Interior Design

5 Best Kitchen Floor Materials to Weather All the Spills & Stains

Plus, the pros and cons of each.

October 21, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

There are a lot of decisions to be made when renovating or designing any room in your house, but much-lauded spots like the kitchen often take even more consideration. After all, it’s no secret kitchens are the heart of the home, and many homeowners desire a space that functions as a do-it-all masterpiece—a place that is as beautiful as it is functional, as trendy as it is timeless, and as durable as it is desirable.

Good kitchens start with a good foundation—in this case, flooring. There are many opinions regarding the best flooring for a kitchen and, while there are pros and cons to each material, it often comes down to personal preference. Some homeowners feel strongly about seamless flooring throughout the entire first floor, while others love the old-school appearance of well-worn stone in a kitchen. To help you choose the best option for your home, we’re rounding up the most popular picks below, plus some important info to keep in mind when choosing the right material for you.


Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors remain one of the most popular picks for kitchens, thanks in large part to the warmth they bring to an otherwise utilitarian space. Kitchens can have a lot of hard surfaces (think: stone countertops, metal fixtures, and stainless steel appliances), so it’s nice to bring in a bit of natural texture in the way of a hardwood floor underneath. Hardwood floors (either solid hardwood or engineered hardwood, which is top layer veneer of real wood that’s been backed by a layer of plywood) are also a great kitchen flooring option for homeowners who have an open floor plan and would prefer the look of one seamless flooring option throughout the entire level of their home.

Still, hardwood floors are not without their pitfalls in a kitchen. They tend to be softer, so dropping hard or heavy items (like pots and pans) on them can leave visible marks. Then there’s the potential of water. With so many things that can leak in a kitchen—including a dishwasher, sink, and refrigerator—many experts caution against hardwood floors, which can be more susceptible to moisture and water damage. If you choose to go with hardwood floors in your kitchen, work with a professional to determine the best sealing and finishing technique that will help them stand up a bit more to the risk of moisture.


Ceramic Tile

For many, ceramic tile is the ideal kitchen flooring material. Not only is it practically impervious to water, stains, and nicks, but it comes in a variety of shapes, styles, and colors suited to nearly any decor vibe (you can even find ceramic tiles meant to look like planks of hardwood). Made from natural clay and fired under extreme heat, ceramic tile stands up to daily life with very little visible wear or issues. Additionally, they’re easy to clean and resistant to water, which is great if you’re worried about spills or leaks.

While there are few gripes to be had with ceramic tile, it is important to note that aesthetically it can be hard to blend with the rest of the flooring in your home if you live in an open floor plan. Additionally, ceramic tile can be much cooler underfoot than flooring like hardwood—to overcome this issue, consider installing radiant heat beneath the floors or style your space with a few rugs or runners.


Natural Stone

Natural stone floors—like marble, slate, travertine, granite, and sandstone—have long been in favor as kitchen flooring options and signal a luxury, high-end kitchen like few other things can. When cared for properly, these stones can last decades and are great for homeowners looking to lend a timeless look to their kitchen. In fact, natural stones are often chosen by designers when working in new builds to lend a little effortless “age” to a home.

While specific care and cautions can range depending on the type of natural stone you choose (for instance, marble can be slippery when wet, while travertine has a textured finish that grime can cling to easily), all-natural stone flooring needs to be sealed properly and periodically in order to maintain its appeal in your home. Without proper sealing, natural stone can be susceptible to water and stain penetration over time. Likewise, natural stones can be cool and hard underfoot, so place a washable runner anywhere you spend a lot of time standing, like in front of the kitchen sink.


Luxury Vinyl Flooring

If you’re looking for an option that bottles natural appeal with 21st-century technology, look no further than luxury vinyl flooring. Often referred to as LVF, luxury vinyl flooring is a family- and life-friendly alternative to hardwood. It’s designed in long, interlocking planks and consists of several layers of vinyl, including a design layer that gives the product the look and texture of stone or wood. Often touted as indestructible, LVF is extremely durable, waterproof, cushioned underfoot, and easy to install. Translation: It will hold up to that spilled bottle of wine, dropped dish, or heavy furniture just fine.

LVF can sometimes look “off” when placed adjacent to a true hardwood floor, so that’s something to keep in mind if you have an open floor plan. Additionally, you’ll get more bang for your buck when it comes to resale value if you opt for a natural stone or hardwood floor. Still, with more homeowners choosing LVF products by the day, that could very well change in the coming years.


Cement Tile

Cement tiles are beloved by designers and homeowners alike for the beautiful charm and bespoke patina they lend to any space. They can be seen all over Europe in bistros and corner cafes, and have since made their way to our homes as a way to lend history, and often color, to a kitchen. Though they’re most frequently seen as backsplash tile, cement tiles can be used as a kitchen flooring material if installed and protected properly.

The issue with cement tile lies in the way it’s made. Unlike ceramic tile, which is cured at a high temperature in a kiln, cement tile is cured at room temperature with the color layer on top, making it more porous and susceptible to stains and marks. Proper sealing is a must, as is a bit of checked expectations: Cement tiles will show wear over time, but it’s often that “life well lived” look that many people are after. If you’re a fan of patina and want your kitchen to look like it existed for centuries before you, cement tile may be a good fit.

What kind of flooring do you have in your kitchen? Do you recommend it?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dani
    Dani
  • Sipa
    Sipa
  • eabbas
    eabbas
  • Arati Menon
    Arati Menon
Writer, Editor and Stylist

4 Comments

Dani October 29, 2021
I had hardwood in my kitchen for 30+ years. Damp mopping, and cleaning up spills immediately was just part of the nature of the floors. When we moved, I inherited engineered wood in the kitchen and one ice maker flood ruined them (warping). When we pulled out the appliances, we saw evidence that it was not the first time they had been replaced for water damage. We decided to go with limestone. I love the look, and I am accustomed to the "hardness" since we have other stone floors, but I was not prepared for how difficult it is to keep the white grout lines pristine looking. In a kitchen, that gets a lot of use and traffic, that is an ongoing battle. I think that should have been mentioned for ceramic tile and stone and that the hardwood section should have mentioned wear patterns in high traffic areas like in front of the sink, and in front of the stove.
 
Sipa October 21, 2021
I’m surprised that you didn’t mention how hard stone, ceramic tile, and tile are on your legs. I stand for hours in my kitchen so I am going with linoleum flooring.
 
eabbas October 21, 2021
Our biggest reason for choosing hardwood was the “bounce” factor. Glass and pottery has some chance of survival when dropped on a hardwood (or LVF) floor where there is absolutely no chance for ceramic or stone. And if it does break on wood, it’s less likely to shatter in a million pieces, so easier to find them all. Just another consideration.
 
Arati M. October 21, 2021
That is such a good point!! Thanks for sharing.