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Choosing the flooring for your kitchen

Choosing the flooring for your kitchen

Plastic Laminate Flooring

Plastic laminates are made with a medium-density fiberboard (MDF) core topped with a layer of plastic laminate similar to the material used on countertops (but about ten times denser). Like the countertop material, the laminate has a photographic image, or �photo,� layer that can mimic wood, stone and many other materials, as well as display a solid color. The laminate is topped with a thick layer of clear melamine, making it extremely durable and resistant to scuffs and stains. Plastic laminates are available in dozens of colors and patterns, in both tongue-and-groove planks and tiles. Plastic laminate tiles are sometimes glued down, While the planks are typically installed as a floating floor.

Solid-Wood Flooring

Solid-wood flooring is a traditional favorite that�s fast gaining popularity in kitchens. It not only looks inviting, but feels warm, too, which can be an important consid- eration in chilly climates. However, before you select solid wood flooring for your kitchen floor, you need to understand its advantages and disadvantages. Although solid wood is not as hard or abrasion-resistant as tile or stone, it can be refinished, and that gives it a longer life than most flooring materials. An expert wood finisher can stain your new wood flooring to match the other woodwork in your house, such as your kitchen cabinetry or the flooring in adjacent rooms. ln addition, solid wood is a resilient material that�s very comfortable to stand on for long periods. The most notable disadvantage to wood flooring is that it�s vulnerable to water damage; in a kitchen, that�s a significant drawback. If your wood floor has a good finish, you can avoid most water damage by wiping up spills as soon as possible. However, a leak from a sink or a dishwasher that goes unnoticed for a while can cause irreversible damage. A wood floor also requires more careful maintenance than other floor coverings. If you�re used to slopping a wet mop over your old vinyl or tile floor, you may find thc frequent sweeping and careful damp-mopping necessary with a wood floor to be inconvenient. What's underneath the floor is also an important consideration. A solid-wood floor must be installed over a flat, dry subfloor. If your kitchen floor lies over a damp crawl space, heating pipes or uninsulated ductwork, lay down a vapor barrier and use laminated flooring rather than solid-wood.

Selecting Wood Flooring

Solid-wood flooring is available in wide planks, narrow strips and parquet squares. Planks and strips are typically 3/4-in. thick, and the most common type by far is the familiar 2 1/4-in.-wide tongue-and-groove strip. The cost of this type varies according to the type and grade of the wood. Red and white oak are the most common and affordable. Red oak begins around �2.25 per square foot (material only), and white oak runs slightly more. Suitable alternatives to oak include maple, ash, beech and hickory Avoid using pine and other softwoods in your kitchen, as they�re less resistant to dents and scratches. You�ll also find different grades of flooring within each wood species. Select and clear grades are made from premium, knot-free boards.

Common and #2 grades are less expensive and will show more variation in grain and color, as well as occasional tight knots. To save money you can ask for shorter strips, or "shorts." However, shorter pieces will create a busier- looking floor with more end joints. Another way to reduce your cost is to look for sale prices, since wood flooring is frequently discounted. Several manufacturers offer solid wood flooring that comes with a factory-applied finish. Although this increases the price of the flooring, it�s a good option for remodeling, since it eliminates the sawdust involved in sanding the floor and the fumes involved in staining and finishing it. The factory finishes are generally high quality and very durable.