Wood Floors in the Kitchen – what you need to know

Soft, warm looking, and extremely popular pretty much describes wood floors in kitchens. 

Unfortunately wood and water don’t do well together, and water disasters are usually a matter of time.  This includes dishwashers (many times when someone isn’t around), plumbing leaks, ice makers that discharge ice or leak, spilled water that isn’t wiped up, sopping wet shoes that sit for hours, pet water bowls that spill, and even a spouse who inadvertently “mops” the floor.  Some events will result in minor damage such as discoloring or cracking.  Others will result in serious damage with boards that are buckled, warped, and uneven. Repairs that require replacing boards can be made to small areas of the floor, providing that type of flooring is still available.  Note – if you are installing “branded” flooring, save a few boards just in case you need them someday.  In my kitchen I chose to install an acrylic impregnated maple floor.  Shortly after it was installed, the fridge drawers died, and all the defrosted ice melted onto the floor.  The puddle of water sat on the floor for an extended period of time causing it to turn a dark brown color.  After about a week, it dried out and there was no discoloring, warping, or problems with the surface finish. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of acrylic impregnated wood floors.

Dogs and cats (especially large dogs) are hard on wood floors.  Consider choosing a distressed, low sheen wood floor that will help disguise scratches.  Woods with more grain such as oak will also help disguise scratches.  Softer woods such as pine, scratch and dent easier, so choose a hardwood such as oak or maple (higher on the janka scale the better).  Dark woods when scratched reveal a lighter unstained surface underneath, so a lighter stained wood is better.  Or, use an engineered flooring such as Armstrong Premier Performance that has the stain infused all the way through the wood to help disguise deeper scratches.  More important though is the type of finish on the floor.  Prefinished engineered flooring such as Johnson Forever Tuff, Shaw ScufResist, Mirage Nanolinx, Armstrong Premier Performance, and Lauzon Polynium+ are commercial grade scuff resistant with residential warranties 25 – 50 years.  Also, make sure you keep your pet’s nails trimmed, a mat near the door (“take off zone”), and don’t play fetch. Nothing warrants against scratching, but with careful selection and care, a wood floor will look good longer.

 Things will get dropped and dents will happen.  Consider getting some GelPro anti fatigue mats for in front of the counters.  Not only will your back thank you, but it will help minimize dents, scratches and floor stains in high use areas.  Floor mats and runners can help protect against wear, but if there is sunlight in the kitchen with no E glass windows, the sun may darken the flooring differently around the mats.  If this is the case, consider flooring such as Mirage that has UV protection in the finish.  High heals  and spikes are also hard on wood floors, and make sure chairs, tables, stools, and other furniture have felt pads under the feet.

Where the floor is installed can also make a difference in what type of floor is selected.  Hardwood floors installed on concrete may be risky due to moisture issues.  The National Wood Flooring Association recommends either an exterior plywood on slab or a sleeper (2 x 4’s  glued to the floor) under hardwood floors.  Unfortunately, this may raise the floor up too high.   For installation directly on slab, consider a glue down engineered flooring that can be used on slab.

If you have a floor that is finished in place with a water poly finish and average traffic, then expect to refinish it in about 5 – 10 years. Some water poly finishes such as DuraSeal X-Terra are rated for higher traffic and are more scratch resistant, and oil finishes are more durable but have more fumes while curing (some of them toxic).   If you use a prefinished wood with an aluminum oxide finish, then it should hold up longer.  Not all prefinished floors are the same.  Some are commercial rated with a long life, while others are not much better than the water poly finish.  When it comes to prefinished flooring, microbevels are the norm.  Those that have square edges will have overwood (irregular edges).  Personally, I was concerned about the look and collection of dirt in the microbevels when I went shopping for prefinished floors, but after a few years I don’t notice the microbevels and I don’t think there are any significant maintenance issues.

If you decide to go with a laminate (imitation wood), then make to check the AC rating of the flooring.  AC3 is light commercial and heavy residential, and AC4 is for moderate commercial traffic, and AC5 is the high commercial traffic.  Some people don’t like this option, because of the hollow “clicking” noise made while walking on it and the cheap looking transition strips, but you may find this a suitable compromise if you have pets.

 

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