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How to Install a hardwood floor in the kitchen

Updated on March 15, 2010

Hardwood Floors in the Kitchen
One of the more popular trends in the hardwood flooring industry is to add hardwood floors to the kitchens.  Flipping through any kind of kitchen or home design magazine, it seems like everyone is gravitating to seemless look of wood flooring throughout the house.  But is adding wood floors to a kitchen a good idea?  And what things should you think about before you begin your project?

What Type of hardwood Floor Should you use for the kitchen?
Typically, you will want to choose a hardwood species that has tighter grain pattern in the wood such as the flooring taken from the heart of the wood (heartwood).  This is usually a little more expensive per square foot with less flaws such as a clear grade oak floor.  Tighter grain patterns will help hide everyday wear and tear in rooms that are considered to be high traffic areas.

Lighter colored hardwoods in kitchens, such as maple or birch, while seeming like a good idea (light colored wood typically will make the space appear bigger and give a “lighter, more airy” look) will show dings and dents more quickly than the tighter grained wood. If you do decide on lighter colored wood for the kitchen, you may want to take a look at Anderson Wood floors as their engineered wood is built to weather high traffic areas more often.

Hand scraped and distressed hardwood works very well in the kitchen

Handscraped and distressed wood works very well in places like the kitchen because they hide damage very well.    Inevitably, the kitchen is likely going to be the most trafficked area in the home and distressed hardwood will work very well to shield the floor from pots and pans hitting the wood and other accidents.  Some will call dents and dings on the wood “character” marks.  A distressed or handscraped floor will make these inevitable character marks look more normal.

Should you buy a prefinished floor or finish it yourself?

Most people will look for a prefinished floor as this will prevent the requirement of sanding your hardwood after installation.  However, in the case of the kitchen, you may want to rethink this option.  Prefinished floors have micro bevels which will catch dirt and debris.  Compare this to an unfinished floor that you sand yourself which will be smoother and easier to clean.
Should you decide to install the cabinets first before you install the floor or after?


What type of finish will you need for your kitchen floor?

Choosing a finish for the kitchen that is durable will be absolutely essential.  Chances are good, because of the high foot traffic, that you will need to refinish the floors every year to two years.   If you are going with a prefinished floor, most hardwood will have a aluminum oxide finish.  If you are going with an unfinished solid hardwood floor, then a urethane finish is recommended.  The National Wood Flooring Association recommends that you finish your floors with a moisture cured urethane (2 coats) although you can also go with oil or water based urethane; it will just require more coats of finish.

Water, Moisture and your kitchen hardwood floor

Water and moisture will cause major problems with hardwood where-ever you install it.  Because the kitchen is the third most moisture rich area of the home (behind the bathroom and basement), you will need to take extra measures to as to not damage the wood.  Here are some tips to help protect your wood floors.

  • Use water resistant area rugs in areas where there is the greatest chance of them getting wet, like around the sinks.
  • Another option is to add ceramic tile exclusively around the sink area to protect the hardwood floors surrounding it.
  • Have a plumber come out and update existing connections to prevent leaks that could damage your floors.
  • Before installing your floor, consider what you will do if any planks or sections do get water damage.  While repairs can be expensive, the easiest floor in the kitchen to repair is a prefinished floor that is either stapled or nailed down.

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