The Best Hardwood Floor Types for the Kitchen

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Hardwood floors are having a renaissance, and like many homeowners, you may be tempted to deck your house from head to toe in the newest, trendiest wood type. Using a single flooring type in your home is great for symmetry, a clean aesthetic, and installation, but one room stands out amongst the rest as a potential problem area: the kitchen.

Durability, style, and safety are the three questions that come to mind when considering a hardwood kitchen floor. You want floors that pass the test of time and endure your family’s busy lifestyle. But you also need to consider the colors and architectural style of your space. With a trend toward modern and clean interior design, choosing the right flooring can be a source of stress for many homeowners. Safety is also a primary concern when selecting flooring. A slippery surface can lead to all types of problems for pets and people alike, especially in a kitchen where hot surfaces and boiling liquids come into play.

We’re here to break it all down for you. We’ve researched and pulled from our own experience to provide you with the best options that ensure long-term sustainability without sacrificing your dream design.

Here’s our complete ranking–based on durability, installation, and style–of the best options for hardwood floors in your kitchen:

Engineered Hardwood

With beautiful stains and finishes, the average person won’t be able to tell the difference between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood. It can be designed to suit any style, with options for white oak, dark oak, and more. More affordable than hardwood, and more luxurious than laminate, it’s our top pick for hardwood kitchen flooring.

Engineered hardwood is made by layering many pieces of high-quality plywood and high-density fiberboard together under a solid wood top layer to create a durable and sustainable flooring option. Due to the way it’s built, it actually is more stable than solid hardwood. That said, not all engineered hardwood is made equally, so understanding what to look for is important.

For a kitchen, you’ll want to look for an engineered hardwood with a good ‘hardness’ to it. Hardness equates to durability and it will be less likely to get dented by falling objects and chairs pushing in and out. Look for an engineered hardwood with at least 8 plies, and a thick top veneer—ideally made from Oak or Maple.

Engineered hardwood stands up well to moisture and is able to handle changes in humidity better than solid hardwood. So while it’s not completely waterproof, it is the best water-resistant hardwood flooring option available. That said, you’ll want to clean up any spills immediately, and ensure all of your kitchen appliances are installed correctly to prevent leaks and potential water damage.

In terms of installation, engineered hardwood can be installed on basically any surface, but we always recommend installing over an underlayment. An underlayment provides a moisture barrier, reduces sound, and keeps your floors warmer. Engineered hardwood can be glued down, or ‘floated’ (not nailed down or glued), using a popular installation method called click and lock. It works just like it sounds: the floorboards click together, then lock in place. Like any flooring installation, you’ll want to lay out the floorboards in advance to ensure a seamless transition from one room to another – or hire a professional flooring expert.

In case you can’t tell, we’re big fans of engineered hardwood here. For an on-trend and beautiful option, we love this beautiful French Oak flooring from Build Direct. 

Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring (LVP) / Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVF)

luxury vinyl plank flooring

While vinyl may cause you to think of a kitchen floor from the 1980s, we promise it’s the next great option for kitchen and whole house flooring. 

While traditional vinyl is thin and typically fabricated in squares, vinyl plank flooring is fabricated in long, thicker planks. Similar to engineered hardwood, vinyl plank flooring is made from multiple plies that feature four distinct layers:

  • An underlayer made from hard thick vinyl
  • A layer that is designed to emulate the look of wood, tile, or stone
  • A clear layer that acts as a protectant 
  • An upper layer that provides durability against scratching and scuffs

The installation is also similar to engineered hardwood. LVP and LVF feature click and lock technology making installation a breeze. Unlike engineered hardwood, you don’t need to put down an underlayer as these options have that built-in.

So, what makes vinyl plank flooring a good option for kitchens? Well, it’s the only flooring that we can confidently say comes in fully waterproof options. It is also highly durable, making it a great solution for high-traffic, high-risk areas.

