Hardwood Flooring – Not For Kitchens?

kitchen with chairs and central island

There two main reasons why people suggest that you should not have wood flooring in your kitchen. The first is moisture. Obviously there is a lot of moisture in the kitchen – water spills can occur around the sink, many people have their washing machine located in this room and  damp clothes can drip on the floor upon unloading, and of course there is condensation that occurs during cooking. Moisture causes wood panels to swell as they take on water, and then when they dry out and contract they can often get warped and cracked. The second reason is that the kitchen is a high traffic utility room – people will tend to stand and walk around the cooker and sink where their shoes can often cause scuff marks. Also, it is quite common for people to accidentally drop items, such as cutlery or tins of food, in this room, which can easily dent or gouge wood floor panels, causing an unsightly mark and damaging the surfacing. There is also a lot of dirt and debris that can discolour your wood floor, such as greasy drips from oven trays, or spots of ketchup that fall off plates. However, if you do want to have a wood panelled kitchen floor, there are a number of tips that you can take on board to make sure that it stays in a good condition.

Why Choose Wood? 

If wood is such a bad choice for kitchen flooring from a practical perspective, why do people still have it installed? Ultimately this is down to the aesthetic properties of the material. If wood flooring is used throughout a property, then the owner may want to keep a congruent look in the kitchen. Natural wood floors are a real feature in many houses, and nothing quite compares to the look of a polished hardwood floor. Also wood is considered to be softer and kinder to the feet, where linoleum and floor tiles can be cold – especially during winter months – so many people prefer the feel of wood panels.

Get It Right From The Start 

Certain types of wood are a better choice for kitchen flooring than others. Hardwoods, such as oak, are far more resistant to the knocks and bumps that occur during everyday life in this busy space than softwoods. Wood panels also come in a variety of finishes – it is generally accepted that high gloss flooring is easier to clean than soft satins and will do a better job of hiding dirt and dust. Also water based finishes offer a consistent colour that’s more likely to stand the test of time than oil based finishes, which can fade and become patchy with use and may need to be re-oiled – a costly process that could put your kitchen out of use for a number of days.

Draconian Attention 

If you are set on having wood panelled flooring in your kitchen, then there are a number of steps that you can take to make sure that you keep moisture damage to an absolute minimum. The first thing is to have a large absorbent cloth or roll of paper towels to hand at all times so that any spill on the floor can quickly wiped away, stopping moisture from getting into the wood. It may also be a good idea to have a humidity gauge in the room, so you can check that the ambient air moisture stays between 40-60% – as a lot of water is often used in the kitchen, it is possible for the humidity to reach unacceptable levels. Usually opening a window is enough to deal with this problem, but if you find you are having frequent problems with a high saturation of water vapour in the air, then you may want to get a ventilation system installed.

Careful Cleaning 

Traditional kitchen flooring such as linoleum and floor tiles can be cleaning quickly with a broom to sweep away dust and dirt and then a good mopping. However, you will not want to use a mop to clean a wood panelled kitchen floor, as the amounts of water associated with this process will undoubtedly cause damage to the structural integrity of the material in a very short time. We’d suggest that you use chemical based wipes to clean away any dirt that remains on the floor after sweeping, and then use paper towels to remove any excess liquid cleaning chemicals left on the wood, as over time this can be absorbed and cause damage. This might seem like a time consuming and costly process, but it will considerably extend the lifespan of your floor.


If the surface of your kitchen floor becomes dirty and damaged from daily use then you may wish to refinish the floor to bring it back to that just new condition. This is quite a long process, so we’ll just give you the overview here. The first stage is sanding down the floor to get rid of the dirt and accumulated damage that’s come from years of use. When this is complete, you’ll want to fill in any holes, gouge marks or nicks, which have come from impacts on the floor and shoe scuffs, with a special wood putty. The whole area must then be cleaned to ensure there is no dust left on the floor. This can be performed in two stages – the first is to remove the dust using a vacuum cleaner, after which you can go over the area with a special tack cloth that is charged to remove dust.

Choice of Finishes 

When you have removed the old surface from the floor you have a choice of three different types of finish.

– ) PolyurethaneIn many ways this is the perfect finish for a kitchen as it offers the most protection from foot traffic and moisture. It is available as both a water based and an oil based product and has a plastic-like look. The only downside to this if you do crack or damage the finish, it can be difficult to make a repair.

– ) Varnish/lacquer – This gives you the widest choice of finishes from matt through to very high sheen and gloss. Whilst this finish will darken over time and exposure to the air, you can achieve a very durable surface with some of the higher gloss products.

– ) Sealants – We would not recommend the use of sealants in your kitchen, as this kind of finish is not as durable as either polyurethane or varnish – despite the fact that it can be repaired easily. 

In Conclusion 

Whilst wood panels might not seem like the obvious look for your kitchen, home-style and interior decorating doesn’t always have to go down the most popular and well used routes. If you believe that your home will look and feel better with a wood floor throughout the entire property, then it’s your levels of commitment and hard work that will keep it in good condition for the coming years.

Author photo for Ben Sutton

About the author

Ben Sutton has established himself as independent hardwood timber merchant and supplier with a solid reputation built up over the last 20 years. He is committed to providing a bespoke and professional service to his clients at all times, whilst maintaining the highest quality product. Follow Ben on LinkedIn.