Carpenter ants, you say? Painted kitchen floors, I say.

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_lovelylife
Photo by Lönngren/Widell for Lovelylife

Last weekend we had another plumber come to the house to take a look at the work we need done in the kitchen — removal of two steam radiators, re-routing of steam pipes and, eventually, re-installation of one of radiators (we’re putting the other one in storage for now). While we’re waiting for his quote to come in, we’re trying to make a list of everything we need to get done once the radiators have been removed. It looks a little like this so far:

▶ Frantically tile the last two walls
▶ Frantically refinish one of the radiators
▶ Frantically pull up the existing VCT floor tiles
▶ Frantically remove the plywood subfloor, which was at some point used as a large snack for carpenter ants
▶ Frantically assess the condition of the original pine subfloor that’s underneath the plywood
▶ Frantically do something so that there’s a floor in place when the plumber comes back to re-route the steam pipes and re-install one of the radiators

But let me back up a little. A few months ago, amid all of the tiling chaos going on in the kitchen, I happened to notice that a few of our VCT floor tiles had come loose. One of them actually felt…squishy? Knowing that squishy floors are generally a bad thing (I learned that from watching This Old House), I peeked underneath the tile to see what was going on. ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!!!!! Yes, a swarming mass of carpenter ants. Ugh. The carpenter ants have since been eradicated (I may have a vegan diet, but, well, let’s just say I did NOT rehabilitate, foster, and re-home each individual ant), but the plywood subfloor is looking pretty terrible. It has to go. We definitely weren’t planning on replacing our floor — we installed it dirt cheap years ago (pre-blog), and I’ve always been happy with it — but it seems to be unavoidable.

I do know that the original pine plank subfloor is hiding under the plywood subfloor (which was already here when we bought the house — it was in decent shape, so we patched it up and tiled over it rather than replacing it for no reason), but I don’t know what kind of condition it’s in. In theory it’s the same as the floor in Evan’s studio (unfinished, dirty and rough, but mostly OK), but in reality it might have a lot of water damage, weird sections cut out of it from when the walls were reconfigured 50+ years ago, or any number of unknowns that might make it unsuitable to be exposed.

However it turns out, I know I want a painted wood floor in the kitchen. Tile just isn’t in the budget, and love painted wood floors anyway — especially in kitchens. If we luck out and the existing pine is usable, I’ll follow the same steps I did upstairs when painting them (probably black, but we’ll see). If they’re a total wreck, then we’ll install inexpensive pine on top. We used the lowest-quality cheap pine flooring available on the walls in our upstairs bathroom, and it was CHEAP — like $1/square foot or something crazy like that. Once it’s patched and painted, the knots and holes and stuff don’t matter.

Anyway, here are some inspiration photos of painted kitchen floors that I’ve been squirreling away for when the time came to make decisions about the kitchen floor, and that time is officially HERE! Assuming the plumber’s quote isn’t totally insane, this is all going to start happening really soon and really fast. GULP.

What floor color would be best in the kitchen? Stick with black? I do love black floors. Would white be too crazy-bright in there? The same gray color as the walls??

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_paulmassey
Photo by Paul Massey

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_b-arch
Interior by B-Arch Studio / via Remodelista

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_2up
(L) Photo by Birgitta Wolfgang Drejer for Bolig / (R) Photo via Corcoran

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_insideout
Photo from InsideOut

doorsixteen_kitchenfloor_lottaagaton
Interior styling by Lotta Agaton

53 comments
  1. LoriJun 20, 20134:24 pm

    Definitely avoid white. So hard to keep clean in the kitchen. We had a similar situation in our kitchen – pulled up the tile, dreading what we’d find. We were lucky to have a decent floor, but it was pretty beat up. We stained it a dark, dark chocolate brown and it’s my favorite room in the whole house. Dark colors hid the spills better, but also show the crumbs – so you know when it’s time to sweep.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    That’s exactly what I like about having a dark kitchen floor!

