Help! Wood in the kitchen?

halgreeneAugust 23, 2014


We are closing in on our kitchen. It is an open-plan apartment, and both our contractor and designer are pushing us to run the oil-finished natural cherry wood flooring throughout, including the kitchen. We agree that that would be the most beautiful, but we are paranoid about having wood in the kitchen. Our fear is that over time, the various inevitable cooking, eating, and washing splashes and spills, no matter how diligently you go after them, will stain the semi-porous surface and leave it looking splotchy.

Opinions? Solutions?


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Fori is not pleased

I would do it, but perhaps in a more durable finish. Wood does fine in a kitchen with a typical finish, but I can't vouch for the oil-finish.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:22AM
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Yes maybe change the finish at the kitchen opening.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:31AM
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I had similar apprehensions about wood in the kitchen before we moved to a home 12 yrs ago that had oak floors throughout the open plan. I love it! I cook daily and stand prepping for good amounts of time. Wood floors are kind to my feet & legs.

I keep a Dash & Albert washable rug in front of the sink area & put those little felt protectors on the bottom of the counter stools. The poly finished oak floors are being refinished as part of our kitchen remodel, but they've looked great for the 14 yrs since installation.

Our lakehouse has Carlisle wide pine floors in a deeper shade with a tung oil finish. They show scratches & dings more than the oak, for sure, but that patina is part of their charm. I keep another D&A washable runner behind the island, which is the primary prep space & felt stickers on the bottoms of the stools.
Seven yrs later, they are still beautiful.

Only you know your lifestyle but I wouldn't be afraid to do wood as long as you take reasonable care.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:47AM
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I'm in the middle of renovating due to a water leak from the ice maker hose... By the time we found it, it had damaged multiple cabinets and the wood floor. And then there was the awesome mold we found when we pulled the damaged floor up, requiring new subfloors and new sheetrock halfway up the walls.

I wouldn't put wood in a kitchen again. It's lovely, but not worth it to me.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I hear so many horror stories about leaking water lines to the fridge. It happened to our neighbors over a weekend, and they had to refinish their entire finished basement. I don't use the automatic icemaker in my fridge.

I remodeled my kitchen last summer, and in hindsight I sort of wish I had extended the wood floors in the dining room into the kitchen. But like the OP, I'm a bit paranoid at the potential for disaster.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:31PM
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I cannot help you with the durability of the oil finish, but I can comment on the traditional varnish finished oak floor which I have in my kitchen.
I do use a rug (about 20" x 10') along the work area in front of sinks and range, more for safety (I had polio as a child and slipping is a problem) than for utility or appearance. However, the rug also serves to protect the floor in this high traffic area from the kind of grit and traffic that a kitchen floor takes. And I like the way it brings pattern and color into a largely wood kitchen.

The floors are simply swept every day or two, vacuumed occasionally to get dog hair and dirt out of the corners, and, rarely, washed with a minimum of a simple water and wood-finish compatible detergent and quickly dried.
There have been NO stains and only very slight signs of wear where my husband slides his chair back and forth. Some of the area (all to the viewer's side of the cabinets) is the original oak flooring that dates back 50 plus years. We did have that part of that refinished to match new wood installed during the kitchen remodel (in this pic, the wood under the rug and in front of the fridge.
Again, I cannot speak to the durability of an oil finish.

Personally, I love wood floors in kitchens. I hope some who have experience or knowledge of oil finishes will respond.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:32PM
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Our icemaker also sprang a leak a few years back, we were out of town for the weekend and came home to find it. Our floor is ceramic, it was easily cleaned up and no permanent damage. I think if it had been wood, it would be a different story. I love the warm rich look of wood floors in the kitchen, but for me, the tile is more practical. We also have an eat in kitchen, if we had a wood floor, I imagine the chairs scraping back and forth over time would damage it. Of course, a rug would take care of that, but at the time we installed the tile floor we had 3 small children, so a rug in the kitchen would have required constant shampooing. But I do admire wood floors in other people's kitchens, there is nothing as beautiful as a wood floor.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I guess you could always take precautions and lay a couple of towels down in front of the fridge when you'll be gone for quite awhile. ;) Seriously, I'm in my 2nd kitchen w/wood~hand scraped in this house. It's not site installed, and I'm not familiar with the oil finish, but I think I would opt for a heavier duty finish. I think you could get a lot of water spotting, and sometimes if not cleaned up immediately, will leave a water mark. Engineered flooring is recommended for every room. Even when my dog 'slurps' on the wood, and I'm gone and can't get to it right away, there are no water marks after it's been cleaned up with wood cleaner.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:26PM
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The Oil finish is not a hard shell finish like poly or varnish, and is ideal for a kitchen because of that. If it gets a stain, you can just sand/steel wool the spot and rub some more oil in it with 0000 steel wool. This is also why I prefer it for a table finish.

