Most durable kitchen flooring

Floors that stand up to dropped pots, spilled food, and other abuse

Published: July 24, 2015 02:30 PM
EcoTimber Woven Honey

Photo: Manufacturer

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Think of it as the fifth wall. Kitchen flooring has a huge impact on the overall look of the whole room. And whatever material you choose—wood planks, ceramic tiles, vinyl, linoleum, or laminate—is a chance to make a statement. Thanks to technological improvements, faux finishes are more convincing than ever, and Consumer Reports' flooring Ratings now list available shades for each product.

Of course, all kitchen flooring looks great out of the box, but the true test is what happens once real life takes over. The results of our latest tests show that resistance even to stains such as ink, asphalt sealant, and crayon has gotten better among the newest floors we’ve seen. And one vinyl we had previously tested showed improvement against scratching as well as staining.

For many shoppers of kitchen flooring, there’s no substitute for the warmth of wood. But in an active kitchen, both solid- and engineered-wood floors are especially prone to denting from dropped items. A great upside to solid hardwood and bamboo, however, is that many can be refinished multiple times to get rid of the scratches and dings of normal use. If a wood you choose has a rustic, distressed appearance like the Armstrong American Scrape Oak Brown Bear, $7 per square foot, you probably won’t even notice small scratches.

Pay less for a wood look

The better laminates we tested performed about as well as solid wood. And they can be floated: installed right over your old floor with no need for glues or fasteners. For an even tougher kitchen flooring product, our top-performing “luxury” vinyls come in a variety of wood looks and offer better dent resistance. Both types are also available in realistic stone and slate designs.

But we often got mixed results from the effects of frequent walking, spilled food, dragged and dropped objects, and sunlight in our tough tests. The Project Source Winchester Oak 2765 laminate, just $1 per square foot, used to be a CR Best Buy, but the latest version proved too prone to wear for it to rank even close to our recommended floors. But some gained ground. The Mohawk Pastoria Red Oak Natural HCC27-10, $4.30 per square foot, improved at how well it resisted wear, though not enough to be one of our picks.

What's in your kitchen?

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Style file: A glossary of materials

Wood, including bamboo, offers a natural look and feel, and can be refinished many times. More are offering rustic-looking, distressed finishes.
It tends to dent easily and is challenging to install. Several products changed color under UV light, and some can be damaged by large spills.
Tip: Factory finishes tend to be tougher than those applied by a contractor, a potential benefit of buying prefinished floors.

Vinyl is tough and durable. And today’s products look more like real stone or wood than vinyl has in the past.
Even the best still don’t look completely real up close. And off-gassing brings phthalate concerns for those with young children, though there’s no cause for alarm.
Tip: Do-it-yourselfers should pick tiles or planks over a sheet that must be cut precisely.

Engineered wood and bamboo cost less than solid-wood flooring and offer the same warm, natural look. They can often be floated without glue or fasteners.
But: Most dent easily and can be damaged by large spills. And because they’re a veneer over substrate, most can be refinished just once.
Tip: Wide planks can help small rooms look bigger.

Laminate offers toughness, mimics a variety of natural materials, and can usually be floated. The best wear well and resist stains and color change from sunlight.
But: Most dent easily, and laminate can’t be saved once you’ve worn through the top layer.
Tip: Laminate boards from one package often have a similar pattern, so mix pieces from multiple packages to avoid repetition.

This mimics stone and other materials, as vinyl does, but it is made of tree bark and linseed oil, so it's considered a green option. The best off superb resistance to scratches, stains, and fading from sunlight.
But: The best vinyl offers better wear resistance and easier installation for about the same price.
Tip: Consider Armstrong's Marmorette Oak Brown LP066, $4.50, which outperformed other linoleum floors in our tests.

An enduring material in use since ancient times, this kitchen flooring comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and prices, and even planks with a wood-grain look. Floating products cost less, $5 to $8 per square foot, and are easier to install.
But: Dropped items can crack traditional and floating tiles, and grout can stain.
Tip: SnapStone's Beige 11-001-02-01, $8, aced most of our tests and can be floated without glue.

Kitchen Remodeling Guide

Find everything you need to know and all the best appliances and materials to consider in our Kitchen Remodeling Guide.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.




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