Wood Floors in the Kitchen: What You Need to Know

kitchen with slate blue cabinets and hardwood floors
credit: Stephen Paul
Hardwood flooring is a major investment that can significantly increase your home's value.

Thanks to its timeless beauty and natural appeal, hardwood flooring has traditionally been a popular choice for homeowners who are looking to upgrade the look and feel of a space. When it comes to kitchen flooring, however, installing wood floors is a relatively new trend.

New flooring is a big investment that can have a significant impact on your home's value and appearance as well as your budget. If you are ready to remodel your kitchen floor and are wondering if hardwood flooring is the right choice for you, review the pros and cons of this increasingly popular kitchen flooring trend to help you decide.

Advantages of Wood Flooring in the Kitchen

In addition to its timeless beauty, hardwood flooring products come in a variety of colors and are generally durable. According to BuildDirect, one of the benefits of opting for hardwood flooring is the planks' thick and solid construction. This allows them to be sanded down and refinished anytime they look shabby from too much wear and tear. This speaks not only to wood's durability but also to its versatility, since you can refinish the flooring anytime you want to change the style too.

Wood flooring is also warmer and softer to walk on than ceramic tile and other flooring products. It can even offer visual warmth if you opt for a finish with yellow undertones. Wood floors are easy to clean and are an ideal choice for people with allergies because they do not attract dust or allergens the way carpets or other flooring materials do. Additionally, installing wood flooring in any room adds value to your home, which is an important consideration if you plan to put it on the market in the future.

One of the biggest advantages of wood flooring in the kitchen is the opportunity to create a sense of cohesiveness throughout your home. Using different flooring options in adjacent rooms creates a choppy, start-and-stop feel in a space. Installing wood flooring throughout the home instead of separating rooms with different flooring products creates a seamless surface that supports an open concept kitchen design.

Green kitchen island with hardwood flooring
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker
Wood flooring in the kitchen can create a sense of cohesiveness throughout your house.

Disadvantages of Wood Flooring in the Kitchen

Due to the nature of for what the room is used, kitchen floors are prone to spillage. This higher likelihood of spills is one of the biggest disadvantages for installing wood flooring because water is wood's biggest enemy. If spills are not cleaned up quickly, it could stain the floor or seep into the wood and lead to warping, swelling or other damage. A leaky sink or dishwasher, if not attended to quickly, can cause serious water damage to wood flooring.

Since kitchens tend to get a lot of heavy foot traffic, kitchen floors must be able to withstand more wear and tear than flooring in other rooms. While wood is a durable product, it is prone to scratches, dents and other scuff marks. High heels, pet claws and heavy furniture are constant threats to wood flooring, but with some caution and daily maintenance, they don't have to be deal breakers.

Wood flooring is more costly than other flooring options, which is an important consideration for the budget-conscious homeowner and could be a disadvantage if your home improvement funds are limited. The average cost for both materials and installation of hardwood flooring ranges between $6 to $11 per square foot on the low end and $12 to $23 per square foot on the high end. The style and wood species you choose can also influence the final cost of your project.

You can also expect that kitchen wood flooring will need sanding and refinishing more often than it would if installed in an area with less foot traffic.

Types of Wood Flooring

The two types of hardwood that are suitable for kitchen flooring include solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. A single piece of wood is used to create solid wood planks, which come in either unfinished or prefinished form. Unfinished solid hardwood needs to be finished on-site after installation, whereas prefinished hardwood is finished at the factory and comes ready for installation. Typical installation for solid wood flooring involves fastening it to a wooden subfloor using nails, staples or sometimes glue.

Engineered hardwood uses a cross-grain construction process to bond together a top layer of thin veneer and several layers of hardwood. The crisscrossed layers of wood in engineered hardwood make it stronger and more resistant to changes in humidity than solid hardwood, which is an important consideration for kitchens where activities like turning on the oven or boiling water can affect humidity levels.

Engineered wood flooring generally only comes in prefinished form, and it's easier to install than solid hardwood because in addition to using staples or glue to fasten it to the subfloor, it can also be installed as a floating floor. Since a floating floor is attached to itself instead of to the subfloor, using engineered hardwood offers more installation flexibility when it comes to the type of subfloor over which it can be installed.

kitchen with kitchen island, wine fridge and hardwood floors
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker
Wood flooring requires regular maintenance.

Installation Tips for Wood Flooring in the Kitchen

If you are completely remodeling your kitchen, install the wood flooring before installing base cabinets. To save money on material that won't even be seen and make the flooring more accessible for future repairs if necessary, mark the location of your cabinets and lay the flooring facing the same direction as your base cabinets. Use plywood with the same thickness as the wood flooring in the area under the cabinets and install the wood flooring so that it runs up to the edge of the cabinets.

When it comes to movable appliances, though, under is always better than around. While it might be tempting to save money on material and labor by installing up to and around appliances rather than underneath them, keep in mind that your wood flooring will last longer than even the hardiest appliance. Your best bet is to install the wood flooring underneath all movable appliances, including the dishwasher.

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips for Wood Flooring

When you invest in real wood flooring products, it's important to commit to keeping your floors clean and dry. Immediately wipe up any spills to avoid water damage. Frequently sweep away dirt and debris using a broom with soft rubber bristles or a soft cotton dust mop. Avoid using harsh chemicals, overly wet mops or steam cleaners since these can damage the finish on your floors.

Protect more vulnerable areas of your flooring by placing rugs or floor mats in places that are more prone to spillage or higher foot traffic. Use soft pads on the feet of heavy furniture or appliances to avoid scratches and dents. Finally, use a polyurethane finish and a good oil-based sealant to increase your kitchen floor's resistance to traffic and spills.

With the proper care and maintenance, wood flooring in your kitchen can be a worthwhile investment that can provide decades of enjoyment.


Kristina Barroso

Kristina Barroso

Kristina Barroso is a public school teacher by day and home improvement enthusiast by night. She enjoys sharing her DIY experience and love of home improvement through the writing she has published on Hunker.com and Our Everyday Life.