As far as icemaker disasters, it would be far worse if you had a hard shell finish peel off. If you go out of town for an extended period, turn the water off.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:35PM
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Wood flooring throughout is certainly beautiful and attractive. But I also think using a distinctive tile in the kitchen can be an eye-catching design element on its own merits, even aside from functionality.

It can give a more "designed" appearance, like you put some extra thought into it and went the extra mile to make it stand out. If you go that route, I would go with something like a natural stone laid in a pattern, like a pinwheel, running bond, diagonal, Versailles, etc.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 2:50PM
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I love wood floors throughout, and continuing the wood would give a cohesive look, but if you are uncomfortable with it, it's not the right choice for you. There are other choices that will work. A strong contrast between wood and tile colors would make for a choppy look, but a tile chosen to coordinate nicely and in complementary tones would look great.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 3:54PM
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Cherry floors are lovely but cherry is not a very durable wood. Even heart pine is about 30% harder than cherry. Don't expect your floors to stay dent free, especially in a kitchen. If it were me, I would use something else and if it were solid wood, I would definitely put a professional finish on it. Oil finish with nothing on top, no way.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 4:15PM
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What climate do you live in? In my neck of the woods, tile is icy cold in winter, especially first thing in the morning.

The OP is concerned with cleanability - I couldn't stand my previous kitchen's tile floor because the grout was stained, and where it wasn't stained, it had turned dingy over time. I don't care how well you seal grout, it will stain because something like a tomato sauce drop will seep under the seal, since the seal tends to lift a bit from the grout over time.

My current kitchen has oak wood floors that were installed in the '90's. I have kids who are never careful, and a dog and cats all of whom have skidded around on the wood floor, and it still looks great. My floors do have what my contractor called a "gymnasium finish" which helps with durability.

This post was edited by shannonplus2 on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 20:42

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:39PM
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I agree with you OP. Aesthetically, continuous flooring is great but I will never put a wood floor in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.

If there is constant moisture, I don't want a flooring material that is damaged by moisture.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:20PM
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We've had oak floor in our Kitchen since 1986, re-finished once about 10 years ago. Raised two boys and an English Bulldog, and the floor still looks great today. We had an ice maker incident several years ago, and a few boards under and in front of the fridge cupped, but flattened out within a few weeks.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:12PM
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We have red oak floors throughout with a poly finish. The wood floors are almost 25 years old with a second sanding. I am amazed at how durable wood can be. I have lived int eh house for 9 years, the floors have survived a leaky dishwasher, hair balls, spills, dogs, and numerous partys. We live in the Chicago area. Wood is actually pretty forgiving, it did cup a little bit after the dishwasher leaks but then it dried out. On the flip side I have had tile, not as big of fan, but if I lived in a warmer climate I would consider it. Just dont drop anything.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:16PM
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You might want to read up on oil finishes before you make your decision. I found quite a bit of information from a quick online search.

We have polyurethaned oak floors in our house. They're now 18 years old, and although the rest of the house still looks fabulous, the kitchen is definitely showing wear and tear. We will need to have them sanded and refinished. If they were oil finished, they could be spot repaired or just reoiled, so that's a consideration.

I love my wood floors, even in the kitchen. I would definitely choose them again if I had to do it over. They are warm looking and easy to keep clean. They feel warm underfoot.

However, if you're the kind of person who wants everything to look perfect or worries about the inevitable dents and scratches, you might want to think hard before going with wood, esp. a softer wood like cherry (which I love).

