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Wood floors in the kitchen


Dave the Cook
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About 5-1/2 years ago, I replaced my kitchen floor (read about it here). The "new" floor has not held up well. Perhaps I didn't seal it properly, or the housekeeper was negligent. In any case, I'm going to replace it.

I've cooked in kitchens with all the common floor types except bamboo, and I've decided on wood. It's resilient, pretty, glass and china friendly, and won't look like it needs cleaning (even though it might) the day after I dry-mop.

Here's the thing, though: there's a lot to choose from, starting with the composition of the planks themselves. What advice and education can the membership offer?

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Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Main advice concerns finishing. Use the very best quality urethane (or whatever) finish available at any price. Better quality material absolutely translates into longer wear life. And I would very strongly suggest you go for a low-gloss finish - satin or something - since it won't show scuffs as quickly. You will eventually have to refinish the floor - we do it every 3 or 4 years but by that time it REALLY needs it. My floor is century-old pine, though, so it's quite soft and when the dog takes off at a run he leaves big claw marks. I will say, though, I love the look and feel of the wood floor and wouldn't want to have anything else.

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On an at-grade concrete slab floor your wood flooring options are limited: you can't use solid hardwood (which for an active kitchen would have been nice because it can be refinished many times). So you're looking at engineered hardwood (built like plywood), or laminate (basically particle board with a veneer, sometimes real wood, sometimes a photograph of the wood). In addition, for these floor types you generally have two installation options: glue-down or floating. In the floating sub-category you have two further options: click-lock or glued-together. Clear as mud?

The advantage of a high-quality engineered hardwood is that it's real wood, so it always looks like real wood. And since it's real wood, and that top layer is the actual hardwood you are looking at, it's usually possible to refinish at least once in the life of the floor (and perhaps two or three times, depending on how thick the top layer is and how careful your refinishing guys are). The advantage with laminate is that is is a much stronger, more durable, water-resistant floor, and while it can't be refinished, it's usually cheaper to replace a laminate floor than it is to refinish a wood floor anyway. Laminate is a very cost-effective choice, and is consistently recommended by Consumer Reports for high-traffic areas. The downside is that since it's not real wood, you have to be careful which kind you buy and how you install it, so that it doesn't look too fake (since it's, well... fake). So ultimately, aesthetics are going to play a very important role in this decision. If you can find a good-looking laminate, that is almost certainly your best best for a high-traffic spill-prone area. BUT, it's not "real wood" and so if you are looking at things like resale value, it's got a stigma attached to it. "Real wood" sells better than "Made from 99% real wood."

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I've done way too much research on wood flooring over the past couple of years, and we're finally having my choice installed in a few weeks: Cumaru ("Brazilian Teak"; Janka 3540), finished with polymerized tung oil. (Finishing with Waterlox is an option as well.)

It's hard as nails, the wood is used extensively as an exterior-grade decking material, and will probably never have to be resanded or refinished -- if there's a serious scrape, gouge or burn, all you have to do is sand down the area and reapply more tung oil. That's it! Cooking and dishwashing spatters will accumulate on the floor in those areas, leading to additional darkening. If patina works for you, then great! And, you can apply more tung oil over time wherever you want to deepen the finish.

GardenWeb used to (still does?) have plenty of feedback regarding cumaru. If you like dark, oil finished floors then this definitely requires your consideration...

Edited by Joe Blowe (log)

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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We have solid hardwoods (oak) which is probably one of the most common hardwoods available. Since it is very light it can be finished to what every shade you prefer. Unless you're on a concrete slab it's certainly the way to go. Engineered hardwood is about the same price and only offers an advantage if you are on a slab or thickness is a consideration for door clearances. My opinion laminate flooring should only be considered as a last resort, it doesn't look anywhere near as nice and despite claims otherwise it is really not that were resistant to scratching.

