and lovely!

  20. I did tile in our (last) open-concept house, and while it was nice to clean, I wished we had carried the wood through- I feel like a continuous floor makes the house feel so much bigger. I also feel like the grout got stained in the kitchen, even though we went with a dark color and sealed it. For continuity and cleanliness, I vote wood all the way:)

  21. We installed wood floors in our first house. It was a small house with a decent-sized kitchen that got constant use. I do a lot of cooking, and we had two small children in that house. After eight years, when we sold the house, the floors were totally trashed and needed to be refinished to sell the house. We keep things clean, but those floors got a huge amount of wear, and a decent amount of water damage by the sink and dishwasher. I'm trying to solve this problem in my current house – a very big kitchen with Marmoleum that doesn't match the cabinets or counters. Tile isn't ideal for all the reasons mentioned. I hate cork. I wish there was another option.

  22. We have old wood floors in our house and so far, I have no complaints" (been here a year) but we also have slate in a sunroom and although it looks great it is really hard to keep clean and it sucks up everything including odors. I was cursing it this evening!

  23. Jenny! Check out what this Canadian Designer, Sarah Keenleyside did! She created an "area rug" out of tile, with a border of wood that matches with the rest of the house: http://www.qanuk.ca
    (look under "kitchens")

  24. Modern woods are a lot more durable than older woods, because most of them are engineered. I understand the fear of wood in the kitchen, but as other commenters have attested, the fear is usually unfounded.

  25. I've had wood flooring in 2 kitchens for a total of 20 years. Both kitchens flow into the family room and I've loved the rich warmth of the wood and the continuity. It's no extra trouble. I've had spills and floods, and the usual family escapades, but there have been no problems. Previously, I had stone and tile, and they are TOO HARD! Things break too easily, and it's too hard on my back. Remember, the most beautiful yachts are all wood.

  26. I've had wood flooring in my kitchens for 18+ years. The first house was the pre-finished type of flooring with grooves between the boards. The finish started to come off in high traffic areas after 5 years or so. In my current home we have finished-in-place cherry floors. They are beautiful and get occasional nicks, but it doesn't bother me at all. I have four children and entertain a lot. The finish has not begun to wear at all. I do have tile in my mud room and the transition (through a door way) is not noticeable/distracting.

  27. We put solid wood in our whole main floor last fall… living, dining, kitchen, powder room, office and we LOVE it! Even with two kids there aren't really spills that can damage wood floors. And bonus they are warmer underfoot (especially in the winter) and give the home a very sophisticated but cozy feel.

  28. We have wood in our current kitchen for all of the same reasons that you mention, and we have had no reason to regret doing that vs.stone or tile. We love it. It is actually much easier on the feet than stone (ours is a floating floor over a slab, which means it has a cushion/vapor barrier.) It is also a lot warmer than tile, which is nice. In our previous kitchen we installed cork, which we also really loved and I would do that again too… :)

  29. I work in a design center for a Builder, and rarely do we have clients select tile in the Kitchens. Because all the floorplans are so open, we always use the same hardwood thru-out the Main floor (except utility areas). I personally have had both in two of my houses, and much prefer the warmth and texture of the hardwood. The tile was really tough to keep clean, and the grout kept staining over time. The tile was also harder on the feet than the hardwood is.

  30. Our house is 101 years old and we still have the original wood in our kitchen. So I would think that tells you something. :)

  31. We did a big kitchen reno two years ago and I put hardwood floors in my eat-in kitchen. They are stained in Minwax Special Walnut and literally show NO dirt at all. We have a church group of about 30 people that meet at our house once a week, and we have four large indoor dogs who sleep in the kitchen. Our kitchen gets a TON of traffic and the floors are still perfect. I clean them every other week with the Bona hardwood floor system. I would do hardwoods in the kitchen again in a second! One other thought, our floors have two coats of satin poly on them for extra protection. Spills just wipe right up!

  32. Our flat in Zurich had black slate floors and white cabinets. It was a clean look, but the floors showed every single crumb or thing on the floor. It only looked clean immediately after I swept and moped.

  33. I agonized over this. I ended up with quarter-sawn oak and used Rubio monocoat without a sealer. I didn't want this beautiful floor to look like a basketball court. The Rubio monocoat can be easily repaired without total redo. It has no VOC's. I put a rug by the sink and I keep a floor towel handy to quickly wipe up water spilled. Easy to clean. Easy on the back. Easy on the eyes.

  34. My parents had laminate installed din the kitchen and laundry areas. As you can guess they had issues with leaky appliance in both areas which has warped the floor. But that was laminated not wood or engineered hardwood.

