HOW TO CHOOSE THE IDEAL MATERIAL FOR YOUR KITCHEN FLOOR
Art & Living
Unassuming, the ground you walk on becomes an integral component of your living space. It is intrinsically connected to your life and every moment of it – it becomes a part of you. So, how do you choose the right material that will take you through the journey of life? The Art & Living column on ARTRA Magazine’s E56 Aug/Nov 2020 discussed the aesthetic considerations of kitchen flooring. This article will discuss aesthetic and functional considerations of kitchen tiling in terms of material. With kitchen tiling, material and functionality go hand in hand. To phrase it differently every material has physical qualities that will determine a tile’s performance in the kitchen. So while material choice will have an aesthetic consequence, the principal consideration should be finding the best material to handle the particular conditions of your kitchen environment.
Porcelain tiling is made from a mixture of clay and sand that is then fired at extremely high temperatures and pressures. The end result is a hard and dense tile that is less porous than other materials such as ceramic tiling. Porcelain is perfect for high traffic areas and ‘wet zones’ such as bathrooms and kitchens. It can handle spillages with ease, as well as the steps of little ones constantly running through the kitchen – making it ideal for larger families. Porcelain tiling can also come glazed or unglazed. The former has a glass-like coating added during firing, which produces a coloured surface. The latter has colour added to the initial clay mixture, meaning the colour is carried all the way through the tile itself. It’s worth noting that glazed porcelain can get scratched and shows signs of ware, unlike unglazed porcelain. So unglazed is a more suitable option for busier homes. In terms of installation, porcelain tiling is harder to cut and drill (due to its higher density) so perhaps it should be left to the professionals rather than yourself.
Ever since the Sumerians laid the first decorative ceramic tiles in about 4000 BC, ceramic tiling has been a staple within both the artistic and design realms. The tiles are made in much the same way as porcelain tiles but without the sand added to the starting mixture. This means they are softer, more porous and and not as dense as their porcelain counterparts. These qualities make ceramic tiling easier to cut and install. Plus once a glaze is added, the surface is impervious to any form of spillage. Ceramic tiling comes in just as wide an array of shapes, colours, sizes and patterns as porcelain tiles as well. If you’re big into DIY and have a smaller family (meaning less foot traffic in the kitchen) then ceramic tiling could be the right choice for you.
STONE – TRAVERTINE
Stone floor tiling is made up of natural stone ranging from slate and granite to marble and travertine. The majority of stone tiles are porous so they need to be refinished with a quality stone sealer every few years. Maintenance isn’t that difficult as you can polish or hone your stone tiles fairly easy. This really helps to bring out the grains and detail of the stone, creating a beautiful texture and organic feel.
Travertine tiling is derived from of a type of limestone that forms around mineral spring deposits. It offers everything from durability to economy, so it is definitely fit for purpose in kitchen flooring design. As previously stated, it is cheaper than other stone tiles such as marble, yet it still offers pretty much the same performance-based longevity. In fact, travertine is stronger than porcelain, vinyl and wooden floors. This marvellous stone also offers a high level of customisation possibilities, as it is easy to cut and shape. So you can tile small or oddly shaped kitchen spaces with minimal hassle. Finally travertine has a non-slip texture giving your feet extra grip and purchase that is always handy in the kitchen if you’re carrying hot pans and bringing dishes to the table.
There are also a few downsides to think about. First off travertine tiling is very porous possessing many small holes. These holes will usually start to show some signs of use after a while. The tiles are susceptible to both staining and scratches so ensure that you seal the surface with a quality stone sealer. Due to a high level of calcium carbonate present within travertine, it reacts negatively to acidic foods. It’s not a great tile for kitchen counter tops, however it is fine for your floor, as long as you clean up the spillage quickly.
If tiling isn’t quite what you are looking for your kitchen, perhaps a hardwood floor might be right for you. Hardwoods such as oak, maple and cherry are amongst some of the most durable tree species, giving hardwood flooring endurance and longevity. It is softer and ‘warmer’ than regular ceramic or porcelain tiling, so it will give your kitchen a more cosy, classic or premium look depending on your hardwood choice. Most hardwoods come with a factory made pre-finish so the colour and the lustre will be the same as when you first them in the showroom. For a cheaper option, you can buy unfinished boards. If you do, you can then decide to paint, varnish or oil your floor – giving greater unique aesthetic avenues to explore. Painting should really be reserved for pine cheaper pine boards, just make sure that you a mid-sheen or gloss matt finish for your paints to maintain durability and style. Both oil and varnish offer protection for you floor, as well a natural or shiny finish respectively. Pine is more prone to scratching so this is also a factor to take into your decision process.
Hardwood becomes discoloured by water fairly quickly, and water can cause the internal fibers to swell. This could cause the flooring to buckle. However this is more the case in full on wet areas such as bathrooms. In a kitchen, with more sporadic moisture issues, a hardwood floor will be fine as long as you are diligent and dry water spillages quickly. Just like tiling, the width and length of your boards have aesthetic and perceptive consequences for your kitchen space. Narrow boards crate a more traditional vibe than broader ones; whereas smaller boards offer a denser and more contemporary look. In a small kitchen, wider boards will make the room look bigger, but in a larger kitchen, thinner and shorter boards will create a denser and more textured feel, drawing focus to the floor itself. As you can see, hardwood flooring for the kitchen has many positives going for it. However there are drawbacks too. It is susceptible to water damage, dents and scratches. Maintenance needs to be frequent and it is a little tricky to install yourself. Finally it is fairly expensive, so if you are on a tight budget, some sort of tiling might be better suited for you.
MAKE AN EMPOWERED CHOICE TO IMPROVE YOUR KITCHEN FLOORING
It’s amazing how our perception can change. All it takes is a little insight. At first thought, a kitchen floor might seem something after of an afterthought. Immediately our minds go appliances, cupboards and counter tops rather than the very thing we will be standing on. Now your kitchen flooring is no longer an unknown or something to figure out at the very end of your design process. You have the tools to make better choices to elevate the style and practicality of your kitchen. They say that a little knowledge goes a very long way. The truth is that your kitchen floor has infinite potential, and you have the keys to unlock all those creative opportunities.