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Replacing Hardwood With Vinyl Tile - Pros and Cons

Don H.
February 14, 2019
last modified: February 14, 2019

We are planning a kitchen re-do. The main kitchen area is 8'x8' surrounded on 3 1/2 sides by counters. The existing flooring is natural oak throughout the whole house, but the kitchen area is water damaged. That area is high traffic, high sunlight, and often gets wet. The hardwood hasn't really held up. We are considering 2 options:

1. Pull out the hardwood (there is unfinished 2x4 under it) and install floating interlocking vinyl tile, 1 ft. square or maybe 1' x 2'. I see some nice colors by Coretec Plus: some slates that would contrast nicely with the natural oak. The tile is only about 8mm thick, so I'm guessing some sore of underlay would be needed to bring it up the the .75" thickness of the hardwood. I would install a saddle at the intersection of the 2 floors (a contractor will be doing the actual work).

Pros: Totally waterproof, does not expand.

Cons: Possible height mismatch at the intersection. Also, I've heard stories of Coretec Plus getting dented by something heavy like a dropped cast iron pan.

2. Sand and refinish the existing floor and throw enough coats of polyurethane on it to protect it from the abuse.

Pros: probably cheaper.

Cons: longer install time due to multiple coats of poly.

Questions: Which of the above makes the most sense? I am leaning towards option #1. Any suggestions for other durable vinyl tile besides Coretec Plus? Is there another option I am missing?

Thanks in advance, this forum is great!

Comments (14)

  • kazmom

    My preference would be to refinish the hardwood, but first I would have to know why the hardwood it is getting damaged. We have had hardwood in a kitchen (and throughout the house) for years and the only issue was some water damage when the dog bowl leaked overnight. That caused some buckling that went down when it dried, and we never had to do anything.

    What is causing water to be getting (and staying) on the floor in such quantities that it is causing damage? (Drips from the dishes, etc shouldn’t be enough to cause visible damage). How bad is the damage? Can it be sanded and refinished or are the boards warped and have to be replaced? I would want to understand these things before continuing with the wood. Is it possible your floor doesn’t have a good finish to begin with? Lots of people successfully have wood in the kitchen, so I would question why the floor isn’t holding up.

    if you take out the hardwood I would probably go with tile first as in my area it is more the expected for a kitchen if it is not the same as the rest of the area. If you do the vinyl I would do a tile or stone look, not a wood look, as fake wood near real wood always looks bad.

  • Don H.

    @kazmom: most of the water damage is from a leaky skylight that has since been repaired, but has a high risk of leaking because of the angle it is on. However, there is also damage around the sink and water dispenser on the fridge. It's only surface damage, it's not warped but may need wood filler in one spot. It can be seen in front of the peninsula in the pic. I agree with your comment about fake wood next to real wood. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • SJ McCarthy

    How old is the current FINISH on the hardwood? If it is around the 20 year old mark, I say go ahead and have the whole thing (yes...every stick of it) sanded down and refinished.

    Most hardwood floor finishes have a "life span" of 20 - 25 years. That means any finish that is around 20 years old will NEED a full sand/refinish in the very near future.

    If your floor's finish falls into this category (20 years old or so) then the CHEAPEST option would be the full sand and refinish. It should be around $4-$5/sf for the whole house.

    If you feel that the long-term leaking of the sky light and the splash zone from the sink an a water line on the fridge (none of these were the "fault of the floor" or to do with a faulty finish) is too much for a wood floor then go ahead and cut out the wood in the kitchen and install a subfloor and lay stone-look or tile-look vinyl. The cost should be well into the $10 - $15/sf range....but you only have to deal with the kitchen right now.

    The FULL SAND and refinish of the rest of the hardwoods (still going to be $4-$5/sf) can be dealt with at a later date.

  • salex

    If it were my kitchen, I'd refinish the wood, because I love wood floors. However, since I didn't have that option, I installed core-tec tiles (noce travertine). It's been installed for about 18 months and looks just like it did when it was new, even with a 95# dog and lots of ski boot traffic.

  • function_first

    No question about it, i would keep the hardwood.

  • suseyb

    Refinish the hardwood. Coretec will delaminate in full sun.

    Don H. thanked suseyb
  • Pam A

    I am not a fan of hardwood in the kitchen and I'm going with Adura Max because it is waterproof. In my case it is the highest traffic space and wood doesn't offer the durability I need. I vote vinyl tile, just be sure it is waterPROOF and not just resistant.

  • PRO
    Oak & Broad

    Wood flooring adds value to the home. Other products not so much. Sand and finish will be a much better long term solution.

  • bbtrix / I Miss Sophie

    Refinish the wood. Your space is so small that a change of material and transitions will make it look even smaller. Oak refinishes beautifully and with proper finish will hold up well. The skylight should not leak. I would replace it and be sure it’s installed correctly with flashing. Mine are on an angle and have never leaked.

    What’s your plan for the entire remodel? Have you posted it?

  • nosoccermom

    We have Bona commercial finish in our house, incl. kitchen, and it has been held up great despite kids, dogs, etc.

  • PRO
    Oak & Broad

    Bona Traffic is a great option!

  • Don H.

    I appreciate the feedback. The consensus is clearly to keep the hardwood. In answer to one of the questions above, the finish is about 18 years old, so it is about due for another sanding. Bona has great reviews, is Bona Traffic Wood Floor Gloss what I'm looking for? Because there is no transition, the entire floor (kitchen, LR, dining room, hall) would all have to be done at the same time I guess. That is a logistical nightmare with all the large furniture I now have. Maybe put in a floor saddle to separate the kitchen area and sand only that part? The rest of the floor doesn't really need it. Thanks again!

  • SJ McCarthy

    If the finish is 18 years old, it is probably time to bite the bullet and do it all at once. Bona Traffic HD is the THE best of the Bona line. It will be MUCH different in colour than the original oil based finish that you have on the floor. All that "yellow" is coming from the original finish...it has ambered.

    A water based finish like Bona Traffic HD will leave the wood VERY pale. As in Caucasian skin tone pale. Really pale. It will be very, very obvious.

    A great floor refinisher can sand down the kitchen (with a very straight line) and then coat up to that line....but it will be SOOOO obvious, you will be embarrassed to allow anyone into the kitchen.

    You are welcome to try to split the two refinishing events. The kitchen will cost MORE than $5/sf to do this...because small spaces will carry a "minimum job cost" which will work out to be more than the average $5/sf. And because the two floors will be soooooo different, you will quickly try to arrange to have everything done as soon as possible. Like within a few months...maybe a year if you can stand it that long.

    But you are welcome to try. It is your home. It is your decision.

    Don H. thanked SJ McCarthy

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