Which type of floor is better for kitchens – tile or hardwood flooring?
There are so many options for kitchen flooring – hardwood, ceramic tile, natural stone, cork, laminate, vinyl, linoleum. But which one is best for you and your Westchester NY kitchen? Of course this depends on which factors are most important to you as well as your budget and the condition of your subfloor (e.g. is the floor level? Do you have plywood or concrete underneath?)
I’m going to focus on the 2 most popular choices for kitchen remodels: Hardwood Flooring vs. Tile Flooring.
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Advantages of Hardwood Flooring for a kitchen:
1. Hardwood Floors are easier on your feet. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking or entertaining or both.
2. Hardwood Floors are warmer on your feet. Tile draws heat away, so tile flooring feels colder, especially in the winter. Of course, with tile flooring, you can also install radiant heat underneath, but this definitely adds to the cost.
3. Hardwood flooring is USUALLY LESS EXPENSIVE than tile flooring. This is especially true here in Northeast and Mid Atlantic. Don’t be fooled by going to a store and looking at the prices for the materials…it will probably look like hardwood is more expensive than tile…but remember, these are the prices for the materials and not the labor. The labor for tile is much higher than the labor for hardwood, so when you add labor and materials together, USUALLY hardwood is less expensive. Naturally, this depends on which hardwood and which tile and condition of your floor, but this is a good rule of thumb for the colder climates. (Note, in warm climates, labor for tile is lower so this equation may flip flop).
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4. Hardwood floors can help make your space look larger, especially if it’s the same type and color as the hardwood in the adjoining rooms. By using the same surface and color it makes your space more cohesive and your eye flows from room to room giving the illusion of more space.
5. Hardwood is currently in style for kitchens. This is why you see them featured in all the kitchen magazines.
6. Many of my customers find hardwood flooring easier to clean and maintain than tile flooring. Many complain that the grout gets dirty and all the dirt gets trapped there. Hardwood can dent and scratch over time, and you may want to refinish them every 10 yrs or so. But, I will say this option is usually preferable vs. tile that can crack over time. Once tile has cracked, there is very little that you can do about it. Once you refinish your hardwood floors, they look like new again. Plus, you can change the color if you like.
Advantages of tile flooring in kitchens:
1. Tile flooring is waterproof. (or extremely water resistant). So, you don’t need to worry about water spilling at the table or extra water by the sink or if one of your appliances has a major issue or just leaks a bit. You also don’t need to worry about who’s cleaning it because these floors are close to indestructable.
2. Tile flooring can be very pretty and has many design possibilities. You can get really artistic and fun w/ designs by putting tiles on a diagonal, using multiple sizes/shapes, adding inserts and/or adding borders. Also, if you have mid-tone wood cabinets, sometimes it’s easier to find a tile that complements the cabinets. Sometimes, it’s challenging to find a hardwood color that works with some styles of cabinets.
3. If you are using radiant heat, tile will conduct the heat better. Plus, any type of tile should work. With hardwood and radiant heat, your options are limited and you often need to purchase the more expensive hardwoods as your choices have been narrowed for you in terms of what will withstand the radiant heat.
4. Some people just prefer the look of tile. I can’t explain this except to say that some people just like tile better, or they grew up with tile and therefore just prefer it. Tile is what they expect to see in a kitchen. So for these customers, tile is best for their style.
5. Tile won’t scratch. It’s hard so you don’t need to worry about shoes, chairs or other objects scratching the floor. So for some, having this piece of mind is worth it. If you have dogs and they tend to scratch the floors, this is a safe bet.
Downsides to hardwood flooring:
1. Hardwood flooring isn’t waterproof, so be careful and clean up spills right away. The good news is that if small sections are damaged by water, they can be replaced and you can refinish the whole floor.
2. Hardwood floors will need to periodically be refinished. Refinishing hardwood is not expensive and you may only need to do this every 10 yrs or so.
