Flooring: It’s all in the grout - Metro US

Flooring: It’s all in the grout

If you love to cook, entertain a lot or have children, your kitchen floor will be well-used and abused. And the wrong type of flooring will cause you headaches, believe me.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchased light-coloured tiles with ivory grout for my kitchen. Perhaps I had imagined that a tiled kitchen was my ticket to a maintenance-free kitchen floor. Or maybe that the whole kitchen could be self-cleaning, like those European public toilet booths that close up tight and self-scrub after every usage. But no, this was unfortunately not the case.

My excuse is that I was seduced by gorgeous pictures in a magazine. The reality is that I now fully appreciate that a light tile shows dirt much more readily than a dark one. Furthermore, I unwisely did not go along with my mother’s advice that I should buy a tile with a splotchy pattern, so dirt would not be so obvious. I went with a subtle linear pattern that showcases dirt as if it were on Broadway. What was I thinking?

Making a decision about kitchen flooring is not easy. But if your kitchen is an active area, you need to think carefully about cleaning requirements and whether you are content with more or much happier with less. There are many choices in kitchen flooring and all require some maintenance, but the bottom line is that some are much more fussy than others.

First of all, don’t choose white tile or grout, unless you enjoy cleaning your floors after every meal. Also be wary of lighter colours or subtle patterns that show every spill or drip.

And know that some materials cause more stress than others. For example, natural stone, such as marble, limestone or granite is beautiful, but these stones are porous, so spilling balsamic vinegar or barbecue sauce may pose a stain hazard if the stone is not sealed regularly or the spill is not immediately wiped off.

Concrete is durable and very flexible as it can be made to look like slate, tile, brick or cobblestone. It can be stamped, stenciled and etched with acid, or it can be left smooth. But it too must be sealed regularly because untreated or infrequently treated concrete soaks up spills and stains.

That leaves us with porcelain, ceramic or vinyl, the traditional choices for a kitchen. But each of these has its ups and downs. The seams between vinyl peel and stick tiles collects dirt fast, plus edges will eventually chip and peel back. Rolled vinyl is a better choice, but remember that vinyl is easily damaged.

Ceramic tiles and porcelain are much tougher, and they stand up to water without the necessity of sealing in most cases. Sounds like the best choice for minimizing work, but the dirty grout problem is a headache. It helps to seal the grout when it is new or freshly cleaned. Thin lines of grout also help make dirty grout less obvious, as does a darker grout colour. Remember that you’ll probably be scrubbing at the grout with a toothbrush at some point, but you’ll undoubtedly want to make sure it’s required less often rather than more.

Thinking wood?
• Some say wood with polyurethane is great for kitchens because it is easier on the back than standing on hard tile. But water damage poses a problem for wood that is not sealed well, so you must make sure your wooden flooring is well sealed, preferably on site so both the wood and the hairline spaces between the boards are sealed.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design; sputz@arrestingdesign.com.

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