Which flooring should I use in my open plan living space?

This is a problem that so many people encounter that I thought it deserved a post of its own.

When  considering a floor finish you have to bear in mind


  • the amount of traffic it’s going to receive
  • the look you’re after
  • the comfort levels
  • your budget
  • whether or not you have underfloor heating



The trouble is that these kitchen spaces are often the most used spaces within the home. It’s at least going to feature high traffic, food, drink, washing up, sitting or lounging on, possibly pets, and a whole load of dust, dirt and household grime.


So it’s an elimination process:


  1. is carpet going to work? Nope: food, pets, keeping clean, stains…
  2. is a wood floor going to work? Maybe. If there is a pre-existing, story-told, weathered by the passage of many generations, hardwood floor it’s totally perfect and will give you years of pleasure with little maintenance. However, if you’re thinking about a
  3. new wood floor the answer is, probably not. You have two choices


  1. i) is to lay a reclaimed version of 2, above and reap all the benefits. This is a glorious solution but will burn deep holes in your pockets ( at least £100 – £150 per square metre, plus fitting and finishing). You can use a reclaimed softwood which will be cheaper but less lovely


  1. ii) is to lay a new engineered floor and this is where I do not feel the answer lies. I am a cook, I have pets and (no longer, but once) small children. I do not feel that an engineered floor stands up well enough to the tumbles and turns of family life. It will mark if you move furniture, drop a sharp knife, Scooby Doo screeches in, gravel or dirt are travelled in from the garden. If you choose a floor with a good wear layer (say at least 4mm thick) you will get a few sandings from it, but those sandings are very intrusive and involve moving all the furniture which most people will find rather intrusive. If you are a very tidy person who removes their shoes when they walk in the door, do not have pets, raucous children or raucous parties then you can get away with it. If you wish to use underfloor heating be sure to check with your supplier that it’s suitable for such use. Engineered floors develop in terms of technology all the time so it’s worth investigating new products involving High Density Fibreboard cores and guaranteed wear layers if your heart is set on a wood floor.


  1. polished concrete – yes, every day, if you’ve the budget (£150 per square metre, as an average) and use a VERY experienced specialist contractor. Then in the living area use a very large rug which is at least as big as your seating area plus some.
  2. encaustic tile: so decorative, so gorgeous. A minimum of £60 per square metre plus fitting as a starting point, but a very bespoke option because you can literally design it around your layout, perhaps making a bordered rug around an island or in front of a cooker. I’d still want a rug in my seating area for texture and comfort.
  3. terracotta: these require some maintenance, and are slightly porous, so can be stained by oil if not well maintained. Suitable for use with underfloor heating. Quite expensive (at least £70-£200 per square metre, plus fitting and finishing)
  4. glazed ceramic or full-bodied porcelain tile: although there isn’t a world of difference between ceramic and porcelain, we tend to specify porcelain because it’s ‘full-bodied’ – the composition is consistent throughout the thickness of the tile. This means that it’s less fragile. Aesthetically they can replicate stone, wood, terracotta, marble etc. very well. Ceramic is more porous and has a glazed surface on top of the clay tile. For that reason it’s not at all suitable for use outside whereas it’s possible to procure a porcelain tile which is slip-rated to use outside as well as inside and this is hugely helpful in creating a continuous flow within conjoined indoor – outdoor spaces. There are porcelain tiles at every price point. Porcelain is great with underfloor heating, so long as a decoupling membrane is used between the UFH and the tile. Ceramic is cheaper than porcelain but both are inexpensive options.
  5. Vinyl tile. LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) as it’s now often known, is a vast improvement on the vinyl floors of old. Pretty much any design can be created, so any look is achievable but commonly the LVT is wood-effect or tile-effect. They are soft and comfortable surfaces on which to walk, easily washable and inexpensive at £30-£45 per square metre plus fitting. They are very child and pet-friendly. They can be used with underfloor heating but check with both suppliers first.


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