Brick Flooring in Kitchens

Kitchen Opening to Garden. Jon Bouchier; Elizabeth Whiting & Associates/ Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Brick is a warm, durable, and low-maintenance material that has a distinct personality that can give your kitchen a unique flavor. It offers many of the same characteristics of natural stone, being a strong, hard surface that is long-lasting and not easy to damage. At the same time, brick flooring also presents a number of concerns in the kitchen, and it may not be suitable for all applications.

Water Concerns With Brick Kitchen Floors

The biggest problem you will encounter having a brick floor in a kitchen is that it is fairly porous, meaning if you spill water, it can penetrate down into the brick and cause damage to the subfloor below.

If colorful liquids are spilled on untreated brick, they can leave stains deep in the material.

The solution to this is to use a high-quality sealing agent to protect the surface of the bricks by creating an invisible layer over its pores. Sealers wear down over time and must be reapplied every 6 to 12 months, depending on the amount of the traffic in the kitchen. You can also use a brick waxing agent, which will create a shiny sheen over the floor. However, wax can be slick, negating much of the natural traction of a brick surface.

Brick Kitchen Flooring Design Options

There is something that is just homey about a brick floor. It can make you think of hearth in front of a roaring fire or the wafting of aromatic flavors drifting from a brick oven—the perfect touch for a kitchen. And as a design tool, brick can be much more than a series of red rectangles placed in straight rows. There are actually a variety of design options that are available to you.

Colors

Traditional bricks range in color from soft tans all the way up to dark crimson hues, with a variety of reds and browns in between. The final color of the material is determined by the ingredients present when the brick is fired as well as how hot the fire is and how long the brick is baked. In addition to natural colors, bricks can be stained or tinted for a variety of hues, including greens, blues, browns, blacks, and silver.

Brick flooring can also be treated with colored stains and other surface finishes after installation.

Patterns

From basket weave to herringbone, there are dozens of different brick patterns you can choose from. The use of different sizes and shapes of bricks can expand the pattern options. For example, there is brick flooring made of various shapes and sizes of bricks mounted to a mesh backing, much like mosaic tile. These can mimic natural flagstone or even traditional cobblestones. The sheets can be installed so they create large patterns, or they can be randomly arranged for a more organic look.

Texture

Brick typically has a roughness that provides traction underfoot, even when floor gets wet. This is enhanced by the sandy texture of the grout lines running between the bricks throughout the floor. If you choose to use a wax treatment on a brick floor, you may have to sacrifice a significant amount of that traction, which can turn into a slippage issue in a damp kitchen.

Brick Floor Maintenance

As long as you maintain the sealant on the bricks to keep them water- and stain-resistant, regular maintenance of the floor should be relatively easy. Most spills should bead up on the surface, and daily upkeep will simply require sweeping or mopping to remove small dust and particles.

Potential Drawbacks of Brick Kitchen Floors

The hardness of brick can be murder on your feet and legs, especially when you spend long hours in the kitchen. Surface hardness can also be a problem when you're kneeling on the floor to reach objects deep inside base cabinets. The best way to counter foot and leg fatigue is to place padded rugs or gel mats in areas where you tend to stand the most.

Weight can be another concern with brick flooring, but usually this applies to traditional full-thickness bricks, which are heavy and typically need a concrete subfloor to support the weight. For conventionally wood-frame floors, you can avoid the weight concern by using thin brick. This installs just like ceramic tile and can have similar support requirements.