One thing everyone to look at is prefinished hardwood flooring. The finishes are actually harder than what can be applied in your home (because of the curing process) and the amount of mess is greatly reduced because no sanding is required. In addition it can be put down in a day and used that evening instead of having to wait four or five days for the finish to dry.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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My current kitchen has pine plank floors dating back to the civil war. No idea how they're finished, but I doubt they've been refinished in the last ten years. They take a lot of traffic, the gallons of dishwater and cooking oil I routinely spill on them, and they look great ... not pristine, but i doubt they looked pristine when brand new. Their basic rustic nature conceals most damage quite well.

If I were building a new kitchen, I'd take a good look at the bamboo options. I like the sustainability, and how well they likely do in wet environments.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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We live in a century farmhouse, so the kitchen floor is in keeping with the rest of the house: white pine planking. No2 grade, dyed to a dark honey color and now with 5 coats of urethane. Yep, it scratches and dents and all the rest, but I love it. In fact, when my DH laid it 15 years ago, our male Rottie, Nigel, walked in the drying urethane and now his paw-prints are forever immortalized in one corner.

We do have an absorbent rug in the most vulnerable spots for wear and tear.

After having a variety of floors in my kitchens over the last 50 years, I would never want anything except wood ever again. Next, Ed is going to make me some pine counter-tops. I had them in Moab and fell in love with them.

All the more charming to create your own distressed look.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Our kitchen floor is a typical Japanese "parquet" veneered plywood. It's easy on the feet, but the top layers peel, and it's incredibly badly insulated...floors in winter are too cold to stand on. On the rare occasions when I stain and wax it, my kids make comments like "gosh it looks like a rich person's house!", so the scuffed everyday look is nobody's fault but my own. If I get it done again, I'll pay a lot more attention to the substrate.

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This is a timely topic for me, since I'm starting to think seriously about my kitchen remodeling project and what kind of flooring I want. Today I was in the local hardware store, admiring laminate flooring as well as The Real Deal. I'm interested in reading what other people have to say - pros and cons.

Dave, why have you decided against bamboo? I've been admiring that and thinking about it for my kitchen, if the budget allows.

The only advice I can give comes from my cousins, who had a beautiful, sturdy and shiny hardwood floor installed in their kitchen. She skidded in a wet patch, fell, and banged her head hard enough on the countertop to justify an extended stay in the hospital. It was a very scary time. By the time she got home, he had had the floor refinished to a dull matte. It still looks lovely, but it doesn't look as glossy and it is MUCH safer because it doesn't get slippery when it's wet.

Don't go with a gloss finish.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I installed engineered wood flooring in the kitchen and den at the same time. BIG MISTAKE! Looks good but shortly after the ice maker line decided to leak which all but destroyed the flooring in the kitchen. Now it needs replacing and I am strongly considering cork tiles. No more wood flooring in any kitchen for me.

Oh BTW, if you want to make an applied finish more slip resistant, add pumice to the finish and mix it in well before applying. Works well and doesn't cloud the finish. Polyurethane can be quite slippery as is any of the other applied finishes.

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Strange, we have the refinished and rebuilt white pine plank floors in our house, up and down, with area rugs, and two large dogs (if not more). Dogs don't do slippery very well. And we have never ever had a slip problem. Our floors are semi-gloss urethane.

Ed is redoing our upstairs bathroom and it will be wood also. I loathe any kind of vinyl flooring...dog hair magnet...and if we ever refinish the downstairs bathroom which Ed built 15 years ago, it will be wood also. (This house was built with NO indoor bathrooms)

Just reporting.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Polyurethane can be quite slippery as is any of the other applied finishes.

So, you're making the assertion that all floor finishes are slippery.

Quite untrue.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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We currently have 12 x 12 ceramic tiles in our kitchen at home, and I hate it.

Basically, you get what you pay for. Cheap laminates use "termite barf" (a.k.a particle board) as a substrate, and if this ever gets wet, it'll warp and shrink when it eventually dries.

Enginereed wood is a bit better, BUT while the top veneer is real wood (take your pick of wood and finish)it's what's under the veneer that matters. If this substrate is softer than the top veneer, then the floor will dent (ie under fridges, heavy furniture, etc.)

