How to Choose the Perfect Kitchen Flooring
Flooring is a key element in any kitchen, so which type should you choose? Before you part with your pennies, check out this expert advice
The trick is to identify your key considerations. Are you keen on a slick look or do you want a bit of flawed character? Are you willing to look after your floor or do you want to mop and go? Do you live in a big, busy household with lots of foot traffic or are there just a couple of you padding around? And are you looking to wow or is subtle more your style?
Whichever flooring you choose, Andrew Petherick of Artichoke advises you plan it in from the beginning of a kitchen refit so plinths and grout lines sit well together. “With any flooring, it’s important to consider how wide the boards are or how big the tiles are and think about how the units will sit on them – where the lines will fall. If the flooring lines aren’t parallel or perpendicular to the plinths, but at an angle, it will look really odd.”
As part of our Kitchen Planning guide, take a look at this expert guide to the 12 most popular kitchen flooring materials to help you decide which would work best in your scheme and slot easily into your lifestyle.
Professional advice from: Andrew Petherick of Artichoke; Jamie Blake of Blakes London; Paul Hutton of Seamless Resin Flooring; Federica Vasetti of DHV Architects; Jeremy Friendship of Studio 3 Kitchens; Gurjeet Hunjan of Boscolo Interior Design
More in this series: Kitchen Storage; Kitchen Cupboards; Kitchen Worktops; Kitchen Sinks
Beginning your kitchen project? Read How to Start a Kitchen Renovation
Covering everything from limestone (pictured) and travertine to granite and slate, classic stone is an unsurprisingly popular flooring choice. The beauty of stone is in its natural, unique variations – no two slabs are completely alike and the subtle shifts in tone add depth.
Be aware that more irregular stones are harder to slot together neatly. “If you choose more rustic tiles that don’t have smooth edges, the grout lines will be thicker and these can get dirty,” says Andrew Petherick. A honed, matt surface will give you a more modern look.
Slate has a reputation for being soft, but it’s possible to find more hard-wearing varieties. “Slate varies in its toughness,” says Andrew. “Cumbrian slate, for instance, acts like granite.”
Pros of stone flooring: High wow factor – stone is beautiful, timeless and classy. It’s robust, long-lasting and easy to care for. It works with underfloor heating and is a good heat conductor. “Stone catches heat and holds onto it for about an hour,” says Andrew.
Cons of stone flooring: “Stone is not very forgiving to your feet if you’re likely to be standing on it for long periods,” says Andrew. It’s also pretty unforgiving where any dropped crockery is concerned. It’s cold without underfloor heating and can scratch. More irregular surfaces can harbour dirt. “Darker floors show the wear more, and will reveal the more well trodden paths,” says Andrew. It needs a strong, rigid and level base – it can’t be laid on a floating floor.
If you’re looking for professional flooring installers, check out some of the experts listed on Houzz.
Durable yet warm and forgiving, rubber offers a sleek expanse perfect for modern spaces, but with a softer edge than concrete. It’s available as tiles, but large sheets are neater and more resilient. “It comes in textures such as studs and ridges, but choose a flat surface for super-easy cleaning,” advises Federica Vasetti.
Pros of rubber flooring: Rubber is strong, warm to the touch and hard-wearing, plus it has a bit of bounce – good for feet, crockery and toddler heads. It’s available in a huge range of colours as well as flecked designs. It’s easy to clean and non-porous, so there are no dramas over spills.
Cons of rubber flooring: Polished flat rubber tiles can be slippery. Chair legs and dropped heavy objects can dent it and the colour can fade in strong sunlight. It needs a very smooth sub-floor – floorboards should be covered with sheets of plywood. It can take some underfloor heating, but it’s important to check first with your supplier.
If it’s an edgy aesthetic you’re after, you can’t beat concrete. Whether you go for a full-on industrial look, or just want to sharpen a simple scheme, this surface does the job.
“Don’t lay it on the cheap, as it’s easy to mess up,” warns Jamie Blake. “It needs to be vibrated enough to get the bubbles out or it will crumble. Call in the professionals and make sure you get a guarantee.”
Pros of concrete flooring: It’s hard-wearing and, if looked after, will last indefinitely – it actually gets tougher with age. It has great thermal qualities, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night. It can be poured onto an existing floor, which doesn’t have to be totally level. It comes in a range of colours and is great for in/out flooring. It’s easy to clean, won’t harbour pests and is happy with underfloor heating.
Cons of concrete flooring: Concrete can be chipped or cracked, although you’d have to make a real effort. It’s not very forgiving to dropped crockery or tumbling tots, or to feet if you’re standing on it for long periods. “It can be slippery,” adds Jamie, “but a matt sealer can alleviate that.” If it does chip or crack, it can be repaired, but not seamlessly. “It will never look the same again,” says Jamie.
More: Should I Choose Polished Concrete for my Kitchen Floor?