Downsides to Tile Flooring:
1. Tile flooring can crack. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common reasons stem from poor installers and/or do-it-yourself installers. They often don’t realize how important floor prep is, and as a result often install on top of plywood (which is a no no) and/or don’t level the floor. Both of these will cause the tile to crack…it’s just a matter of how long it will take.
Also, over time a house can just settle a bit and cause cracks. And, if you’re tile is cracked, it is extremely difficult (and often impossible) to repair just a few tiles without causing additional cracks in other areas). In the long run, solid hardwood will probably last much longer than tile. I’ve seen many homes w/ hardwood that is over 100 yrs old..sometimes over 200 yrs old.
2. The grout gets dirty and starts to chip away. If you reseal your grout every year, this will help, but over the long run, the grout will often need to be replaced.
- What type of kitchen floors do new home buyers prefer?
- Should you install the flooring or the cabinets first?
- Tile planks that look like wood vs real hardwood
- Best places to buy wood looking tiles
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.
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Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
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27 thoughts on “Kitchen floors – Is hardwood flooring or tile better?”
My personal preference is the hardwood floor for the kitchen. The tiled kitchen floors I’ve seen were too susceptible to cracks or, the grout cleaning job reoccurred too often. Thanks!
Thanks for sharing. I really do like the look of tile a lot. Good tips and, I appreciate the advice.
Glad you enjoyed it, Rhett.
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If you are putting down new flooring then you should consider luxury vinyl tile. You are going to see that it will be very easy to create the look and feel that you are searching for at a great price if you go with this type of tile. This is not nearly as expensive as if you are to use granite flooring and this will also be a lot cheaper than carpets in many cases.
I enjoyed your comments. As a long time home owner, I have lived with 3 types of kitchen flooring: a synthetic realistic looking terra cotta, a genuine terra cotta and hardwood. Although I loved the look of the real terra cotta, it was very hard to keep. If something was dropped , no question it would break. My elderly father fell on it and had bad bleeding from his head. The same thing could happen to children. I am enjoying the hardwood floor. I thank you for your through explanation of the restoration processes. I have heard praises of the dustless method but have not encountered many people who have done it.
Pat – Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, the terra cotta seems to be very challenging to maintain and very hard. And, because it’s less smooth, more people tend to trip on it. I’m so glad you are happy now with the hardwood flooring. We’ve been getting more and more requests for the dustless sanding. Years ago, few had heard of this, but now we get lots of requests for it.
I still believe that concrete flooring is much better that these types mentioned here. Believe me, I have changed lots of houses, and I still believe that next my house will be with concrete flooring.
Grindu – Concrete flooring may work well in warm climates, but it is not very practical for cooler/more temperate climates such as Northeast, Mid Atlantic or MidWest. That type of flooring is very cold on your feet, expensive and doesn’t work well with plywood subfloors. There definitely are differences in construction and practicality across the US, so this does depend on where you live as well as the construction of your house (slab vs. plywood). Thanks so much for your input.
Flooring Girl, We purchased a ~4500sq ft commercial building about 13 years ago and it’s a never ending remodel. (And due to recent health concerns, $ is a huge problem. We have uneven concrete floors throughout (uneven primarily bc we filled in several slowly sloping drains, but of course some settling, also.). I am so confounded as to what to do. Mom says laminate due to hip pain, hubby says vinyl plank so it’s water proof (can’t imagine that working on these cracks), and I want, in my dream world, glued down (or heck, nailed to plywood if I could addord the plywood) hardwood. *sigh*. Advice?!?!?! I’l Take ANYTHING!!
Sandra – Oh gosh, this is a toughie because you have a concrete subfloors and competing priorities. Laminate IMO is definitely your worst choice. It’s not waterproof and it’s floating/installed same way engineered vinyl plank. So if you choose floating floor, this is the best choice.
But, I have to advise you that there are no simple choices here…each will either cost you extra money or will have drawbacks due to your subfloor.
