While installing tile floors in your kitchen has its benefits, it's not always the best type of flooring for every household. Typically made of composite materials like ceramic, concrete, glass, and stone, tile provides a solid, waterproof alternative to more commonly used hardwood floors. "Hardwood floors have traditionally been the choice flooring for American kitchens, but that's changing as the technology of manufactured surfaces improves," says renovation expert and former contractor Christopher Totaro of Warburg Realty. "Tile works well in the kitchen for the same reason that it works well in the bathroom—it's a hard surface that, when properly sealed, is very resistant to water and bacteria."
In a space largely devoted to preparing food, water-and-bacteria-proof floors make cleanup a breeze. "Tile works well in a kitchen because it is durable, it cleans up easily, and is relatively low maintenance," says interior designer Liz Caan. "Kitchens generally have large amounts of tile and stone in them—think backsplashes and counters—for a reason." Not to mention that tile floors absorb less heat and as a result, can lower the temperature inside your home. "In warmer climates, like the South, tile floors help create a cool underfoot that keeps the temperature of your whole home cooler," she adds.
So why, with all of that said, wouldn't you want tile floors in your kitchen? Well, for starters, they're hard, and therefore, tough to stand on for long periods of time. "If you're an avid home cook or spend hours standing in your kitchen, then tile floors will take their toll on your knees, feet, and back unless you lay down a rubber mat," Totaro says. "Unlike wood floors, which are also a hard surface, tile is installed with mortar (not glue) which lacks a cushioning quality." And don't let their hard exterior fool you. Totaro says tile floors have an annoying sensitive side, too. "Tile can crack as a house settles or if a heavy object is dropped on it," he says. "And even if the floors have been well sealed, light-colored tile—and grout—can stain and start to appear grimy over time." Plus, the fact that tile floors are usually cool to the touch isn't always ideal for homeowners in colder climates, or throughout the chillier months of the year. "Sometimes, tile might feel too cold for a kitchen flooring material," says Caan. "But you can always warm them up with a rug."
Still not sure if tile floors are right for your kitchen? We asked our experts for some suggestions on alternatives to tile floors and here's what they had to say.
Rubber Tile Floors
"A more contemporary alternative to tile floors in the kitchen is rubber tiles," Totaro says. "There are a slew of styles to choose from and they're comfortable, easy-to-clean, and heat-and-stain resistant."
Painted Wood Floors
Painted wood floors make a great alternative to tile," Caan says. "They are warmer, softer, and more forgiving when you drop something. It is also easy to repaint them when you feel like it!"
If you're looking for a more modern look for your kitchen, cement is a great choice," says Totaro. "Technology today allows you to choose from a diverse palette of colors and textures that can be dyed, stamped, polished, and honed."
Laminate flooring—otherwise known as synthetic floors fused with a laminated layer to look like real hardwood—are amazing imitators," Totaro says. "They can create the appearance of a multitude of surface materials without breaking the bank."
Cork and Bamboo Floors
"If you're looking for a sustainable flooring option then cork or bamboo floors are the way to go," Totaro says. "Not only are they composed of eco-friendly materials, they aren't as hard on the feet."