The Kitchen is the most important room in any home, a space where we can come together, cook, entertain and socialise.
So you need to have hard surface flooring which will stand up to the daily traffic that your kitchen will have and your choice of hardwood flooring is an important one to get right!
Is hardwood flooring suitable for a kitchen?
The suitability of hardwood flooring in the kitchen is often a question raised by clients.
Many people choose to have stone or tiles as their flooring for the kitchen but wood has this inherent beauty and warmth that you just don't find with any other flooring.
I'm going to cover everything that you need to know if you are considering a hardwood floor for your kitchen.
Kitchen floors are often being replaced as part of an overall building project and by using natural wood, wether it's refurbishment or a new build, the floor will add an instant zeal and character to the interior.
Solid hardwood vs engineered hardwood floors
There are two main types of hardwood flooring constructions that you will definitely come across when shopping for a new floor.
They are known as solid plank and an engineered plank.
Solid wood flooring
As the name suggests, a solid construction is a solid piece of hardwood.
The restrictions that you face with using a solid board is that are not suitable to be used over under floor heating.
They tend to be more prone to movement, contracting and expanding as the environment changes. If you have the heating on in the room at a high heat everyday, as we often do in the winter, that dries out the humidity in the air.
This causes the moisture content in the board to dry out and the board contracts, leaving you with gaps between your boards.
The opposite can happen if there is too much moisture, it will cause the board to swell and in extreme cases where there is bad flood damage can even force the skirtings off the wall.
Solid floors aren't manufactured as wide, long boards as they are simply not stable enough.
Most reclaimed floors will have a solid construction and can be glued to a plywood subfloor to create a more stable installation.
Engineered wood flooring
An engineered construction will typically consist of 3 layers, which will be a hardwood on the top with a central supportive core with a hardwood layer at the bottom.
Constructions will vary from one manufacturer to the next but the principle of hardwood layered on top of a plywood will remain the same.
The combination of plywood and wood helps to keep it stable over underfloor heating.
This construction means boards can be manufactured in wide widths and extra long lengths.
The part of the construction to pay the most attention to is the layer above the tongue and groove of the board.
This layer of hardwood will depend on the overall thickness of board that you opt for but typically it will be between 4 - 6mm.
This is the part of the board that you can sand and re-finish as the years go on.
You will remove approx ½mm every time you sand a floor.
Depending on what finish you have (more on that later on) you will probably need to sand and refinish approximately every 7 - 10 years, so even going for a 4mm wear layer will give you a floor that will last you between 35 - 50 years.
Wood parquet flooring
You can also have parquet flooring manufactured in an engineered construction should you wish to have parquet installed over under floor heating, but you will need to install a plywood subfloor to ensure a level installation.
Parquet flooring has become more popular in kitchen over the last few years and they add instant glamour to any interior.
There are many different sizes available, as a rule of thumb smaller herringbone pieces (60mm width x 300mm length) tend to look more traditional where as going for a larger size (100mm width x 500mm length) creates a more contemporary look.
What species of wood to choose?
The species of wood that you choose is important too.
Oak is by far the most popular and versatile.
Available in a huge selection of colours, from chalky whites to deep rich browns and everything in between.
Oak is not only a strong hardwood but has a beautiful natural grain throughout making it a go to choice for many clients.
Wood such as beech, bamboo and maple have great antibacterial properties and are popular as chopping boards because of this.
Products like these would be a great option for someone who wants a light interior and an easy to clean product.
For a naturally dark floor you could look at using Walnut with its rich purplish brown tones and blonde streaks.
Wenge is a beautiful wood and incredibly strong - The dark chocolate brown tone can make an interior feel really contemporary BUT Wenge has been classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Instead you can use reclaimed Wenge.
Reclaimed wood is often taken out of commercial buildings such as schools, banks and factories and then its sold on to reclamation yards and flooring specialists.
What type of floor finish should I opt for?
There are two main types of finishes that you can apply to a hardwood floor and that is a lacquer or a hard wax oil.
A lacquer works by creating a protective film coating over the surface of the board which guards it from damage.
Lacquers are usually available in three different sheen levels: Matt, semi-sheen and gloss.
This allows you to choose a sheen level that suits your interior look, keep in mind that the glossier you go the more surface scratches and scuffs will show up.
In order to remove deep scratches you will need to sand and revarnish the entire floor.
You cannot patch in one or two boards as you will be able to see where the repair work has been.
