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by Paul BianchinaInstalling floor

The floor in your kitchen has to wear a lot of hats. It has to be able to withstand the rigors of lots of foot traffic. It needs to be water-resistant and be able to stand up to repeated cleanings. It has to be able to withstand grease, spills, drips and other indignities — and it has to look good doing it!

When you’re ready to shop for a kitchen floor that can handle all those demands, you’ll find that you have several choices. There’s probably no single “perfect” flooring material, but by doing a little homework, you’re sure to find one that will work beautifully in your kitchen.

Pros and consHere are some great choices to consider, along with some of the pros and cons of each:

Sheet Vinyl: Sheet vinyl flooring is one of the most common choices for a kitchen floor. Sheet vinyl is very resistant to spills, grease and dirt, is very water resistant, and is also very easy to clean. There are hundreds if not thousands of patterns, styles and colors to choose from, as well as different weights and thicknesses. Vinyl sheets are available in 6-foot and 12-foot-wide rolls, so it’s possible to complete most kitchens with few or no seams.

It’s also one of the less expensive flooring options, so it’s easier on your wallet and also makes it a little easier to change if you redecorate.On the down side, vinyl flooring is prone to wear and scratching over time, especially with the lower-end materials. And from a resale value, it may lack the appeal of some of the more expensive floors.

Vinyl Tiles: Vinyl tiles have some of the virtues of sheet vinyl, such as water resistance, ease of cleaning and low cost. Because these are individual tiles, they are the easiest of all the flooring products for the do-it-yourselfer to install. Another advantage is that if damage occurs, you can easily take up and replace the individual damaged tiles, without having to incur the cost of replacing the entire floor.

There is a very definite downside with vinyl tiles, however, and that is the dozens of dirt-catching seams you end up with. Vinyl tiles also have probably the lowest overall appeal from a resale standpoint.

Ceramic Tiles: Ceramic tile is one of the best overall choices for a kitchen floor. These hard, durable tiles will stand up to all sorts of abuse, from spills to heavy appliances, and the tile is completely waterproof as well. Ceramic tile is hard to beat from a decorating standpoint, as there are thousands of size, color and pattern choices available. You can also mix different types or colors of tile to form patterns, borders or even pictures. A quality ceramic tile floor, especially some of the new travertines in large squares, are currently very popular and will add to a home’s resale value.

The downsides of ceramic tile seem to be a matter of personal preference. For one thing, tile is the hardest and coldest of the floors underfoot, with none of the resiliency of vinyl or wood. This can be offset to some degree through the addition of small, non-skid area rugs, and if you want to really warm up the floor, you can have radiant heat cables installed underneath the tiles during installation. The other issue that some people have with tile are the grout lines, which are a little harder to clean than the tiles themselves. Again, this problem can be minimized by using larger tiles with small grout spaces between them, and be making sure that the grout is sealed after installation.

Laminate Floors: Laminate flooring has become increasingly popular in the kitchen. There are dozens of patterns and colors now available, some of which mimic the look of real wood quite well. The laminate can be chosen to blend or contrast with the wood in the cabinets, and you can mix in some darker strips to create accents and borders if desired. Laminate floors have some “spring” to them, making them one of the softer and more comfortable floors to stand on. They can also be a very good do-it-yourself project, and a well-selected and well-installed laminate floor will also add resale value.

If you have a kitchen that sees a lot of use, especially if chairs or bar stools are present, the laminate can be prone to scratching. Laminate also requires specific cleaning products for best results and longest life, and may not stand up to a lot of water over time.

Hardwood Floors: Hardwood floors have long been a classic and desirable feature in living rooms and other areas of the house, but it was only through relatively recent advances in the quality of polyurethane finishes that wood has found its way into the kitchen as well. Hardwood is beautiful, durable, compliments virtually any style of kitchen, and typically adds to the resale value, although some people are still a little leery of it in the kitchen.

Hardwood flooring is not a very good do-it-yourself project, and requires proper sanding and finishing to look good and to hold up in the kitchen. It also has some of the same drawbacks as laminate, requiring special cleaners as opposed to simple damp mopping, and is prone to scratching and damage from excessive water.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

Copyright 2009, Inman News

See Paul Bianchina’s feature Power Tools Make House Painting a Cinch.

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