Solid wood is great, BUT, pay close attention the the tongue and grooves that join ech piece together. Doesn't matter if the solid wood is 1" thick, if the tongue and grooves are 5/16" below the surface, that's all the wood you can remove through succesive refinishes before you come to the actual tongue and groove. Right?

Finishes.... There are a lot of new finishes out there, and many of them use aluminum oxide (an abrasive used in grinding wheels and sandpaper)in the finish We had our house done in solid oak with this kind of finish,(excluding kitch. & baths) and within three years of "normal use" (two adults, one 10 yr old boy, one teenage daughter, one dog) heavy traffic areas have worn through.

My sister had 12 x 12 cork tile installed in her kitchen last year. I'm curious myself as to how she likes it.

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On an at-grade concrete slab floor your wood flooring options are limited: you can't use solid hardwood . . . .

Why not?

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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You can't attach hardwood directly to the concrete, you have to install plywood decking under it first (and probably double up your moisture barrier, too, since solid hardwood is so much less stable than engineered). With the engineered options you don't need the decking, you glue it directly to the concrete, or glue it to itself and let it "float" over a vapor barrier.

Dave, are you planning on doing this yourself, or hiring it out?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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You can't attach hardwood directly to the concrete, you have to install plywood decking under it first (and probably double up your moisture barrier, too, since solid hardwood is so much less stable than engineered). With the engineered options you don't need the decking, you glue it directly to the concrete, or glue it to itself and let it "float" over a vapor barrier.

Sure, but there's always other ways. On a recent restoration project we used reclaimed hemlock and fir on a new radiant slab, screwed and glued to the thin strapping below. Works like a charm.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Thanks for all the comments. I went off to do some research, and now I'm at the point where the more I learn, the more confused I get.

I started off believing what Chris said: that you can't (or shouldn't) install solid flooring at or below grade. Knowing that I can only helps in one way, though. The ceiling in the kitchen is only seven feet (was there some architectural movement that made this fashionable? There's no structural reason for it.) I'd like to minimize the height reduction, because I think with such a short ceiling, every inch counts. So if I was to go the solid route, how thick does the decking need to be? And what are the advantages to 3/4" boards over 3/8"? Just the number of times it can be sanded down?

Right now, my time is cheap, so I'd like to install the floor myself with the help of impressed labor (aka my son). That makes engineered flooring, especially floating floors, very appealing. I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere (can't find it now, of course) that it's not a good idea to use floating floors in rooms with heavy stationary objects (hello, refrigerator!). Anyone have experience with this?

Oh, and after looking at some samples, I'm including bamboo in my list of possibilities. It's no more water-friendly than any of the other choices, but it's attractive and, especially when stranded, very tough. It doesn't hurt that it's popular these days, what with its "sustainable" rep -- since I don't plan to stay here all that long, resale issues are on my mind.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I am very interested in this topic, as we just purchased a home and are in the process of making changes to the kitchen. I have been thinking that we would replace the existing vinyl with tile, primarily because I think it generally looks nice. However, my very limited experience living with a tiled kitchen found it to always appear dirty (even right after cleaning it). I attributed this to the texture of the tile and the windy, open-space-adjacent location, so I don't know if this tendency is a universal truth about tile.

So, as I read through this thread, I am wondering why Dave and others have chosen wood or wood-like :-) flooring instead of tile. Has this been largely a matter of personal preference? Or, is there a functional aspect that makes tile less attractive?

Additional factors that we are considering are: 1) height, as we have a big refrigerator with limited clearance under the cabinets, and 2) child-friendly-ness. I don't know if child friendly flooring exists, but we are expecting our first child in December and now need to consider such things.

Edited by AmyKay (log)
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I've been looking at flooring for every room but the kitchen over the last few months. Nevertheless, at every flooring store I've been to, I've been told not to put wood floors in the kitchen (I will have polished concrete in the kitchen -- something I'll either love or cover up with something else down the road). y'all seem really positive about the wood floors -- no problems with water (other than tme4tls) and warping? Likewise, they all warned me away from bamboo -- a product I was considering.

