Which type of flooring is better for your kitchen – hardwood or tile?

hardwood flooring in kitchen There are so many options for kitchen flooring – hardwood, tile/natural stone, cork, laminate, vinyl, linoleum (and yes, I have even seen commercial carpeting in there – yuck!).  But which one is best for you and your kitchen?  This of course depends on which factors are most important to you as well as your budget (and the budget is sometimes influenced by the condition of your floors (e.g. are they level? Do you have plywood or cement underneath?)

I’m going to focus on the 2 most popular choices (esp for when someone is redoing their kitchen): Hardwood Flooring vs. Tile Flooring.

Advantages of Hardwood Flooring for a kitchen:

1.  Hardwood Flooring is 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 Flooring is warmer on your feet.  Tile draws heat away, so they feel colders, especially in the winter.  Of course, you can get radiant heat underneath tile, but this definitely costs extra.

3.  Hardwood can help make your space look larger, esp if it’s the same type and color as the hardwood in the other 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.

4.  Hardwood is currently in style.  Just take a look at all the kitchen magazines and you’ll see how prevalent hardwood is.

5.  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…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 a lot more than the labor for hardwood, so when you add labor and materials together, USUALLY hardwood is less expensive.  This of course 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).

6.  Many people think hardwood flooring is easier to clean and maintain.  Many people complain about how the grout gets dirty and all the dirt gets trapped there, and you don’t have the same issues with hardwood.  Of course hardwood can dent and scratch over time, and you may want to refinish them every 10 yrs or so.  But, I will say this is often much better vs. tile that cracks.  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.

kitchen floor with border and metal

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 has many design possibilities.  You can get really artistic and fun w/ designs by putting things 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 works since you want to have a nice contrast vs. the color of the cabinets – either go significantly lighter or darker…having too much of the same wood or color looks boring.

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 buy 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 or it’s 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. 

Downsides to hardwood flooring:

1.  Hardwood flooring is not waterproof, so be careful and pick 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.  This is not terribly expensive and you may only need to do this every 10 yrs or so.

Downsides to Tile Flooring:

1.  They can (and often do) crack.  This can be 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.  Or, 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 – in fact, 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.

Guest Blogger Information

Debbie Gartner is the owner of Floor Coverings International in Westchester NY.  She designs and installs all types of flooring – hardwood, carpet, tile, refinishing hardwood, laminate, cork, bamboo and more.  Best of all, she “brings the Store to Your Door.”  Floor Coverings International is nationwide – so if you go to the bottom of her website, you can look for a location near you.  http://westchester.floorcoveringsinternational.com

About Anita Clark Realtor

Anita Clark has written 605 posts on this blog.

Anita is a residential Real Estate Agent in Warner Robins Georgia, with Coldwell Banker SSK Realtors (478) 953-8595, aiding buyers and sellers with all their real estate questions on her Warner Robins blog.