    If you install real hardwood you'll have to make sure you have a humidifier so that's an extra cost if you don't have one (not sure if you lived in a humid area if you would still need one)

    I love the look of tile but I find it really hard on my back. We'll be renovating our kitchen soon and I'm going with a Luxury Vinyl Tile in a modern style (looks kind of like the bamboo striped ceramic tiles you see in dark grey, light grey, beige and white). The LVT will also go in the hall that connects the front and back door. I live in a climate that has a very wet and snowy winter so it'll be nice to walk from the front to the back and into the kitchen with groceries and kids etc without worrying about ruining the hardwood. Some people will turn their nose up at the idea of a non-tile/non-wood floor but they really are nice looking and practical to boot.

  35. I forgot to mention… to avoid having a really noticeable transition pick your hardwood, pick your tile and figure out the height difference between the two. Then you'll add a subfloor to the tiled area to make up the difference (Just remember to factor in some space for the mortar) and then you'll floors will be level.

    Here's the LVT tile that we'll be using http://www.centura.ca/commercial/dura-contract-denim/

    It's more of a commercial product and the condo I used to live in used it in their main stair landings which held up really well.

  36. If there's hardwood in the ajoining rooms use the same. I have original hardwoods from the 30's. Just had them refinished. I do get them wet from loading the dishwasher and sippy cups but they've held up great. I have four young children and feel like they're durable and low maintenance.

  37. I grew up in a house with wood floors. We just had a large, neutral woven rug in front of the sink and dishwasher which is shaken each week outside and occasionally washed in the machine. The floors have held up well and through both my sister, myself, and now my sister's daughter, plus pets. If you clean up spills in a timely manner there really isn't a lot to worry about. I'd look at it like marble counter tops- if you don't ignore spills then it really isn't a problem to have. There is definitely a stigma around it, but I wouldn't let that solely decide your choice. If you (or they) are okay with it and it fits the space, go for it!

  38. My parents just installed high-end vinyl wide-plank flooring in their open-concept kitchen and living room combo…and it looks PHENOMENAL. Pretty much indestructible and it looks just like this warm, barn-wood floor. Vinyl's got a bad rep (cheap-looking!), but it's getting waaaay better looking these days.

  39. I've had wood in my kitchen and loved it. No problems at all. I currently have cork tiles and love them too. Both are much more comfy and warm under foot than tile.

    Also, with tile you have GROUT, which gets gross on the floor of a kitchen. Cork tiles and wood floor (without grooves between planks!) are much easier to keep clean.

  40. As a designer, I would never spec wood in a kitchen unless my client was adamant about it, and then I would have them sign a disclaimer that they were aware of the possible issues that may occur beforehand. I also would still only do this if they were the type of client who was looking for a more worn style floor to start and is OK with patina/wearing – not the type who wants everything to look new all the time.
    Personally though, I have no issue with wood in kitchens and would happily do it in my own home with a certain kind of wood (rustic!) knowing that I don't expect surfaces to remain pristine. There are many things that can cause wood to have issues in the kitchen – moisture, leaks from a kitchen sink or broken water line to the fridge (one of the biggest culprits of home flooding!) dropping of heavy pots/pans, dragging out of appliances to clean…
    We've actually just moved to a home with (engineered) wood in the kitchen and though the floor is in good shape elsewhere, it is not faring well in the kitchen – there is some fairly large separation in the (otherwise shiny, very traditional) planks. I believe this would be worse with hardwood since engineered is more stable around moisture.
    So each to their own, but it's not something I typically would spec for a client – if they wanted a softer floor than tile and didn't want rugs, I'd use cork before wood. If you are replacing all the floors anyway, with a good installer transitions can be very smooth and not an issue at all.

  41. I have slate flooring in my kitchen and wood everywhere else – while the dark slate looks lovely, it is incredibly hard to keep clean and maintain. It's also very hard and cold underfoot. We (thankfully) installed underfloor heating so when it's heated, it's much nicer (but also a bit more expensive). If I had to do it again, I'd probably just use wood in the kitchen! Just my two cents ;) x

  42. My kitchens have had super soft wood Pine floors in my NYC loft, hand-hewn oak in AZ, even regular oak in my old VA house. I have loved it every time! I get foot problems and am always chilly. So the soft underfoot and the warmth that wood brings is beyond wonderful. I love love it and will never put in anyting but wood in my kitchens. Water problems such as a broken dishwasher would be a problem with tile or wood anyway. It cleans well and the look is timeless :) xoxo

  43. I've had both tile and wood floors before and much prefer wood. It's easier on the cook, and I like the continuity in open spaces. Best wishes with your newest arrival and a nice easy delivery!

  44. I too struggled with the same issue! In a desert climate we installed wood look tile throughout the house – see it here http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2014/08/finished-floors/ We love the way it flows. I also love the patterned tiles in kitchens, definitely a beautiful look! We have wood in our downstairs spaces in California and it will suffer water damage over time on outdoor thresholds, in the kitchens and baths so be aware of that! We're having to refinish ALL of our floors after 8 years so I'm having second thoughts about wood in kitchens in the future (although gorgeous) definitely more high maintenance.

© Jenny Komenda. All Rights Reserved.
Site by