  2. TrishJun 20, 20134:26 pm

    I went through this same convo about my 100 year old kitchen floor (minus the carpenter ants but plus many other bummers). I ended up hand sanding and polying, but will be tackling my upstairs floors this summer. They have yuck carpet on top of linoleum that I’ve had tested (no asbestos thank goodness) and a zillion tacks and carpet strip holes on top of old unfinished heart pine. And maybe cutouts for similar reasons to yours. If they are sound I will stain and poly. If they are not I will paint. In your situation I would avoid white. Every paw print and every tomato splash will show immediately and drive you nuts. I’d go for the gray.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yeah, we’ve never had any issues with keeping the white floor upstairs clean, but I feel like in a kitchen it could quickly become a nightmare. I do a lot of cooking, and the only entrance from the garden is directly into the kitchen.

    I have a few concerns about whether we’re going to find asbestos in the tarpaper that’s inevitably on top of the original subfloors, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

  3. LeonoraJun 20, 20134:32 pm

    So exciting- can’t wait to see pics!
    We painted our floors white, including the kitchen. It has held up well, but some things do stain and require a bit of sanding- berries, beets, wine are the worst…

    Black would look great with your grout!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Leonora, have you ever tried a Magic Eraser on your floor? That’s how I deal with any scuffs that turn up on our white painted floor upstairs, and it works really well. Much easier than sanding/touching up.

    Leonora /

    Thanks for the tip- I will give it a try!

  4. AnaJun 20, 20134:35 pm

    Black, no question.

    [Reply]

  5. EmilyJun 20, 20134:41 pm

    I like the black, but I think you’d have to gloss it somehow, because I think black needs to be shiny, whereas white can be matte. I also think the black would look best with your stools :) And future Smeg.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Haha! Believe me, I’ve been saving up for that fridge for the better part of a year now! Hopefully it’ll happen at some point. ;)

    Emily /

    I showed them to the husband and he was all for it…until he saw the price. Although, it’s not like we have a house yet, so maybe by the time we get there, I can convince him ;)

  6. JudiJun 20, 20134:42 pm

    I know everyone else will say “white, because black will show too much dirt,” but I vote for black. I think the contrast with the furniture, the appliances, the lighting, etc. in the kitchen will be amazing. And the black floor will ground the space in the same way the black floor does in your bathroom. (An idea we were happy to steal for our half bath downstairs, which, with any luck, will be done in two weeks!) Besides, black fixes everything, right?

    [Reply]

  7. Daniel @ Manhattan NestJun 20, 20135:21 pm

    Black or grey! I like the idea of the grey—it’s a great color, and might brighten things up a little, which I know you’re not worried about, but still…it’d be nice! Don’t do white—as someone who spent almost 2 years with a white tiled floor, it was a total nightmare in the kitchen. It ALWAYS looked dirty, even after it was just cleaned. I know you’re a super clean half-swede and wood is different than tile and all that, but keeping the kitchen floor gleaming white is just not something you’re going to want to worry about.

    Also, all of these kitchens….OMG.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    True. I forgot about what a complete nightmare the white tile in my Washington Heights kitchen was.

  8. lauraJun 20, 20136:00 pm

    I love those kitchens.

    I think black or dark grey would look great.

    have you considered oak flooring? it is a bit tougher than pine, which might be a good thing for a kitchen. we installed the utility grade oak from lumber liquidators in our kitchen, and we are very happy with it. its only 88 cents a square foot

    [Reply]

  9. josieJun 20, 20136:03 pm

    oooh, gloss black.
    it will look awesome.
    josie

    [Reply]

  10. JennyJun 20, 20136:21 pm

    A agree with Daniel – we had white floorboards and they always looked grubby….We stained our stair floorboards a deep black oak and I haven’t regretted it! We’re definitely doing the same for the kitchen.