If the phrase ‘maintenance free’ is music to your ears, porcelain tiles could be just the job in your kitchen. They don’t need sealing and they’re very hard-wearing. “You’d have to drop a 10lb hammer on one to chip it,” says Jamie Blake.
They can now be made to mimic other surfaces, such as wood, concrete or leather. “The sky’s the limit with textures,” adds Jamie.
Pros of porcelain flooring: Porcelain is hygienic, hard to scratch or chip, and can be washed with anything. It’s also happy with underfloor heating. The tiles are generally evenly sized, so they can be butted right up for narrow grout lines – meaning less dirt gathering.
Cons of porcelain tiling: “You can struggle to achieve that warm, characterful feeling,” says Jamie. “Porcelain doesn’t have the charm of timber.” They tend to be more expensive than ceramic tiles and are unrepairable if they do chip, unforgiving if you stand on them for long periods and cold without underfloor heating.
Ceramic tiles are usually made from clay with a glaze on top. They come in a huge range of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, and even mimic other materials such as wood.
Jeremy Friendship recommends you look for tiles with “rectified edges. These are tiles that have been cut after they have been in the kiln, so the edges are smooth and even,” he says. If the edges aren’t straight, it can lead to thicker grout lines, which will harbour dirt. “And don’t even consider white grout,” Jeremy adds.
Pros of ceramic flooring: Ceramic tiles are typically cheaper than porcelain, as well as being hygienic and easy to clean. The range of designs mean it’s easy to get the look you’re after on a budget. They’re also suitable for underfloor heating.
Cons of ceramic flooring: They’re not as hard-wearing as porcelain and they can crack, so it’s important they’re laid on a very solid, flat floor. If they chip, it’s more obvious, as the colour doesn’t go all the way through. They’re cold to the touch and hard on feet and dropped crockery.
All the clever copies in the world can’t really match the beauty of real wood. It comes in a huge range of shades and grains, works in any setting from ultra modern to country cottage, and is pretty unlikely ever to go out of fashion. A uniform grain looks modern, while knots and irregularities fit in nicely with a trad scheme.
Reclaimed boards have an incomparable patina. “But they are more pricey as they’re harder to lay, being of different sizes and thicknesses,” warns Jamie Blake.
“Parquet wears well as it doesn’t expand as much as boards,” adds Andrew Petherick. As for finishes: “Choose oil or wax rather than lacquer for a natural look, and clean with a damp rather than a wet mop,” advises Andrew.
Pros of solid wood flooring: Wood is quite forgiving on your feet, as it has some give and is warm to the touch. It’s renewable, recyclable, good-looking, sturdy and long-lasting. It can be sanded to look like new and stained in a huge number of colours.
Cons of solid wood flooring: “Solid wood boards will move, especially in an environment where there’s lots of moisture and mopping,” says Jamie. They need a subfloor, which can make installation pricey. They can be noisy, so not one for flats unless you’re planning to lay a rug. They will stain and scratch, and can show up wear in high-traffic areas, such as by the hob and sink. “A wooden floor can be re-sanded, but it’s a pretty dirty process,” says Andrew. “Underfloor heating is a no-no with real wood,” adds Jeremy Friendship.
Made from two lengths of wood veneer (typically 5mm thick) sandwiching a layer of birch ply, engineered boards straddle the gap between laminate and solid wood. They also come in wide measures. “Twelve inch-wide boards look great in a big room,” says Andrew Petherick.
“Many people are moving to engineered boards as they have the look of real wood but are stable,” adds Jeremy Friendship.
Pros of engineered wood flooring: “Engineered boards are flat, don’t expand or contract, and can take underfloor heating,” says Andrew. “They’re also well sealed, so you can happily mop them.” As the veneer is quite thick, they can be sanded to refresh them, and are a green choice as they contain less hardwood.
Cons of engineered wood flooring: They lack some of the character of the real thing. Lacquered boards are sealed, so are robust, but the most authentic finish is raw, and these can get scratched and stained as with solid wood. They can be noisy.
Read suggestions for which wood you should choose for your kitchen cabinets
Here is a material that not only doesn’t harm the environment, it actively helps it. Removing the bark from cork oak trees means they live longer.
“Cork is warm and it has a bounce to it, so it’s comfortable and it absorbs sound,” says Gurjeet Hunjan. And gone are the days when tan was your only option. “Traditional, exposed cork is still available, but there are now many designs coated with vinyl, which gives you more choice of finishes,” adds Gurjeet.
Pros of cork flooring: Cork is naturally antibacterial, so resistant to mould and mildew, non-slip, fire-retardant and insulating (as it’s filled with lots of tiny air pockets). It’s easy to clean with a damp mop, and exposed cork can be sanded and resealed to revive it.
Cons of cork flooring: Heavy furniture can leave an imprint, it can fade in strong sunlight and it’s easily scratched. It can handle spills as long as they’re mopped up, but if liquid is left on the floor it will damage it.
More: What Do I Need to Know About Cork Flooring?
