The kitchen is one of the places of home whose surfaces, walls and floors will deteriorate the fastest. Repeated exposures to heat, smoke and moisture mean that walls and floors need to be sturdy and robust, able to withstand both over both the short and the longer term. In terms of flooring, the go-to choice is often ceramic tile, but there are many more materials options out there to choose from. All of them offer robust and hard-wearing surfaces that will stand up to everything a kitchen has to throw at them, from damp to spills to sticky stains. And, crucially for a kitchen floor, they're all pretty easy to clean. There is a world beyond ceramic tiles in the kitchen—take a look below at some of it!
First appearing in France in the mid-ninteenth century, cement tiles are a great alternative to ceramic. These colourful tiles are not kiln-fired and have no glazed layer on their surface. Yet they're extremely durable—this is thanks to a layer of finely dehydrated ground Portland cement pressed onto a coarser layer of sand and cement. The pigment is hydraulically pressed into the surface and thus is a part of the tile, rather than sitting on top. They're usually about two inches thick, and are fully waterproof.
Vinyl floors are a relatively recent addition to the kitchen floor armory. A single, continuous flooring layer, usually made of of PVC, it is durable, stain resistant and relatively low-cost. Often, vinyl flooring comes in patterns that mimic natural flooring like hardwood or stone. Laying it is simple—it's glued to the extant surface (if necessary a skim is applied to create an even surface for the adhesive). It's hygienic, maintenance is simple and nothing more than everyday products are required for cleaning. The only downside is it's not totally heat-resistant—a hot pan dropped on a vinyl floor runs the risk of melting the surface.
A cheaper alternative to hardwood that some say is better performing, laminate is made of an inner core layer that's usually composed of melamine resin and fibre board, with a hard, clear layer on top. Under this clear layer lies a photographic applique layer that looks like wood grain (or sometimes stone). This photographic layer can be in any colour or pattern. The laminate surface is waterproof, durable, and largely stain resistant. Maintenance is much simpler than with hardwood floors—which may account for its popularity. Generally, a laminate floor will be laid down as 'planks', so it will have the tongue and groove effect of a real wood floor.
Since time immemorial ceramic tiles have been a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms, and for good reason—it's waterproof, it's hard wearing, and it's stain resistant. Generally, stoneware ceramic tiles are used for flooring in kitchens and bathrooms, and they're incredibly robust. Nowadays, ceramic tiles are available in an infinite variety of colours, patterns and textures, and in everything from large format—as here—to tiny mosaic tiles. Large format tiles are probably a better choice for kitchens—as there's less grout on the floor to pick up dust or stains.
Natural stone is, after stoneware ceramic tiles, the other traditional flooring choice for kitchens. Granite, marble, slate… —stone offers a wide range of brightnesses, finishes, colours and textures that will bring luxury and durability to the kitchen. If you opt for a stone floor, bear in mind that although cleaning is quick and easy, stone floors are easily damaged by acids.