Are Wood Floors Suitable For Kitchens? Real vs Engineered Wood Flooring
When it comes to flooring for a kitchen, wood is a classic choice. Not only is a wood floor long-lasting, but it also adds to the feel and function of a kitchen. If you’re used to tile or laminate, then you may be surprised to find that wood offers significant benefits.
Wood flooring has a warm appearance and can be customized to suit the colour and design of your kitchen. Additionally, you will find that while tile and other surfaces can be hard on your feet, wood floors offer a more comfortable option.
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Types Of Wood Flooring
When you’re in the market for wood flooring, you’ll find that you have the option of hardwood flooring or engineered wood flooring. Each type of flooring has its own benefits and drawbacks. Read on to learn about the differences between both choices and what factors will likely affect your decision.
Just like the name suggests, hardwood flooring is solid wood from a variety of sources. It is usually cut to around 3/4″ in thickness and can be finished in a wide array of styles. The price of hardwood can vary depending on the type of wood chosen and the area needed to cover.
Advantages Of Hardwood Flooring:
- The look – Hardwood floors add a homey, rustic feel to any kitchen.
- Add value – Real hardwood floors can add value to a property.
- Easier to repair – Solid hardwood is usually easy to repair if you have water damage or pet stains, unlike other flooring materials.
- Possible to refinish – Solid hardwood can be sanded down and refinished many times.
Disadvantages Of Hardwood Flooring:
- Contracts and expands – Solid hardwood will expand and contract, based on humidity (especially in wider widths). This can cause gaps and unevenness across your floor as it ages, affecting its level finish.
- Requires a plywood subfloor – In order to lay the floor, your builder will need to install an additional level of material. This can add to the time and cost of installation.
- Not approved for below-ground applications – This means that if your kitchen is underground, you should not have hardwood. This is due to rising damp, flooding and other aspects associated with being under the watershed.
- Cost – Real hardwood flooring can be an expensive purchase, both in terms of materials and installation.
- Can be noisy – Walking across hardwood floors can create a lot of noise, especially for your downstairs neighbour if you’re in a flat.
Engineered Wood Flooring
Engineered wood flooring is a more modern version of wood flooring. It is constructed of different layers, with the main core or body of the boards made up of layers of plywood.
These are fixed perpendicular to each other and laminated together, a process known as cross bonding. It’s this construction method that gives engineered wood better strength and stability to withstand variations in heat and moisture.
The top layer of engineered wood is a real hardwood veneer. This real wood veneer can be from a variety of tree species. which is why there are so many different colours and looks available for engineered wood flooring.
The thickness of engineered hardwood can vary, although higher quality engineered woods should have a thicker veneered top layer. This will help to provide more durability and can also mean that the floor could be sanded back and re-treated. The thicker this top veneer, the more times it can be sanded back.
Advantages Of Engineered Wood Flooring:
- Achieves the wood look with fewer complications – Engineered wood flooring is the simpler, and often cheaper, option if you want wood in your kitchen.
- Does not require a plywood subfloor – This means that if you have concrete, you can install the hardwood directly over it.
- Often less expensive and easier to install – Especially if you have a concrete sub-floor.
- Can be installed anywhere – As opposed to hardwood flooring, the durability of this type of wood means it can be installed in basement kitchens.
- More stable over time – Because of its multiple layers, engineered wood is often stronger than solid hardwood. Since the layers are cross-bonded, it allows for a tighter fit, leading to fewer problems with expansion and contraction.
- More moisture resistant – Although you should not allow sitting water on either type of flooring, engineered flooring offers more protection and durability from spills. This makes them great for family kitchens.
Disadvantages Of Engineered Wood Flooring:
- May not be able to refinish the floor – Depending on the thickness of the top layer, not all engineered floors can be sanded and refinished.
- You’ll have to do your research – Since the quality of engineered hardwood can vary, you’ll have to make sure you’re getting a good quality product. Cheaper engineered flooring usually has lower grades of wood, meaning they won’t look as nice or last as long.
- Risk of water damage – Any spills or puddles that aren’t cleaned up in good time will cause damage to wood floors.
Can You Have Underfloor Heating with Wood Flooring?
If you want to have underfloor heating in your kitchen, you won’t be able to do this with real hardwood. The change in temperature and flux in moisture levels caused by underfloor heating can lead to twisting, warping, and separation of hardwood flooring.
This, in turn, increases the risk of your floor developing dips and gaps. It will also affect the level finish.
However, engineered wood flooring can be installed over underfloor heating. They are more resistant to changes in temperature and won’t warp due to their solid construction.
Some engineered wood flooring is better suited to underfloor heating than others. Boards that are too thick may not allow the heat to conduct through as well as slightly thinner boards. Make sure to check your flooring choice in this scenario.
How Do You Clean and Care For Engineered Wood Flooring?
Engineered wooden flooring can be cleaned much in the same way as hardwood flooring. It is recommended that you clean up dirt and debris by sweeping or vacuuming daily.
To help protect your wood flooring from dents and scratches, consider putting soft pads on the bottom of your table and chair legs.
In order to mop the floor, you’ll want to use a recommended liquid floor cleaner. Different types of engineered floors require different cleaners and using the wrong type could damage the flooring. If you’re not sure of what cleaner to use for your floor, contact the manufacturer for recommendations.
Top Tip: Always test your cleaner on a small, hidden patch of flooring before you use it on your whole surface.
Finally, make sure to clean up spills immediately with a soft cloth. Don’t use any harsh or abrasive materials as this can damage the surface.
Does Engineered Wood Flooring Scratch Easily?
As with all types of wood, engineered wood flooring can be scratched. Having a good quality product with a thick real wood veneer layer can help to limit scratching. However, you should expect to see a few scratches and dents over the years. That’s just how it goes!
Engineered wood floors with a quality top layer, however, can be sanded down and refinished if there is damage. Alternatively, you can repair scratches to wood flooring using a wax repair kit.
How Long Does Engineered Wood Flooring Last?
Although the lifespan of engineered wood flooring depends on the thickness of the plank and its usage, they last for a significant amount of time. Thinner types will last 20-30 years, while thicker ones may last 40-80 years. While over time the wood will break down (just like any other organic material), overall, it’s a long-lasting flooring option.
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Overall, having wood flooring in a kitchen is a great choice. It adds a warm, cosy and natural look to any kitchen. When choosing the type of wood, you’ll want to make a careful choice depending on your needs. For many, the benefits of engineered wood flooring really make it the right option.
If you’ve never considered this flooring choice before, you may want to take another look. Its durability and function make it a smart choice.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.