Resin is an increasingly popular choice for kitchens. “The trend is for whites or mid greys,” says Paul Hutton. Resin can be poured over the whole kitchen floor, so it’s a seamless finish.
The floor can easily be revived. “You can simply sand it then apply a couple of coats of sealer and it’s like new,” says Paul, “and if you fancy a new colour, you can simply choose a different sealant.”
It’s available in gloss, silk or matt finishes, but Paul recommends matt. “Gloss floors, especially pale ones, show every mark, whereas matt ones hide the scratches.”
Pros of resin flooring: Resin is warm underfoot, hypoallergenic, waterproof, tough and easy to clean with warm soapy water. It’s available in any RAL colour, and can be customised with patterns. It can be poured over a concrete or timber substrate and is happy with underfloor heating.
Cons of resin flooring: It doesn’t have the depth or character of something like wood or stone, and it will scratch. “It can be repaired by filling in scratches, but the whole floor would need to be sanded and resealed or the repair would stand out like a sore thumb,” warns Paul. Spills need to be wiped up or they can stain the resin.
Lino ticks the ecofriendly box in spades. It’s made from natural materials (principally linseed oil, cork dust, wood dust and resin) with a jute backing, and its production doesn’t take huge amounts of energy. Sold under the brand name Marmoleum, it comes in a huge range of colours and designs, from solid to marbled to linear (pictured).
“Make sure it’s sealed properly,” warns Federica Vasetti. “The floor must be cleaned, sealed, then left to dry thoroughly. Poor sealing makes the linoleum hard to clean.”
It comes in sheets or tiles, but Federica recommends sheets, as no joins mean the surface is waterproof as well as more attractive.
Pros of linoleum flooring: Linoleum is relatively warm underfoot and quite forgiving. “Plates tend to bounce rather than break,” Federica says. It’s available in lots of colours, is easy to clean with soapy water and is great for allergy sufferers as it doesn’t harbour dust mites. It’s also suitable for underfloor heating and can be laid over an existing floor.
Cons of linoleum flooring: It’s quite hard to cut and lay, so it needs to be fitted by professionals. It can be damaged by sharp materials, and can wear and fade over time.
High-quality vinyl is a good budget-friendly choice. It can replicate lots of surfaces, from wood and stone to mosaics and metallics, or choose patterns, including geometrics, polka-dots or even flowers. “The image is digitally printed onto the vinyl, so it can look very good,” says Jeremy Friendship.
Pros of vinyl flooring: Vinyl is a purse-friendly option. It’s easy to clean and very water resistant. Spongy vinyl can dent and rip, but thin, hard vinyl is very robust. It’s also comfortable underfoot and can be laid over an existing floor.
Cons of vinyl flooring: It’s fairly easily scratched, can fade in strong sunlight and has a relatively short lifespan. If damaged, it’s unrepairable. It can work with underfloor heating, but the temperature might need to be restricted, so always check suitability with your supplier.
More: 8 Flooring Ideas to Team With Your Dark Blue Kitchen
The trick with laminate is to go for good-quality boards, which are tough and resistant to wear, stains and fading. You don’t have to choose a wood look – some laminates imitate ceramic tiles or slate. They’re covered in a transparent ‘wear’ layer that’s pretty tough, so are scratch resistant. Beneath the wear layer is a high-definition image, which can be of anything from wood to marble.
“You can now also buy laminate boards that have a thin veneer of wood on top for a more realistic look,” says Jeremy Friendship, though these will scratch and can’t be sanded as the veneer isn’t deep enough. “The top ranges have V grooves for a natural plank look,” he adds.
Pros of laminate flooring: There are some very realistic, textured designs available. Laminate tends to be reasonably priced, is low maintenance, moisture resistant and can be installed over an existing floor. “It doesn’t need sealing and it doesn’t stain,” adds Jeremy.
Cons of laminate flooring: It needs an under-layer, which is sometimes attached to the laminate and sometimes not – ask before you buy. If it’s scratched, it’s unrepairable. Not all laminates are suitable for electric underfloor heating, although all can be laid over wet systems.
So what else is available for kitchen flooring? “I’d like to lay herringbone brick floors in kitchens,” says Jamie Blake. “It’s a big trend in gardens and it would add that French rustic look. Bricks are great insulators, too.”
“We’re quite into using herringbone brick flooring, too,” says Gurjeet Hunjan, “as well as parquet with a contrasting keyline. Many people ask for whitewashed oak parquet, as it’s modern but still has character.”
Jamie also recommends screed. “Screed is rougher than polished concrete, is super-tough and can be painted. I like it because it doesn’t have to look perfect. And if you get bored of it, it’s a ready-made base for a wooden floor!”
Bamboo is another option. “It’s super-sustainable, as it’s a grass, and surprisingly tough, so give it a look,” says Jeremy Friendship.
What kind of flooring do you have – or would you like – in your kitchen? Share your thoughts, tips and photos in the Comments.