We are redesigning the kitchen of our 20-year-old home. I would like to install wood flooring, but my husband says this is foolish because wood will not take the abuse of water and food spills. I would like to know your opinion. -- G.P.

Hardwood flooring can prove satisfactory for kitchens if prepared properly. However, the durability of this floor will not match vinyl or tile floors when it comes to easy maintenance. But hardwood floors are more comfortable to stand on than tile and they offer better resiliency than tile, so that breakage is minimized.

You can install unfinished flooring, then stain and seal it with polyurethane, using three coats or more. The thickness of the material should be taken into consideration in your remodeling project. Usually, about three-fourths of an inch will be added to the floor height, and you may have to plan differently for installation of under-the-counter appliances, as well as for transition between rooms that may be connected to the kitchen.

A number of newer prefinished commercial products also are available in wood flooring. They are impregnated with a polyurethane finish at the factory and are rated suitable for bath and kitchens. I would check with the manufacturer on specifics of upkeep, as you will probably need to maintain these with a sealer finish or additional polyurethane coats with wear.

Do not use hardwood flooring that requires a wax finish. A wax-finish wood flooring will show water spots and spills from kitchen activities. Water and most other liquids won't harm a urethane finish, but daily use will show in tiny surface scratches. Be particularly careful of dining room sets and chairs that are moved continually on the floor surface (rubber tips on table and chair legs will help protect your flooring). Unless you are good at do-it-yourself installations, you may want to consider a professional installer for this task. Plank and strip flooring can only be installed over a suspended wood floor. Some parquet wood floor systems are designed to cover a slab foundation only. Proper installation, which often is tricky, is imperative for a long-lasting flooring.

We purchased a new home nearly 1 1/2 years ago. It has cathedral ceilings in the living room and family room area, with exposed beams. I love the look, but after 18 months of living here we find that the house is drafty and cool in these rooms in the winter and just the reverse in the summer. Is there anything we can do to help prevent this condition? I have read that ceiling insulation would help, but I don't know how we would go about this with the cathedral ceilings. -- J.Y.

Insulating ceilings with bare beams is nearly impossible unless the insulation is placed in the roof under the shingles. This is both difficult and very expensive. If you don't mind covering up a portion of the beam, you can fill in these spaces between joists with 3 1/2-inch insulation and then install gypsum board over the insulation between the beams. Of course, the amount of beam left exposed will depend on the depth of the beam. Another consideration is the installation of decorative ceiling fans. These will help air circulation and keep the ceiling somewhat cooler in summer, along with forcing some of the warm air down into the room during winter months. Weather stripping and insulation treatments of other areas in your home, such as the windows and doorways, can help some. Heavy drapes on windows will keep cold air out during the winter and protect from the warming effects of the sun in the summer.

I have a den that was done in wood paneling a number of years ago when this treatment was popular. I am now tired of this look and I would like to wallpaper this room. Is there any way I can wallpaper over the paneling and save the job of removing the paneling and repairing the wall surface? -- K.G.

Yes, you should be able to prepare this surface for wallpapering. You will want to spackle all joints and grooves for a smooth surface, then sand and wash the surface so that it is free from any remaining grease or grime. Use either an acrylic or alkyd primer. I also recommend a lining paper for the surface, prior to hanging the wallpaper of your choice. Consult your wallpaper dealer for proper adhesives for the paper you select.

Is sheet vinyl a satisfactory covering for concrete basement floors? We are converting the area into a recreation room. -- C.E.

No. Concrete floors in basements need to "breathe" to release any moisture buildup. Covering the entire basement floor with sheet flooring may create moisture problems and cause blistering. Tiles would be better for your basement floor covering.

Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.