Most importantly, don't let anyone talk you into something that you don't want. Listen to them, ask questions, learn as much as you can, then make the decision you feel comfortable with.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 12:08AM
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I have red oak floors in my kitchen, living, dining, and hall. It's 5", site-finished, with an oil-based finish. I'm fortunate to have never had a leak in the kitchen. Other than the patina from house cats, it's what gives my house its warmth and heart. I wouldn't hesitate to have it in another kitchen. I love tile floors in my bathrooms, but can't imagine my kitchen without its wood floor.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 12:42AM
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Our hose leaked in the cabinets, and it was a slow leak for weeks in the back of the cabinet before it spread out to the front where we could see it. It's not always as simple as putting a rug in front of the fridge, or turning water off when you go out of town.

OP, we ended up putting one of the new wood-look tile floors in. We've had it in a bathroom for a while, and really love it. I'm not sure if something like that interests you... We went with a beachy/weathered grey, and didn't try to match it to our wood floors.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 1:18AM
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I haven't installed it yet but our plan is to go with LVP that have a wood look throughout the house.

My parents and my brother have installed then and so far, no problems.

I personally like it because it looks like wood floors with none of the upkeep of wood floors.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 1:49AM
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My parents ice maker had a slow leak and it destroyed the subfloor under a vinyl tile floor. A leak around the shower in my bathroom destroyed the wood subfloor under the ceramic tile and underlayment. I don't think leaks are necessarily the best reason to choose one finish floor material over another. Exposure to surface moisture maybe.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 7:09AM
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Thanks for all your advice. What prompted my question were the following events:

We have impervious tile in our current kitchen. Until we considered putting wood in the new kitchen, I never realized how many times it gets wet, but it's really quite often. Not REALLY wet, but little splashes here and there. We never paid much attention to it (sometimes we don't even wipe it up if it's just water) and the tile looks as good as new after 8 years. But now, every time it gets wet, I think: "What if it were wood?"

Also, after 8 years without a single leak, both the ice maker in the fridge AND the DW sprung serious leaks (almost at the same time!), so badly they damaged some sheetrock in the basement. Again, despite having been soaked for days, the tile looks the same as it always did. But...what if it had been wood?

BTW, for this (and other) reasons we are NOT buying a fridge with an ice maker for the new place. But you can't get away from having a DW (although we ARE buying a Miele).

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 8:50AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Water alarms with auto shut off valves is what anyone with wood floors needs for their water/appliance connectors. The alarm lets you know there is an issue, and the auto shut off cnnectors limit the damage.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 9:25AM
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We have had hardwood in our kitchen for almost 2 years. We were planning on heated tile but were convinced by GW to go with the wood and are very happy we did.

We had a dog that would make a mess with water. Have a cat who throws up on it. People drop ice cubes and leave them to melt. All kinds of liquid gets splattered and left to dry. I clean the floor with a steam mop. Wet towels get left on the floor. With all that there is no water damage. The floor is easier to stand on and warmer than if it had been tile.

When remodeling one of the bldg inspectors veto'd DH request to put a floor drain in a bathroom to prevent damage if there was an overflow. He reminded us that these things don't happen very often and that is what insurance is for. Get an alarm if you are concerned.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:39AM
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I have wooden floors in much of my home, including a wooden floor in my bathroom (around a free standing tub). I have wooden counters in my kitchen, including on either side of my sink (with integrated runnels).

Few things are 100% impervious. But IMHO people fear wood too much.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 11:10AM
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Since you are building new, see if you can find a tile that coordinates well with the hardwood floor and flow well. I really liked the tile next to the hardwood in the last house we owned and I was tempted to remove the the hardwood in the kitchen of the house we bought last year.
It would have been very expensive and I couldn't see a natural dividing line between the tile and hardwood so we just had the hardwood refinished (Brazilian cherry). I like the look, but I don't like the upkeep. I never worried about the tile and I did not mind standing on the tile at all. We lived in a cold climate and I wore slippers.
I am always checking the wood floor for water spots, dirt, etc. I clean the wood floor a lot more.
The plus is that this floor is much cleaner than the tile floor was:)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Cindy Noll

Have had hickory flooring in my entire house including kitchen for 2 years & we love it. I did get a waterproof large waterhog mat for the dog bowl, but it has been great. My 8 month old puppy spews water everywhere sometimes after a walk, but I either mop it up or wipe it up & it's fine. I am not doing this constantly either. I am not real big on upkeep, but my floor has been wonderful. Don't have an ice maker, but luckily my DW is at the end of the run for the wood & we have a spare box of wood in case of a future leak that is not caught in time.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 12:38PM
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