The kitchen is a busy, high impact room, that is tough on its surfaces. From spills and splashes to water dangers, to the occasional dropping of a sharpened knife or fork, there are a number of different challenges that your floors will have to face.
Cost: Wood flooring can run as little as $1 to $2 per square foot on the low end, and can cost as much as $10 or even $20 for exotic high-end materials. In a kitchen, you want to make sure that you purchase a very dense, durable hardwood, and stay away from softwood floors that will be more prone to water damage and staining issues.
Long-Term Cost: While hardwood floors do cost more than most alternatives, including a variety of manufactured and resilient options, they also tend to last much longer. Because they can be refinished these materials can get a complete makeover every few years, which allows the floor to easily last for several decades; as long as something doesn’t happen to completely ruin it.
Warranty: Before you start the installation process you need to check and see whether there is a warranty on the hardwood materials. If there is you should read it carefully to see if anything in the contract mentions that the protection offered will be made null and void if it is installed in a kitchen or any space where water may be a hazard.
Professional Help: Hardwood is one of the most difficult and complex flooring materials to install in a kitchen. You have to be able to very accurately measure and cut the wooden planks, and then properly nail or adhere them to the subfloor. In general, amateurs should be very cautious about undertaking such a project, and unless you know what you are doing, the help of a professional is recommended.
Finish: After a hardwood floor is installed in a kitchen its surface needs to be protected with a sealing agent that will prevent the penetration of moisture and staining agents. In a kitchen where water is used all the time and acidic sauces are sprayed and splattered on a regular basis you are going to want to apply several coats of sealer in order to protect the material. Generally, a quality water based polyurethane mix is the best option for protecting your surfaces.
Prefinished Hardwood: These materials are treated at the factory with a very powerful UV cured urethane sealant embedded with aluminum oxide crystals. The protective coat created by this process is much more potent than anything that can be applied on site and can last up to five times longer than traditional self-applied finishes.
The drawback to this is that the planks that are pre-finished are generally sold with rounded, beveled edges. That means that when they are installed, there are minute gaps that appear in between the various pieces. This can allow water, and other staining agents in a kitchen to slip down between the floorboards, and start causing damage.
The most important thing that you can do to maintain your hardwood kitchen floors is to keep constant vigilance over them.
If anything spills, wipe it up immediately, and never allow water to stand on the surface for any amount of time. It will also be necessary to sweep or vacuum the floors regularly, in order to keep them free of small dirt, and gritty particles, that can scratch the wood and wear away the finish.
Maintaining The Finish: The kitchen is a fairly volatile area so you will need to re-apply the finishing agent every few months as it starts to wear down. You can test the finish on the floor by pouring a very small amount of water on it in some of the most highly trafficked areas. If it beads up the finish is fine. However, if it sinks in, wipe the liquid up immediately and start looking into a quality water repelling hardwood finish.
How to Care for a Hardwood Floor
Refinishing Hardwood Kitchens: When the floor starts to get damaged and worn down you also have the option of refinishing it.
This involves sanding the surface down past the finish and any other defects, then re-applying any stain, paint, and protection layers that you wish. Typical 3/4” hardwood floors can usually be refinished about 10 times before the material’s integrity is compromised.
The drawback is that the refinishing process is a big, messy job. It involves taking almost everything out of the kitchen and then bringing in big, loud equipment that sends sawdust flying through the air in every direction. You then have to apply stains and finishes to the wood, allowing each to dry over the course of hours or days before moving on to the next step.
The Advantages of Hardwood In Kitchens
Design: Hardwood is a beautiful material that brings the vibrant energy of a living forest into your kitchen. It’s also a very common flooring material, and if it is used in other rooms than a kitchen installation can help to unite this space with the design of the rest of the home. This is especially useful in open floor designs, where kitchens stretch seamlessly into living areas.
Soft: A kitchen is a place where one or more people will spend a lot of time standing as they work to prepare meals for family and friends. That makes the comfort of the floor an important factor. Hardwood provides you with a softer, more yielding surface to stand on than most tile and hard surface flooring options. This also makes it less likely that items will shatter if accidentally dropped.
Floods and Leaks
A kitchen is a place that uses water in a lot of different ways. Unfortunately, each utensil that ties into the plumbing of your house, is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Small leaks can cause standing puddles, that will wear through the finish and seep down cracks to rot the floor from within. Malfunctions can also cause floods, which will send water washing over the floor, ruining most hardwood materials in a matter of minutes.
Leaks and floods are going to be a constant concern if you decide to install hardwood in your kitchen.
The only way to offset this threat is to ensure that all appliances are well cared for and maintained, and all pipes are strong and free of any leaks. If there are any problems, immediately take actions to both protect the floor from moisture and repair the issue as quickly as possible.