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Flooring for Wet Areas

March 31 2010

Kitchens, baths, utility rooms, and mud rooms take more spills and splashes than the rest of the house. While you may love your hardwoods in the living room, you may want more of a workhorse in the wet areas of your home.

Flooring in kitchens and baths have come a long way in terms of looks, but the basic materials are still tile or carpet.  Some floorings look more modern, some are more industrial, and some are timeless and traditional.


Surprisingly, recent advances in carpet technologies make carpet an attractive choice for wet areas such as mudrooms and bathrooms. When you take your shoes off, the experience of walking on a warmer, softer flooring can feel really good when the temperatures drop. 

One choice for your wet areas is Olefin-based carpet. Olefin is a long-chain polymer synthetic fiber that, according to wisegeek.com, dries quickly and is both colorfast and stain-resistant.

Keep in mind that a carpeted bath might not appeal to everyone.  While it’s easy to clean with a hand vacuum or sweeper-vac, a carpeted bathroom floor isn’t for everyone. If you have small children who like to splish-splash in the tub, you may need a shop-vac to soak up excess water, and that’s not practical.

A better choice would be to tile the floor and put in a washable throw rug for warmth, or a fine wool rug that will absorb wet footprints easily.


Tile comes in a number of sizes, materials and colors. Tile can also augment your home’s style, from the classic 19th century octagonal ceramics, to the transparent glass tiles of the 21st century. 

Stone tiles make a beautiful transition from hardwood living areas to wet zones, and are ideal for kitchens and baths.  

Travertine is a naturally beautiful Italian stone that comes from the town of Tibur. You can tell travertine by it porous texture- the remnants of the macrophytes, algae and other life forms that once lived within the rock. Travertine is a relatively affordable stone at around $8 per square foot.

If you like the polished stone look,  consider slate, marble or granite. Though these stones are much more expensive, they can offer very rich colors and textures that are both attractive and unique. However, putting an average price on these stones is more difficult as different colors, patterns, veining and polish can drastically change your cost per square foot.

Porcelain is another beautiful natural material that you can buy glazed or unglazed. This material is rated by ASTM.org to test its wear and tear resistance on a 1-5 scale and is known for its ability to remain stain and scratch-proof. This denser material is very affordable easily coming in the $3-$7 per square foot range,  depending on finish and color.

Ceramic tile is the most versatile in color, finish, size and texture, and it’s also the most fragile of tiles. It’s equally at home as an accent or as the main element, particularly in baths and utility rooms. Ceramic tiles are well-priced at under $4 per square foot, so consider buying a lot of extra tiles of the same color, so you can keep your bathroom looking great.

One safety consideration with tile is slipping. Consider installing tile that is unglazed in the stepping area of about 1½ to 2½ feet around the perimeter of showers and tubs.

To shop prices, visit TileShop.com.


Linoleum is making a comeback and looking better than ever. As one of the first “green” materials, linoleum is made from linseed oil and other biodegradable ingredients.

According to Armstrong Floors, genuine linoleum is extremely long-wearing, because “its color and construction go all the way through to the backing.” The linseed oil is combined with resins and other ingredients such as ground limestone and cork and other natural materials, with color provided by natural minerals.

It cleans with ordinary floor cleaners and can be easily swept, making it low maintenance for large areas such as kitchens. It may need annual maintenance.

To help you decide what kind of floor your wet areas need, consider size, use, and ambiance.  The flooring you select for your kitchen may continue through to the utility room, but you may not want the same look for your bathrooms.

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