    [Reply]

  11. SherryJun 20, 20136:26 pm

    Oh those pictures are so inspiring! I love the idea of shiny black painted floors and how well they complement the black grout in the first picture. Good luck with finishing up everything. I can’t wait to see what you do!

    [Reply]

  12. AgnieszkaJun 20, 20136:55 pm

    In my opinion black floor would be the best option out of all three for your kitchen, Anna.
    White would be good if you were going for a light rustic look, and gosh, it’s the kitchen where you like to spend the most time with family and friends, and dogs. So I think that would be not so realistic.
    A gray floor looks great with modern kitchen cabinetry and furniture, which yours really isn’t.
    So the last option is black, and it will give your kitchen the final punch it needs, and push it towards a more modern look, and will go with so many things already present in that space.
    Any way you choose, i will be looking forward to it..

    [Reply]

  13. TCJun 20, 20137:00 pm

    As someone who lives in a house with the full color spectrum of painted floors, my vote is for black.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    The full spectrum of painted floors! Wow! Your house must be amazing.

  14. MinnaJun 20, 20139:18 pm

    I think gray would be beautiful. Glossy gray!

    [Reply]

  15. LouiseJun 20, 20139:31 pm

    Glossy black floors all the way.

    [Reply]

  16. TaniaJun 20, 201310:49 pm

    You know the answer is fluorescent pink. Imagine!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Ahahahahaha…I like the way you think, Tania. ;) I’ve considered doing a bright color, but it’s just not right for that particular space. I’d love to do that somewhere else, though.

  17. ChristaJun 21, 201312:21 am

    black, no question.

    [Reply]

  18. agaczJun 21, 20133:43 am

    Not a home-owner and very confused – isn’t pine too soft for a floor? I mean, I’ve got a pine table and I covered it in several layers of especially-for-floors-super-resistant-undestructable-poly and it still shows some dents here and there. And it’s a table, not a floor where things fall (in my case – constantly) some people walk in stillettos or cats/dogs try to u-turn in full speed.

    I’m asking because if pine floors are ok, then I’m getting rid of my disgusting tiles today;) In my part of the world “Thou shall not use softer wood than oak on your floor” is eleventh commandment so I’ve been saving up and saving up and it’s going to take ages.

    And my vote is for black (black, black, black, black, numer 1!).

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Pine, fir and other softwood flooring is really common! In the US you mostly see it in older homes (think pre-1900), but in other parts of the world — like Scandinavia — where those trees are abundant, that’s what the vast majority of the wood floors are made out of.

    Yes, the floors will show dings and they will not look perfect forever, but that’s part of their appeal. You can even buy reclaimed pine flooring that already looks perfectly imperfect! ;) I personally am not a fan of pristine wood flooring that looks the same on day 3495849 as it did on day 1. Of course, it all depends on the style of your house and your furnishings…and your personal taste.

    Do some searches for photos of pine floors and for Swedish floors as well. There are other options for finishing them that don’t involve polyurethane. I am not a fan of poly finishes, and I don’t actually think it’s a particularly practical finish in the long-term. There are waxes and oils and even soap-based finishes that not only give the floors a more natural, soft look, but that can be touched up if necessary without requiring the entire floor to be refinished. Or you could always paint them, of course! Painted softwood floors are my absolute favorite. :)

    Christa /

    Poly is not my favorite but it’s what I have. I have oak hardwood, natural (no stain) with a water based semi-gloss polyurethane finish. I use the Bona Hardwood Refresher once a year to keep the poly in good condition. I’ve also touched up a couple deep scratches – i blot on some poly with a sponge brush, then buff it out when it’s soft-dry to blend it in. Anyhow, it isn’t ideal and if I had to do it over again I would try teak oil and wax but at the time the contractor and floor guys both strongly disagreed with oil/wax.

  19. PollyJun 21, 20135:00 am

    I’d go the darkest grey you can, almost black but not quite.