I have heard great things about Cork and a cousin put it in his kitchen -- looks great and things bounce off of it.

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Wood floors are more susceptible to water damage than tile floors, though not more susceptible than laminate, but water damage is more than just spilling stuff. You can spill stuff on a wood floor. You just have to wipe it up. As long as you don't have a situation where water is getting under the floor, it's not a problem. Lots and lots of people have wood kitchen and even bathroom floors and have no trouble with them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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My father was a "floor man" (sanded and refinshed residential floors as his occupation). I have had oak parquet floors in my kitchens since I was a child.

Note - I do NOT have a built in dishwasher nor an icemaker in my fridge. My hot water heater is outside. All these are pluses for a wood kitchen floor. But I have had NO water damage problems with the wood in 30-plus years of living in this house.

It does need to be refinished, there are definite wear spots by the sink and by the primary prep area, and a couple of the parquet blocks need to be replaced, but ZERO "warpage".

As FG says, spills need to be dealt with immediately. You cannot let water sit on it, especially parquet. But I damp mop every couple of weeks, as did my mother before me, to no detriment.

Wood, IMO, is more forgiving to dropping stuff. Don't get me wrong, glass, especially thin glass, will still break if it hits the floor. But many other things won't. It's also quieter, and doesn't show dirt too badly. Easier to stand on, as well. And, on the other side, it's also fairly durable. So long as you don't drag heavy things across it, or sharp things, and its got a good finish, its going to stand up for many, many years.

If you have things (plumbing, appliances, kids) that are prone to leaking and leaving undiscovered, standing water in your kitchen, wood is probably not for you. If you don't, it's certainly my floor of choice, but YMMV.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

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I've been looking at flooring for every room but the kitchen over the last few months. Nevertheless, at every flooring store I've been to, I've been told not to put wood floors in the kitchen (I will have polished concrete in the kitchen -- something I'll either love or cover up with something else down the road). y'all seem really positive about the wood floors -- no problems with water (other than tme4tls) and warping? Likewise, they all warned me away from bamboo -- a product I was considering.

I have heard great things about Cork and a cousin put it in his kitchen -- looks great and things bounce off of it.

I may be misunderstanding you, but you appear to be saying that you are having concrete floors in the kitchen. Wouldn't that be awfully hard on the legs and feet?

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I may be misunderstanding you, but you appear to be saying that you are having concrete floors in the kitchen. Wouldn't that be awfully hard on the legs and feet?

No, you're not misunderstanding and yes, that's a concern I have. It's a financial decision - my 1st floor will be my kitchen (and a half-bath) and the developer is providing polished concrete on the first floor. The other floors come with plywood and I have to do the flooring myself (which will probably be hard wood). So to start off, I'm sticking with the polished concrete in the kitchen and will get some good, thick, cushiony floor-mats for the work areas. I can always put something over it in a year or two if I don't like it.

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I have wide pine in my present kitchen; it is pretty weathered, but water doesn't seem to bother it as much as abrasive things (pet claws, dropped knives, dropped heavy items like jars). The next house will have ceramic or stone on the kitchen floors, for sure. I don't want to try to get tomato gravy out of the cracks of wood flooring ever again, thank you very much.

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In our last kitchen, we had a kahrs oak engineered floor, and it worked really well for us. We didn't have problems with denting from the fridge. We never ran into a water problem like leaking from the dishwasher or icemaker. We did have a dog and two young kids, and I was really happy how well it held up (natural finish oak hides things pretty well, too :) ).

We're in the process of deciding here at our new place. We're getting the existing asbestos vinyl removed the end of the month, and we're hoping they'll be able to save the maple floors underneath. Otherwise, we're looking at linoleum (marmolite, I think?), it's a 1912 farmhouse, and everything else in the house is wood.

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