Kitchen and Bathroom Floors

floor cleaning solid state home inspections

Home inspectors are professionals who are looking for safety, structural, and system deficiencies during home inspections. Typically, the colours of the home and choices of finishing materials are not important to home inspectors but when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, the flooring material could be a safety or structural problem.

There are three critical issues for kitchen and bathroom floors for home inspectors:

  1. Water Damage - Kitchens and bathroom floors see a lot of water usage. Water from spills or drips can damage many floor surfaces and promote rot and hidden damage below the floor.
  2. Bacteria and Cleaning - Kitchen floors can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria from uncooked foods. Bathroom floors see bacteria from human waste. It is critical that the floors in these areas be easy to thoroughly clean to keep occupants healthy.
  3. Durability - Kitchen floors need to withstand the occasional dropped pot or cutting board and bathrooms have occupants with bare feet in them. The floor surface needs to be safe in these environments.

Best Flooring Materials

  • Tiles, Stones, Marble - There are many natural and synthetic solid flooring materials that make up a type of flooring called 'hard flooring'. Hard floors are excellent at resisting water, can be cleaned well, and resist damage from dropped pots and pans. Cracked tiles or material can be dangerous to occupants feet.
  • Linoleum and Sheet Vinyl - While often seen as 'budget' material, these sheet installed products are excellent and resisting water, easy to clean up, are soft on the feet, and are quite resistant to most mechanical damage. This flooring is susceptible to surface cuts which impacts the water resistance.
  • Concrete - Concrete is an excellent material for kitchen and bath floors however it is not considered very attractive and it should be sealed to prevent oil and bacteria from penetrating the surface. There are finishes that can be applied to concrete to improve the appearance and also help with sealing the material from contaminants.

'OK' Flooring Materials

  • Solid Hardwood - All woods will absorb water if it is allowed time to soak and not wiped up quickly.  Once water is absorbed, it can cause the wood to warp permanently. Hardwood will nick,wear, and scratch but as long as it does not have major damage it will clean well. Solid hardwoods are better off in kitchens than bathrooms as kitchens don't see as much water spilled on the floor as regularly as in bathrooms.
  • Engineered Hardwood - Engineered hardwood is similar to solid hardwood except only the surface layer is the expensive finished wood species. Engineered wood may be slightly more susceptible to water damage as there are different types of wood in the product which may expand with moisture at different rates resulting in worse damage.
  • Linoleum and Vinyl Tiles - There are some 'peel and stick' tiles available which are commonly used in budget renovations as they are cheap and easy to lay. Gaps in the materials will allow water past the waterproof surface and once water damages the glued bottom, these tiles tend to curl at the edges and loose their water resistance and easy cleaning ability. These tiles, if used at all, are best on concrete basement floors slabs.

Poor Flooring Materials

  • Carpeting - Carpet is a very poor material for kitchens and baths. It cannot be cleaned easily allowing bacteria and mould to grow and it absorbs water and is not easy to dry. Carpeting should never be on kitchen or bath floors. Rugs and mats in bathrooms and kitchens can be just as bad as carpet if not cleaned regularly and allowed to dry on both sides quickly.
  • Laminate - Laminate is a man-made flooring material that is unfortunately often found in kitchen and baths. Laminate strips or tiles have small gaps in the material that once wet swell quickly damaging the surface and surrounding floor pieces permanently. Spills wiped quickly may prevent damage but expect shorter life spans of laminate in kitchens and baths than in other rooms in the home.
  • Cork - This flooring has become increasingly popular as it is softer and warmer underfoot than hard woods, yet still good for people who have allergies and don't want carpets. Cork can be water proof, like a wine cork, but it has many small openings which can trap bacteria in kitchens and bathrooms making it a less sanitary choice.

For home inspectors, advising home inspection clients of poor choices in kitchen and bath flooring helps keep their clients safe and solid.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.