    [Reply]

  20. SerenityJun 21, 20139:28 am

    I love the look of white painted floors in a kitchen and have a million photos of them in my lust folders (and now I have more – thanks!) But I’m so disappointed to hear everyone’s comments about them! My dreams are crushed!

    Tania’s pink idea made me think of the kitchen in this house, have you ever seen it?
    http://www.husohem.se/Hem/Lagenheter/Malade-tak–lagenhet-med-feeling-for-farg/

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    If you really want the white floor, just go for it! That’s the great thing about paint — if you decide it’s not working out a year down the line, you can always paint over it with black. :)

    That pink kitchen floor looks cool. Wish they had bigger pictures on that site!

  21. IsabelleJun 21, 20139:55 am

    When I saw the first photo with the fridge and the sclae on the top, I thought, WOW, Anna got her kitchen done already ;-)))))))))) …….. and I thought immediately that I need to ask you if you don’t want to change the opening of the fridge and freezer doors ;-))))))) *gosh*

    Regarding the floor colour – I am not a black fan so no support from me on that option ;-) I would make sure it goes well with your black furnitures and that it doesn’t eat up too much light. I would try it out with some large PVC- or even black paper pieces to check it out beforehand.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I’ve had a black kitchen floor for almost 8 years now, so I already know how it looks! :) You can see pictures of my kitchen in its current state (including the black floor) here:
    http://www.doorsixteen.com/2013/03/12/the-kitchen-shelving-is-up-yayyyy/

  22. holly pedersenJun 21, 201310:50 am

    I’d definitely go glossy black. such a strong look, and I’d really dig that with the subway tiles and that amazing wood table of yours!

    love holly

    [Reply]

  23. MaraJun 21, 201311:27 am

    Anna, I was reading through the comments and saw you talking about different options for staining/refinishing other than the typical polyurethane. I would love to see you do a post on that more in depth! Poly is all there seems to be at the hardware store, and the idea of a more attractive finish is really interesting.

    Also, based on my lower kitchen cabinets being painted white, I say grey or black floors. They are constantly dirty and drive the OCD in me crazy.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Mara, I’m not sure I’d be the best person to write a post about floor refinishing since it’s not something I’ve ever done (other than painting them, of course). I just know about this stuff from reading a lot of home renovation blogs and books about Swedish interiors! There are already so many resources online — try Googling marine finishes, lye and soap finishes, Waterlox, and even just “alternatives to polyurethane.” There’s a lot out there! My mother and stepfather are in the process of refinishing their hardwood (oak) floors with one of the products from Bona:
    http://www.bona.com/en-US/United-States1/

  24. SarahJun 21, 201312:25 pm

    you could always split the difference like this: http://www.remodelista.com/posts/diy-new-england-spatter-painted-floors
    No amount of mess would show up on those floors :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Wow, I love that!! It’s kind of a similar visual effect as the white speckles in my (current) black VCT floors. I wonder if I could execute it well, though…hmmm…

  25. DellaJun 21, 20133:07 pm

    We have a house from 1910 and the women we bought the house from tore out the old 50s kitchen and replaced it with a somewhat decent IKEA kitchen (not our favourite but certainly not one that needs to be torn out immediately).

    One thing she did when putting in the new kitchen was tear out the flooring and keep the original sub-floor as the actual floor (relatively thick wood planks) and stained it (and did a terrible job at it). We’d like to replace the entire kitchen but it’s not really in the cards right now so we just painted the wood plank sub-floor a robin’s egg blue.

    Everyone always comments on the floor because it’s a lot of fun. I certainly wouldn’t have done it to original flooring but the subfloor will eventually be covered up with new flooring at some point in the future so why not?

    We’ve had them for three years now and love them.

    [Reply]

  26. DebbieJun 21, 20134:09 pm

    Ants – Suddenly my bathroom woodworm problem doesn’t seem so bad. I hope it all works out for you.

