Kitchen floors that stand up to foot traffic

From 6/10/14

Hand-scraped, grooved, and other distressed floors are more than just a style statement: Those prefab dents and dings help hide and blend the real-world wear and tear in today’s busy kitchen. Even vinyl floors are capturing the rustic look and feel of vintage wood, but without the expense. In Consumer Reports’ flooring tests, many of the best within all types literally make do-it-yourself installation a snap by clicking together and “floating” in place without glue or nails. Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for a new kitchen floor.

Consider your kitchen. All of our top picks scored good or better in our slip resistance tests, a plus for busy kitchens. But foot traffic and dropped objects are a challenge for most wood and bamboo—another reason to consider distressed finishes or opt for tougher laminate or vinyl.

Pick certified wood. Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative offers assurance that the wood is from responsibly managed forests. Check packaging to be sure that the product and manufacturer are certified.

Think twice about vinyl and babies. Vinyl floors with the industry’s Floor-Score certification (such as our picks) emit relatively few volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are linked to health concerns and pollution. Still, we suggest choosing another type of flooring if your household includes young children who play on the floor.

Choose a factory finish. Prefinished wood and bamboo cost about 40 percent more than unfinished floors. But prefinished floors can help you save overall, because factory finishes tend to last longer than finishes that are applied later, which also add to the total cost.

Top floors from our tests
The top performer in Consumer Reports tests of six types of flooring was the vinyl Tarkett NAFCO PermaStone Collection Natural Slate-Sand Stone NS-660, $4.70 a square foot, which got excellent marks on our tests for foot traffic and resisting dents, scratches, stains, and sunlight. Another vinyl, Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate SI-74 Golden Greige, $5.00, did almost as well with excellent marks in everything but resisting denting, which was still very good. Not far behind was the ceramic tile SnapStone Beige 11-001-02-01, $8.00, which like its name implies is a snap to install.

Good wood. If you prefer the look of wood, our top prefinished wood is Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-SYN-WHT-126-DL, $7.50 a square foot, followed closely by EcoTimber Woven Honey WBH061, $6.00. Both were very good at withstanding foot traffic and excellent at resisting scratches and stains. Teragren was also tops in engineered wood with its Teragren Synergy Wide Plank Java, $7.00. For full Ratings and recommendations see our Flooring Buying Guide.

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