Kitchen Floor Choices: Finding Something Both Resilient and Appealing

How to pick a material that will look good and stand up to wear and tear.

How to pick a material that will look good and stand up to wear and tear in one of the most heavily-trafficked rooms of your house.

Q: Slate floors in a kitchen: good idea or bad? – Renovating in Rye

A: As is so often the case, it depends whom you ask. All agree that slate is a timeless, durable material that comes in a wide range of subtle, earthy colors. It’s usually less expensive than most other natural stone. It’s hypoallergenic and bacteria- and water-resistant. After that, opinions differ.

Euro Tile and Marble in Elmsford has been installing kitchens since 1982, and Sandra, a designer with the company, agrees that slate is beautiful, but is otherwise unenthusiastic. “Some types stain unless they’re sealed,” she says. Cleft slate, with a rough surface that shows the material’s layers, can flake or chip (although most people use the rough type only for patios, or in an entrance or mud room, Sandra says). Honed, smooth tiles can scratch. “We don’t recommend slate for a kitchen floor,” Sandra sums up. So what do they recommend? “A porcelain tile that looks like slate,” she replies. “There are several different lines.” And problems with porcelain tile? “None. As long as it’s installed the right way, you don’t have to worry about chipping, staining, or scratching. And porcelain is often less expensive than natural stone, depending on the manufacturer. It’s the best way to go.”

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Okay. But I decided to investigate further, and where better to get information than from those who have slate kitchen floors and are chatting away about them online? Some were do-it-yourselfers whose remarks suggest that, unless you’re really handy, a professional installation is the way to go.

Most comments were pro-slate, although there was some debate about whether (and I quote) it “always looks clean” or “never looks clean.” This probably depends on the color you choose, whether the tiles are rough or smooth, and your opinion on what “clean” looks like. Disadvantages are that it’s cold underfoot, the honed tiles can be slippery, and slate can chip if you drop something heavy on it (although it’s more likely that whatever you dropped will break). Acidic spills can leave stains. A few chatters mentioned that, like all stone, slate is hard, so it can be rough on your joints if you spend hours standing on it. Soft mats at the sink, stove, and counters can solve that problem. (By the way, a commenter who installed faux slate ceramic tile claims it looks like the real thing “if you squint at it from a distance”— a drawback if you want your floor to look like slate when you’re in the room.)

The most enthusiastic endorsement was posted by someone whose kitchen floor is natural multi-colored slate with grey grout, and who admits she only “mops every now and then.” She declares it’s “the best floor … durable enough to withstand two adults, three kids, two cats, a one-hundred-pound goldendoodle and NC’s infamous red clay without ever looking dirty.” A goldendoodle, in case you don’t know, is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle, and judging from the photo she attached of her dog lying on the floor, it functions as a giant mop.

So the consensus seems to be that if you like the look of slate, go for it. You might consider getting a big, mop-like dog, too.

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