Selecting the correct flooring materials for each area of your new production or custom home is one of the most important and challenging decisions you will face. Striking the right balance between style and functionality can be daunting especially when confronted with the challenge of elevated moisture and humidity levels found in kitchens and bathrooms. If you install flooring that is not designed for a high-moisture environment, you may quickly find yourself in need of expensive repairs or even a full replacement. Thankfully, an abundance of options exist giving homeowners more kitchen and bath flooring choices than ever before. Here are several of our top flooring picks to help you get started.
Tile should be at the top of any new homeowner’s flooring list as it is both durable and extremely moisture resistant making it ideal for both kitchens and bathrooms. With the abundance of sizes, shapes, textures and appearances available today, tile is capable of satisfying even the most discerning interior designer. Ceramic tile is the most common type with porcelain frequently being offered as an upgrade as it is the more water resistant of the two. Many homeowners opt to install tile countertops in the kitchen and will seek out a tile floor to complete their design theme.
Tile requires grout lines in between each section, which can help further enhance a specific color or design theme. One of the denser flooring materials, tile can be a bit unforgiving when standing for extended periods, such as when preparing meals in the kitchen. The addition of anti-fatigue mats can help alleviate this issue. Tile is also unforgiving to any dropped glasses or dishes.
As for bathrooms, tile is cold to the touch so bare feet may prefer to stand on bath mats, which will also help prevent accidental slippage as wet tile is known to be a slick surface. Be sure to seek out tiles with a high coefficient of friction rating as they are designed to help prevent slipping.
Verdict: Excellent choice for both kitchens and baths thanks to its durable, water-resistant nature and abundance of colors, shapes and designs. One of the harder flooring materials, it can become slick when wet so area rugs and mats may prove useful in both rooms to help avoid slippages, cold feet and leg fatigue. Definitely add tile to your short list for kitchens and bathrooms.
Offering durability, water resistance and cost-effective price points, it’s easy to see why vinyl flooring is a popular choice with many new homeowners when designing a kitchen or bathroom. Vinyl can be installed in sheets, tiles or planks and is capable of visually mimicking many other surfaces. Unlike tile, vinyl offers a more cushioned surface so you can stand for longer periods without fatigue or discomfort and it’s is kinder to dropped dishes and glasses. It is also useful for helping to deaden an acoustically loud room.
Sheet vinyl is usually your best option for bathrooms where it may be exposed to larger amounts of moisture or small pools of water, as it provides fewer installation seams for water to penetrate. It is also warmer to the touch and fairly slip resistant when wet. Be sure to seek vinyl that includes a urethane wear layer when installing it in high-moisture environments.
Vinyl flooring is also a popular choice for homeowners who wish to handle their own installation. Vinyl may fade or discolor over the years, especially when exposed to prolonged sunlight, and is not always the best choice for short-term homeowners focused on resale values.
Verdict: Great option for both kitchens and bathrooms thanks to its water-resistant properties, cushioned surface and cost-effective price point. Vinyl is available in more than enough styles and colors to match most any design theme and can help soften the sound of a room compared to more dense flooring materials. It may fade or discolor over time compared to other materials and can be challenging to repair or replace if damaged but is an easy surface to clean. Vinyl flooring is a time-tested material suitable for both kitchen and bath and may be an ideal choice for the budget-conscious homeowner, although it’s not known for enhancing a home’s resale value.
While not as moisture resistant as tile or vinyl, properly treated laminate is still a viable flooring choice for kitchen and baths. Laminate is a popular flooring choice for homeowners seeking the appearance of hardwood floors, which are not suitable for high-moisture environments. The upper layer of laminate is a high-resolution image of the surface it was designed to mimic allowing it to be the chameleon of the flooring world.
While properly treated laminate is water resistant, it is a better choice for kitchens and half baths. Installing laminate in a full bath may lead to water damage since water is more likely to pool on the floor following a bath or shower and repairing damaged laminate usually involves a full replacement of the affected area. Be sure to check the warranty details of the laminate you are purchasing if you plan on installing it in a high-moisture environment.
Verdict: Great option for homeowners seeking to visually mimic another type of flooring surface that may not be as suitable for kitchen and bath use. Probably best for half-baths as tubs and showers may create larger pools of water which can lead to damage. Underlayment padding can be used to help shield the laminate from moisture, soften the contact surface for less leg fatigue when standing and remove some of the hollow sound laminate can produce compared to harder surfaces. A versatile and cost-effective flooring material, laminate should definitely be included on your list of candidates.
Growing in popularity each year, cork flooring is quickly becoming a favorite with homeowners seeking a durable, eco-friendly material suitable for both kitchen and bath use. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree after the tree naturally sheds the bark, making it one of the most eco-friendly and renewable flooring materials currently offered. Once the cork material has been collected, it is baked under pressure, which produces different variations in shading and color. Thanks to the millions of air-filled micro-cells within each produced slab of cork, the material offers a cushioned feel under foot, making it ideal for kitchens where you may be on your feet for longer.
Cork is naturally water resistant making it an ideal choice for both kitchen and bathrooms, and a thin top coat of polyurethane is recommended during installation to further enhance its longevity and water-repellant properties. The natural texture of cork flooring make ideal for those concerned with slipping on a damp floor, and the natural cushioning of the material is very forgiving with dropped glasses or dishes. Challenges related to cork include the need to reseal the material every few years to keep it water resistant and the tendency to fade and change color in sections that are exposed to consistent sunlight.
Verdict: While not the most inexpensive flooring option for kitchens or baths, cork definitely deserves a new homeowner’s strong consideration. Not only does cork naturally offer above-average water resistance, it also provides a cushioned surface allowing for longer periods of standing with less fatigue. Cork is also one of the best flooring choices for those seeking an eco-friendly, renewable option. While not as visually adaptable to all design themes as other flooring materials, it still comes in a wide variety of colors, tints, shades and textures.
Due to the high moisture content of kitchen and bath areas, special consideration must be given when selecting a flooring material for these two unique environments. Damp surfaces also increase the chances of slipping so selecting a flooring material that offers some texture to help avoid this challenge is optimal. In kithens, you may stand for extended periods during meal preparation or cleaning, so consider flooring materials that reduce leg fatigue or use cushioned area rugs if needed. For homeowners with more immediate resale concerns, flooring materials such as tile and cork may be better choices compared to vinyl or laminate.
Brian Ford spent more than a decade in the specialty appliance retail industry and now devotes his time to freelance print and video content creation. Brian is also a contract consultant within the call center industry. In his free time, he operates a YouTube channel specializing in instructional guitar videos that he composes and produces at his home studio in Austin, Texas.