The downside of vinyl plank flooring is that you have to sacrifice look and feel. Unlike engineered hardwood, vinyl plank flooring doesn’t look as luxurious as solid hardwood and it also feels quite different underfoot. It also cannot be refinished in the same way engineered hardwood or solid hardwood can be, making it a more permanent choice.

Ultimately, the choice between vinyl plank flooring and engineered hardwood comes down to personal preference. We slightly prefer engineered hardwood for its look, feel, and stability, but vinyl plank flooring wins out for its waterproof nature. We recommend considering who will be using your kitchen to make the choice. If you have young kids and/or pets prone to spills, vinyl plank flooring may be your best option for right now. 

We love this rustic country cottage-style waterproof vinyl flooring from BuildDirect.

Solid Hardwood

white-oak-solid-hardwood

Solid hardwood is the gold standard for luxurious flooring. It’s also the most expensive option, and the most prone to water and moisture damage. That said, we think with the right wood species selection and maintenance, it can be a great option for your kitchen redesign.

Let’s look at hardness. The hardness of your solid hardwood is the best indicator for durability. Measuring hardness is not an easy task, but luckily there’s a standard rating scale called the Janka Hardness Test. We’ll use this rating scale to outline your options.

  • White oak: falling in the mid-range of the Janka scale at 1360, white oak is a fantastic option for floors that are durable and stylish. White oak is also naturally more water resistant than other species of tree due to it being a closed grain hardwood. This doesn’t mean it’s fully waterproof though, so spills and any leaks should be attended to immediately.
  • Hard maple: Boasting a Janka rating of 1450, hard maple is a solid option for durable hardwood kitchen floors. That said, its style is somewhat outdated so you’ll want to consider how it will flow with the rest of your interior design,
  • Brazilian Teak: it’s tough to talk about durability without mentioning Brazilian Teak–it comes in at a whopping 3540 on the Janka scale. It’s a highly durable flooring option and due to its natural oils, it is naturally waterproof. It is expensive and is considered a more premium option, but if it’s on budget, it’s a great choice.

We often see cases where homeowners want to install solid hardwood through the whole house, but hesitate when they get to the kitchen. This is where porcelain and stone tile options come in. It gives homeowners the best of both worlds—seamless hardwood through almost the whole house, and a durable surface for high-traffic areas prone to moisture and humidity. So, if you’re really set on hardwood throughout the home, and don’t want to take the risk of having it in your kitchen, you have options. 

If you do go with tile, we think making a statement with it is a great way to keep the design fresh and modern. A porcelain tile with a funky design like this one from BuildDirect is sure to stand up and stand out.

What About Laminate Flooring? 

This is a popular option, but we recommend avoiding it. Laminate flooring is made from synthetic flooring materials that are fused together through the process of lamination. This results in a flooring type that is scratch resistant, budget-friendly, and can be matched to just about any existing floor or interior design aesthetic. It’s typically a cheaper option than engineered hardwood or vinyl plank flooring, and is very easy to install. It’s often used as a quick and cheap way to update the look and feel of a home or a specific room.

The downsides to laminate flooring are that it’s not very durable out of the box and you may need to pay a premium for a more durable option. It is also quite slippery, so if you have small children or pets, it can be a safety hazard. Also, while somewhat water-resistant, it’s quite prone to warping if it does get exposed to moisture and doesn’t stand up well to spills or leaky appliances.

So, while laminate can be a popular budget-friendly option for homes, we don’t recommend it in your kitchen. 

So…What’s The Best Hardwood Floor For Kitchens?

Ultimately, the best types of hardwood floors for kitchens are engineered hardwood and luxury vinyl plank flooring. Both styles are durable, water-resistant, stable, hard, easy to install, and safe—key elements for any kitchen flooring.

If your heart is set on solid hardwood, we recommend going with white oak for its natural water-resistance and hardness. Alternatively, if you’re open to a hybrid design with hardwood everywhere except the kitchen, we recommend porcelain tile with a bold and creative design.

Remember, no matter what style you choose, it’s always good to think ahead to how flooring can impact your home’s resale value, based on color and style. That may give you a good jumping-off point before making your final decision. 

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AUTHOR

Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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