If you do wood, you need to spend extra on plywood with hilties…not cheap. (You also need to make sure there is enough clearance in height to do this.
Or floating floor (e.g. EVP such as coretec or laminate) will be less expensive to install…but if floors are even, you may want to level those out and that can cost a lot of money.
If you want to do glue down engineered wood, your really will need to level out floors (again $$) and it will need to be even more even than a floating floor. Because if it’s not even, the boards will pop up.
It’s hard for me to advise you more without seeing in person. I’d recommend that you can a local contractor to get their opinion.
I guess I’d see if there is an inexpensive/less expensive way to level out floor (or partially level it…eg. maybe do this yourself with self leveling mix. and, then, I’d probably do coretec plus.
Just my 2 sense/gut, but you have to have someone local look at it.
I installed the vinyl ALL OVER my house – I even removed tile and carpet to do so. My folks had a bad experience with laminate in the kitchen/breakfast, and I was trying to do something dog/child proof. It is! And if a single plank becomes spoiled, it can be replaced easily. My only gripe about the flooring – and this would happen with any solid surface – is the dust. You will be totally grossed out by how much dust and hair was hidden by your carpet.
Yes, carpet does trap a lot of the dirt. If you clean regularly, the dirt/dust shouldn’t be much of an option. Plus, it helps if you get a style that helps hide the dirt a bit more until you clean it.
Thank you for this info. I HAVE HAD A TOTAL OF 4TILE FLORRS DONE IN MY KITCHEN AND THE Y DID NOT LAST NOR WERE THEY GOOD FOR MY FAMILY OF 7 OVER THE YEARS. I AM NOW TURNING TO HARDWOOD FOR MY KITCHEN. CAN HADWOOD BE SEALED TO MINIMIZE THE IMPACT OF SPILLS.
Sandra – Yes, it sounds like you will have better luck with hardwood. Yes, you should seal the floors with polyurethane. I’m assuming you are doing unfinished wood and finishing on site as this gives your kitchen the most protection. And, consider adding another coat. And, consider doing a screen & recoat 3-4 yrs later for more protection.
I have had both hardwood floors and tile floors in a few of my homes. I prefer the hardwood floors because they are warmer than the tile floors. I guess I just don’t like cold feet in the morning.
Cheryl – I’m with you…especially in the winter. We recently redid my mom’s floors and changed from tile to hardwood and wow what a difference!
Hey Debbie, I would go with tiles over hardwood in the kitchen as they are more durable with splashes that our kitchens are prune to. Great topic, really love it!. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Mike. Yes, tile is a wonderful option, too.
I am currently building a new home and after reading your advantages of wood flooring, I gave a thought about putting it in my kitchen. I liked the idea of my kitchen seeming bigger, and getting away from the more traditional kitchens we have been seeing in the past decades. However, when I came across your argument for tile and how it is waterproof, I realized it was the best option for me. Thanks for contrasting both!
Hi Luke. I’m so glad you found it handy. The truth is that both work. They each have advantages and disadvantages.
While I personally prefer hardwoods, I totally agree with you that each type of tiling has its pros and cons and the choice should be made based on the type of kitchen environment you are set to create with the flooring.
If you are someone who doesn’t like maintenance a lot when it comes to spilling liquids or damage, then tile flooring is definitely the better option.
Stephen – Excellent point. Yes, I do have households with this issue, as well as some with dogs that can make a mess, and they strongly prefer tile. Yes, lifestyle can make a big difference.
We’re considering extending our existing walnut engineered flooring into the powder room, kitchen, and laundry room. Does your hardwood analysis above apply to engineered hardwood as well?
Hi Bree. I would be very hesitant to add engineered hardwood in the kitchen and the powder room, and most especially walnut which is very soft. It will get scratched in the kitchen and then you’ll need to replace it. You may be okay in the powder room, but if you have a flood of any sort, you are toast. I would consider solid hardwood or tile that looks like hardwood for those areas.