The likelihood is that after a few years (approx. 7-10) of having your floor it will need a refinish to keep it looking it's best.
Lacquered floors also tend to be more hygienic and cope well with household spills.
Woods such as Walnut, Beech and Maple are usually lacquered to improve protection.
When specifying wood flooring for hospitality and retail areas, I will always recommend a lacquered finish because of the robustness and low ongoing maintenance required to maintain the finish.
A hard wax oil protects the floor by penetrating the pores of the wood which results in a more natural feeling product.
Hard wax oils are usually matt down quite quickly once they are installed.
The advantage of a hard wax oiled finish is that you can do spot repairs on the floor without having to revarnish the entire floor.
After a couple years of use, the finish may look tired and dull, this means that it's time for a maintenance coat.
So long as you don't want to change the colour of your floor, you can just keep applying maintenance oil to your floor.
No sanding required and the maintenance oil will refresh the finish and mask any surface scratches. If you are doing a full renovation, it would be worth having a final coat of oil applied after the builders have left and the property is empty for a couple of days to allow it to dry.
This additional coat of protection revitalises the floor so that it looks brand new when you move in.
How do I maintain my floor?
Regardless of which finish you choose, regular maintenance is required by cleaning the floor.
A company by the name of Bona do a brilliant spray mop with a liquid soap attached.
So when one of the kids drops that bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese, you can reach for the mop, press down on the spray and mop up the stain quickly.
The microfibre mop head can be easily taken off and washed and refill soaps are easy to replace.
What are the different surface treatments available?
Many hardwood floors will be available in a brushed and oiled or a brushed and lacquered finish. Brushing is a process whereby the wood has a wire brush applied to the surface of the wood to accentuate the natural grain.
By raising the grain of the wood it masks surface scratches and thereby making it another great low maintenance option.
Which gets installed first the kitchen or the floor?
This will depend on how you are having your floor installed.
Most hardwood floors are nailed and glued down on to a plywood subfloor or glued directly to pipe underfloor heating and in this case I would recommend having the floor go down before the kitchen.
If the floor is being installed via the floating method over electric underfloor heating or underlay have the floor installed after the kitchen.
The reason for this is that floating floors move more than a glued down floor.
If part of the floor is trapped underneath the heavy cabinets, it can not move properly.
This can cause all sorts of issues including bulging and buckling.
What board width do I choose?
Consider the space when it come to choosing your board width.
Interiors that have high ceilings and large open rooms can easily take the proportion of super wide 300-500mm boards.
For most projects I will recommend a board width between 180mm-220mm as I feel this gives you a wide board without overpowering the room.
Example of sanded and oiled floor
Can I sand my existing hardwood floor?
You may be in a position where you have a wood floor in your kitchen and you would like to have it refurbished.
You will need to find a sander and have a site survey with them to determine the condition of the flooring and if it suitable to sand.
You can discuss colours with your sander and usually they will do tester patches for you on the floor of the colours you like to help you choose the right one.
What colour flooring should I choose for a kitchen?
When it comes to choosing a colour generally clients opt for light to mid tone products.
I find that the darker the wood the the more formal the space.
Dark floors can show up scratches more so than lighter options so it's not the most practical for a family kitchen but would look timeless in a luxury apartment.
The colour of the kitchen needs to compliment the floor and sit well together as a finished design.
The amount of natural daylight is an important factor too.
By choosing a bright white floor you would expect that to brighten and make a room feel bigger.
Which it will, but unless you have enough daylight coming through, the result could end up being more cold and clinical.
To get around an interior situation like this rather opt for light to mid colour tone floor to add light and warmth and put a light colour on the walls.
Light will bounce around the room instead of getting lost in a white box.
Opting for softer colours such as a whitewashed oak or a light grey that might be picked up in the patten of your countertops is always a winning combination.
I also love the design trick of using different counter tops in the kitchen and switching up the door handle styles.
If you are nervous about doing a wood overkill, think of the three main surfaces in the kitchen: the units, the countertops and the flooring – wood is fine for one or two, but mixing in three different woods in any room would challenging!
Wigmore Oak by Urbane Living
Regardless of what you decide on, a wood floor is a great investment and I highly recommend borrowing sample panels of the wood floor you like and take it home and view it at different times in the day as the light changes.
This will help you imagine the floor laid and seeing it in your home will help you make your final choice.
If you are in the process of replacing your flooring and would like some advice, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.
I would also love to hear and see what floors you are considering for your kitchen!