Wood Floors in Kitchens?
Will hardwood survive the toughest room in the house?
I'm planning to install prefinished Brazilian cherry flooring in several rooms of my house. It's 1"inch thick and comes in 3'-inch-wide strips. Do you think it would be okay in the kitchen too? The kitchen entrance is my main door, so I'm concerned that tracked-in water and grit will be hard on the flooring.
— Paul, Bristol, RI
Tom Silva replies: I have 2-inch-thick solid oak flooring in my kitchen and it's holding up pretty well. Over the last 18 years, I've had it screened (lightly sanded with a floor buffer) and urethaned three times, and sanded down to bare wood and refinished once.
Screening is easy and relatively inexpensive, and staves off the need for a complete refinishing. Pat Hunt, the flooring contractor who's worked on a number of This Old House projects, says that periodic screenings are 'like getting your teeth cleaned regularly, rather than waiting for a root canal.'
The factory-applied finishes on prefinished flooring are much more durable than finishes applied in place — you can find products with finish warranties of 25 years or more — but no finish can withstand tracked-in grit for long. 'When you walk into the house from outdoors, particularly in the winter, the bottoms of your shoes are like sandpaper,' Hunt says. He strongly suggests that you put down nonslip throw rugs at high-wear areas, such as in front of the sink and in front of your access door. The rugs will help capture the dirt before it ruins the finish.
As for your selection of Brazilian cherry, Hunt says it's a very hard and durable wood, but not as stable as more common hardwoods. Let it acclimate in your house until its moisture content reaches 6 to 8 percent. Also check the moisture content of the subfloor; it should be in the 8 to 10 percent range when the flooring goes down. Finally, your installer should leave a '-inch gap around the perimeter of the room for the boards to expand and contract with seasonal changes in humidity. That's good flooring practice regardless of the species being used.