One of the biggest hazards that flooring will face is the wide variety of liquids that are present in these spaces. There is always the possibility of splattering sauces, which can seep down into certain materials causing permanent dimensional stains if they are not properly protected. Larger spills can be even worse, penetrating into the surface below to form mold, mildew, and degrade the subfloor beneath.
In some cases these environments will also be subject to floods from broken water pipes and damaged appliances, which can cause even greater levels of damage.
Luckily there are certain materials that are resistant in varying degrees to water damage. These are often chosen for kitchen environments, as they will be easier to clean and maintain, and will tend to last longer despite the perils that these spaces can pit them against.
Vinyl: This man made, manufactured material is very much like a type of thin plastic, that can coat a kitchen floor with a completely impervious layer that will resist the penetration of any staining liquids or moisture. That also makes them very easy to clean, as any spills can simply be wiped away with a sponge or mop.
In tile form, you may have to worry about the seams between individual vinyl pieces. Puddles will be able to seep down past these over time, and while they won’t do any damage to the vinyl they can cause problems for the subfloor below.
With sheet products there are fewer breaks between them which eliminates that issue to a large extent.
Ceramic: Manufactured from clay and various sediments which are fired into hard tiles, ceramic is absorbent and susceptible to liquid damage in its untreated state. However products which are used in a kitchen often get a glazing treatment, which involves the application of a melted glass layer that makes the surface of each piece completely impervious to stains and water penetration.
They can also be printed with nearly any color or image, allowing these products to take on any look that might be desired in a kitchen environment.
The drawback to this material in a kitchen is that the grout lines in between individual tiles are not impervious to water and are still susceptible to the damage that can occur if liquids spill on them. If that occurs, moisture that seeps down can cause the growth of mold, slowly erode the subfloor, and can even affect the unglazed bottom surface of the ceramic itself.
Linoleum: This material is not impervious to water damage, and if it is immersed in liquid for any length of time linoleum will be subject to curling, warping, and other unsightly distortion effects. However its surface is coated in a wear layer that protects it from most spills and splatters that will occur in a kitchen, making it an acceptable option for these environments as long as proper care and precautions are taken.
Rubber: This soft, pliant, easy to install flooring option, is also completely impervious to liquid damage, and can handle almost any staining hazards that a kitchen can throw at it. The drawback is that it is only available in a limited number of color and style options, which can restrict decorative creativity.
Recycled rubber, while ecologically friendly, can also have a slight odor that can be annoying in a culinary environment where food is prepared, precipitating the need for slightly more expensive virgin materials.
Natural Stone: All stone materials, from slate and granite, to sandstone and marble, are absorbent in their natural state, which can be an issue when they are used in a kitchen environment. However the application of a quality below surface, and barrier sealing treatment can both clog the pores in the material, and create a clear protective coat over them, protecting them from the worst rigors that the room can generate.
Mosaic Glass: Specifically manufactured to be strong, durable, and resistant to physical impact damage, mosaic glass tiles are also impervious to any water penetration, and will not incur stains from spills or splatters that get on their surface.
However these are generally small pieces, with numerous grout lines installed between them, all of which can be vulnerable to moisture. This can be offset through the regular application of a floor sealing chemical.