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3 Kid-Friendly Options For Kitchen Floors

Checkerboard cork floors from CountryLiving.com

We are right in the middle of a complete kitchen renovation – down to the floor studs! – which means I’ve been up to my eyeballs in home magazines, color samples and catalogs – not to mention construction dust – for the last week or so.

Most of the choices have come together pretty easily: we knew we wanted butcher block counters, open shelving, and pendant lights, for example. But not so easy? Choosing a material for our floors. There seem to be a zillion options, ranging from so-cheap-it-doesn’t-seem-possible to outrageously expensive; from soft to hard, from dark to light, natural to man-made…the array of choices had my head spinning.

We eliminated ceramic, granite, and porcelain tile, as well as most other stones and very hard surfaces, pretty quickly. Even though they can be quite budget-friendly, easy to care for and durable, I decided that if it came down to a contest between my toddler’s head and the floor, I’d prefer that the floor sustain the brunt of the damage! And I’d rather have a few dings, nicks or scratches in the floor than have to constantly replace plates and bowls.

After the first round of eliminations we were left with three contenders, all with pros and cons that made our final choice tough:

Option 1: Marmoleum

Marmoleum is the brand name for Farbo’s updated version of the old-fashioned linoleum that was popular in homes up until about the 1950s. Unlike vinyl, which is often incorrectly referred to as “linoleum”, real linoleum is made from linseed oil, tree rosin and other natural ingredients. It’s soft, naturally antimicrobial and good for people with allergies and asthma – not to mention durable, easy to clean, and pretty to look at.

You can buy Marmoleum in sheets, glue-down tiles or “Click,” which is a DIY-friendly snap-together tile system. I was attracted to the sustainability of the product, ease of installation, and especially the fun colors and patterns:

images: www.coolgreenfloors.com

I was particularly partial to the yellow-on-yellow checkerboard.

Ultimately, we decided not to go with Marmoleum for budget reasons: some unanticipated problems with our floor meant we had to scale back in other places. At about $6/square foot plus shipping costs, Marmoleum Click is reasonably priced, but we simply didn’t have it in the budget. Cool Green Floors does have some clearance click-together planks for just $3.29/sq foot, which would have been an option if the colors had worked for us…but we finally had to accept that for this kitchen reno, Marmoleum had to come off the table.

I’m still a little sad to say so-long to my Marmoleum dreams…but maybe one day when we re-do the kids’ toy/game room?

Option 2: Vinyl

I admit that I’ve had a prejudice against vinyl ever since I started dreaming about kitchen remodels. There’s a certain aura of “cheap and flimsy” that seems to cling to vinyl, and it seemed that all that was available were unappealing, outdated patterns or styles that tried (but failing) to mimic stone or other natural materials. Plus, vinyl has a bad rap for being not environmentally friendly and emitting toxic gasses into the air.

But alas, expensive (and eco-friendly) tastes do not always mix with real-world budgets, so I decided to give vinyl a fair shake and another – closer – look. This time I was surprised. Yes, there are still thin, flimsy tiles in limited colors and styles, but there’s also a pretty impressive selection of “luxury vinyl” in both sheet and tile. A stone or slate look wasn’t quite what we were going for in our kitchen, but I thought this Armstrong vinyl looked very realistic:

I couldn’t get Jon to agree to a black-and-white checkerboard, but I liked the look of these 16X16′ squares:

The black-and-white Armstrong tiles pictured here run about $4.42 at FastFloors.com. However, you could also pick up some black and white Armstrong 12 X 12 commercial-grade vinyl tiles at Menard’s for about $2/square foot.

Even “luxury” vinyl is inexpensive per-square-foot compared to other flooring types, and it’s easy to clean and virtually indestructible. But many of the higher-end vinyls are supposed to be professionally installed, which would have eaten away at our cost savings. And in the end, we preferred something made from natural materials.

Option 3: Cork

I first heard about cork floors back when I was in my “let’s move off the grid and build a house out of corn cobs and sod!” phase, which lasted all of a month. When I first heard about cork, I thought it sounded a little odd as a flooring choice…would it look like, well, a cork?

As it turns out, some cork floors do bear a striking resemblance to an office bulletin board or the plug in your wine bottle, but there are a surprising range of colors and styles available, too.

After reading raves from cork lovers about how soft, warm, and gorgeous their floors are, I knew we had to seriously consider cork as an option. Weighing in cork’s favor:

  • It’s natural, healthy and sustainable
  • It’s available (via special order) at big-box stores like Lowe’s, meaning I could get my hands on samples right away – plus no shipping costs and relatively quick pick-up
  • Price. While there are more expensive cork options available, we found several we really liked in the $3-$4/square foot range.
  • Ease of installation. Since our kitchen costs have crept higher than we anticipated, the ability to install ourselves was key. Cork is available in interlocking planks (similar to engineered wood or laminate) that novices can handle.

And finally, after scouring the internet for photos of cork floors, we simply fell in love with the look:

photo from www.corkfloor.com

photo from ThisOldHouse.com

So, cork it is!

The above photo from CorkHouse.com is a similar pattern to the cork we ultimately purchased for just over $3/square foot at Lowe’s. We chose a lighter color because fading in the sun and surface gouging (which can allow the lighter cork beneath the finished surface to show through) were the only two consistent complaints we heard about cork. It’s inexpensive enough that it feels like a fairly safe risk…and hey, if a plank or two gets scratched, I guess we can always replace them without having to tear up the whole floor.

Just heard from Lowe’s – our floor is in! Can’t wait to share the “after” pics here – hopefully next week.

What’s your kitchen floor made of? Is it family-friendly…and are you happy with it?

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