If you’re looking for a gorgeous, durable flooring option for your kitchen, wood floors may be the answer. It's been popular for literal centuries, and the great thing about timeless design is that it never goes out of style. Plus, "we see this trend a lot because people love the feel of wood underfoot. Nothing else is like it," says Shoshanna Shapiro, owner and principal designer at Sho and Co. "With open floor plans, it’s also visually appealing to run wood throughout the house," Shapiro adds.
But maybe you’re worried about wood in a kitchen where spills from cooking and splashes from dishwashing come into contact with your floor. Isn’t water bad for wood? Not necessarily. Technology has come a long way, and today’s finishes can take a lot of abuse from kids, pets, and everyday living. "Of course, you never want to leave puddles of water on any type of wood flooring," says Shapiro. "Wood isn’t indestructible, but the technology has improved so much that it’s a popular option for kitchens."
Ahead, discover what else you need to know about putting down wood floors in a kitchen.
What’s the difference between solid wood and engineered wood floors?
Solid wood flooring, which is also referred to as hardwood flooring, is made from one piece of wood from top to bottom so it can be refinished many times. Unfinished solid wood is sanded and stained in place, while factory-finished wood floors are pre-finished so they can be walked on immediately with no drying time after installation.
The most popular species of hardwood is red oak, which is affordable and readily available. White oak also is popular because it can take lighter stains without lending any pinkish undertones that may show through on red oak. Other types of woods such as maple and walnut aren’t trending right now.
Engineered wood floors consist of seven to 10 layers of thin sheets of wood glued together with the grain going in different directions to provide stability. It’s then finished with a top layer of wood. This construction technique reduces the expansion and contraction that occurs with solid wood due to changing environmental conditions such as humidity levels, which fluctuate throughout the year, says Shapiro. Engineered hardwood is about 25 percent more expensive than hardwood.
Is solid wood or engineered wood better for flooring?
It’s really a personal preference. There are many factors that determine what the right flooring is for your home, says Shapiro. With solid wood flooring, areas may wear differently on hardwood flooring over time. But solid wood flooring can be refinished many, many times, and it doesn’t take that much sanding to get down to smooth wood again.
You typically don’t see wear marks as often in the finish on engineered wood, and you may be able to refinish some types of engineered wood floors once or twice. Ideally, choose engineered wood floors with a 5 to 7 mm wear layer on top. "That’s the sweet spot that makes it affordable and still allows you to refinish it," says Shapiro. In addition, if it’s an engineered floor that has a bevel between pieces, be aware that the bevel won’t be visible after sanding and refinishing.
Finally, engineered wood is a way to achieve the popular wide plank look with planks that are 6-inches or wider. "If you like that look, engineered wood is a much better choice because you won’t have the movement of solid wood due to changing environmental conditions," says Shapiro.
Does wood flooring scratch or dent easily?
The hardness of solid wood is measured according to the Janka scale, which indicates how well a species of wood can resist dings. For example, white oak is 1360 while red oak is 1290 on the Janka scale. For cross-reference, a soft wood such as pine is 870, so it dents easily. Regardless, treat the floor with a little TLC by putting felt slides on furniture and placing rugs at entryways to prevent grit from being tracked in. Lighter finishes also tend to be more forgiving in terms of showing scratches, says Shapiro.
If you drop something on hardwood, it’s hardwood all the way through so the ding won’t show that much. But if you drop something very heavy—and it would have to be very heavy-- you potentially could gouge engineered wood. If that happens, you may be able to see the plywood underneath, says Shapiro.
How do you take care of wood floors?
Your floors will look better longer, regardless of the material, if you clean them regularly. Use a microfiber mop, a broom with exploded tips, or disposable electrostatic cleaners daily to pick up grit so it doesn’t get ground in and scratch your floor. It’s okay to use your vacuum’s hardwood floor head but never the beater bar, which can damage the surface.
Wipe up spills or pet accidents right away with a slightly damp cloth, but never use steam cleaners or mops. Finally, stick with the cleaning product recommended by your manufacturer. Although natural products such as lemon juice and vinegar often are suggested as DIY cleaners, they’re acids, which can dull the finish over time.
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