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Hardwood Flooring in the Kitchen: Pros and Cons

Few flooring surfaces can match the look and feel of real hardwood. It looks elegant and authentic, feels warm and smooth. Those who love hardwood, love it a lot, and opt in for real wood on all flooring surfaces in their homes, including the kitchen. Pages of Canadian Interiors or House and Home magazines feature numerous images of gorgeous kitchen interiors with designer wood floors. They look incredible in print, but is hardwood in the kitchen really a good idea?

After all, the kitchen is one of the most trafficked areas of the entire home. Spills, drops, cooking accidents are unavoidable…and how much is too much for a real hardwood surface to bear?

As non-demanding as wood floors are, they are natural, “breathing” surfaces that require timely care – more than a quick run through with a Swiffer on your way out to work or kids soccer practice. So if you have your heart set, read on, as the tips below will help you choose the right hardwood floor for your kitchen, and help you care for it correctly, so that the warm, cozy feel of your hardwood floors will make you and your family happy for many years.

What Type of a Wood Floor is Best for My Kitchen?

Wood Species
Go with the hardest species you can find. Oak and ash are some of the strongest domestic wood species used in manufacture of wood floors. Rich grain and exquisite texture of these species will not only make the floor look beautiful and unique, but also help disguise small dents and scratches that are bound to occur over time.

Although Jatoba and Santos Mahogany are much stronger than oak and ash, these exotic woods tend to change color, darkening over time. In addition, they are very sensitive to humidity fluctuations: frequent contracting and expanding may cause the surface to crack. With exotic species such as these, it’s best to use oil finishes over polyurethanes. Oil allows the wood to breathe, minimizing the chance of surface cracks.

Surface Texture
Wood floors with a light texture and a polished finish are gorgeous, but will they look just as spotlessly perfect after a few pots, pans, and jars have been dropped on your floor? Probably not, which is why highly textured wood species, and wirebrushed finishes work so well in kitchens and other high trafficked areas – most surface damages blend almost seamlessly into the existing texture. If anything, the floor only ends up looking better over time!

Surface Finish

Choose a surface finish that is either

1) exceptionally strong, to protect the wood from damages associated with dropped objects; or 2) easy to restore and renew.


Polyurethane lacquer finishes (especially those that are UV-cured and contain “diamond” dust) are very hard-wearing and durable. They are more than sufficient for any residential interior. However, when enough damage accumulates over time, sections of the floor (planks or entire sections) would need to be replaced. In the kitchen, it’s the areas in front of the sink, the stove, and especially the fridge that are most prone to damages from drops, spills, or water. To protect your floor, use small mats or rugs in those areas.


UV-cured oil finishes are not as hard wearing as lacquers, but they have their own benefits – local area damages can be easily restored. Spot repairs can be done using sanding paper, stain (if necessary) and renewer oil. An oil-finished hardwood floor is the best option for a kitchen where all spills are cleaned up quickly.

Regardless of the type of surface finish, remember to regularly sweep or vacuum your kitchen hardwood floor, and promptly clean up all spills. Don’t scrub or use any harsh chemicals. Use manufacturer-recommended cleaning solutions to restore the original shine and beauty of your floor.

Despite the risks associated with installing hardwood floors in kitchens, many homeowners who opted for hardwood, stand by their decision, and offer these additional tips.

Tips for Choosing the Best Hardwood Floor for Your Kitchen

– If you are installing a prefinished floor, go for one with microbevels instead of regular sized bevels. It will help prevent dirt and grit from accumulating between boards.
– Use floating “click” floors. Severely damaged boards will be easy to replace!
– Place small rugs in front of the sink, stove, and under the fridge, dishwasher and cat/dog bowls.
– Lighter or natural colored wood floors are better for kitchens – dust, food crumbs etc. are not as visible there as they are on darker surfaces.
– Water leaks can severely damage wood. Take precautions to avoid dishwasher, sink, and fridge leaks.

Enjoy Your Floor

Real wood flooring can be a stunning addition to your kitchen. Now that you know what to look for when picking the perfect hardwood, it’s time to start looking. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to consider brave, color-rich options. After all, it will be a part of your home, and it deserves to be as unique as you are.

Ready to get started? Take a look at our 80+ designer styles of hardwood flooring for inspiration, and request a free sample of any product you like!

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