    At various times I’ve had white, black, dark blue, mid grey and dark green floorboards and the first two drove me insane. Grey was easiest to keep clean and it looked fantastic. You could go for some thing like this http://emiliejohnson.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/blocks.html

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I think that’s a little too busy for my kitchen, but I do LOVE that pattern. Check out this post:
    http://www.doorsixteen.com/2013/01/08/yeah-i-could-live-there-5/

  27. Steph NelsonJun 21, 20139:08 pm

    My vote is for the dark floors. I love that top pic! White floors seem like TOO much white.

    [Reply]

    Steph Nelson /

    Love the pic with the floors on the diagonal too! I would look into that if you end up having to
    replace the floor. It adds a little something something that the others don’t!

  28. MicheleJun 21, 20139:25 pm

    Your Philly fans vote: Black, hands down.

    Just a bit off topic: How did you deal with the ant issue? I think I have the same thing going here … need to call someone!

    [Reply]

  29. JulieJun 23, 20138:13 pm

    I am sure others have said this but avoid white in a kitchen. We have white laminate wood flooring (previous owners installed). With cooking and eating in the kitchen they always look dirty – – and thats with me sweeping and “spot cleaning” at least once a day. Dirty kitchens are so gross and even a drip of coffee makes it look like you have not cleaned in ages. I dream of the day we can install dark (real) wood floors…

    [Reply]

  30. KatiJun 25, 20138:36 pm

    I’m way too scared to do painted floors in the kitchen, though my partner and I totally ripped up the carpet throughout the remainder of the house (the downstairs was wood when we moved in) and promptly painted it white. It’s a challenge to keep clean and needs a touch up at the moment but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. Well, maybe that black flooring. That looks kind of amazing…

    [Reply]

  31. erinJun 26, 20137:38 pm

    Ooh, glossy black wood would look so excellent in your kitchen. You probably don’t need another vote for black, but here it is anyway.

    [Reply]

  32. DionneJul 2, 20138:30 am

    I had painted glossy black floors in my last kitchen and I loved them. So easy to clean expect you could see every single dog hair and car hair which I guess made it easier to know when it was time to sweep and mop, lol.

    [Reply]

  33. HelenJul 8, 20134:03 pm

    Hi Anna! First time commenter, long time reader. Firstly, <3. Secondly, I have black painted floors in my kitchen, and I actually find them to show up every single smudge and scuff, just as much as the white floors I've had in other places i've lived. But then again, I have three little kids, so maybe my place is just very smudgy and scuffy. Next time around, I'm going for gray.

    [Reply]

  34. dutchyAug 5, 20134:20 am

    Another first time commenter here from the Netherlands. I have very light grey painted pine planks in my kitchen/living room and love them. They mostly read as white. Yes they show some dirt – but upstairs we have almost solid dark grey marmoleum tiles and I find those show dirt just as much. I actually think because the pine is soft and shows the texture of grains and knots, but also dings and scratches, it shows much less dirt than a white tile floor would. But that might just be my warped thinking because I really love my floors and would do anything to rationalize them…

    [Reply]

  35. JanAug 6, 20136:50 pm

    Hello Anna- Did you send the radiators out to be sandblasted? Curious about the experience whether you sent them out or did them yourself.

    I’m in love with your home, it really “reads” as a home as opposed to just a house.
    And I’m spurred on to attempt a backyard make over seeing the lovely results of your backyard.

    Thanks!
    Jan

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Jan, unfortunately the radiators in the kitchen are STILL SITTING THERE (argh!) because we’ve had a really hard time getting a plumber in to cut the pipes. Hopefully next week! When we do get them disconnected, we’re going to take care of the refinishing ourselves. We have sent a couple of radiators out to be sandblasted and powder-coated, though, and the results are AMAZING. We did our sink and bathtub, too. The only downside is the cost, which is why we’re handling the less-rusty radiators ourselves.

    I should do a post all about the process! I get a lot of questions about this. Thanks for asking!

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