Floor­ing in­stall in un­heated cot­tage all about prep

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - DAVID SQUARE

AREADER asked re­cently whether it is nor­mal for vinyl floor­ing to lift af­ter a few years in­side a cot­tage that is not heated in win­ter. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, the an­swer is no. We had vinyl floor­ing in the kitchen and bath­room of our three-sea­son cabin which re­mained firmly ad­hered to the sub­strate for more than two decades, de­spite no heat in win­ter. Prop­erly in­stalled, good qual­ity floor­ing of al­most any ma­te­rial should give years of trou­ble free ser­vice in a cot­tage that is un­heated dur­ing the bit­ter months. In the Grand and Vic­to­ria Beach ar­eas, there are sum­mer cot­tages built in the ‘20s and ‘30s that still have the orig­i­nal T&G fir floor­ing in­tact and, in a few cases, the linoleum as well. So what causes a fin­ished floor to fail? Ac­cord­ing to a trusted source in the floor­ing in­dus­try, the No. 1 rea­son is im­proper prepa­ra­tion. All dirt, oil, wax, paint and old ad­he­sive must be re­moved to en­sure a proper bond be­tween the vinyl, the glue and the sub floor. Another prob­lem is the choice of sub floor if a new one is to be laid on top of the old. OSB is in­ex­pen­sive com­pared to smooth ply­wood, but it is worth pay­ing for the ply­wood be­cause vinyl ad­he­sives, es­pe­cially water­based ones, form a much stronger bond on solid wood than on resin and wood chip prod­ucts, most of which con­tain wax and swell sig­nif­i­cantly when in con­tact with mois­ture. In­deed, many floor­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers will not guar­an­tee their prod­uct if OSB and sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als are used as a sub­strate. Also, a self-lev­el­ling com­pound is rec­om­mended for ar­eas of a sub floor with de­cliv­i­ties that pre­vent the vinyl from ad­her­ing to the sub­strate. Yet another rea­son for fail­ure is to rush the job, not al­low­ing suf­fi­cient time for ad­he­sive, vinyl and sub­strate to ac­cli­ma­tize to room tem­per­a­ture. Im­pa­tience can lead to other mis­takes such as skimp­ing on ad­he­sive or not al­low­ing suf­fi­cient time for it to achieve max­i­mum bond­ing strength, known as “open time.” Fi­nally, some vinyl pro­duc­ers will spec­ify a type or brand of ad­he­sive to use with their prod­ucts. Fail­ure to do so will not nec­es­sar­ily re­sult in a botched ap­pli­ca­tion; how­ever, the vinyl’s war­ranty may not be hon­oured if non-rec­om­mended glue is used in­stead. Lux­ury vinyl plank­ing and tiles that click to­gether (no ad­he­sive re­quired) and float on the sur­face of a sub floor have be­come pop­u­lar be­cause of their ease of in­stal­la­tion, dura­bil­ity, wood grain pat­terns and easy clean up. For these rea­sons, they are an ex­cel­lent choice for a high-traf­fic cot­tage or liv­ing area in a house. The only caveat is to stay away from cheap knock-offs sold by big box stores; they do not click to­gether easily or wear like pricier, longer last­ing brands. Another floor­ing suit­able for three­sea­son cab­ins is solid T&G hard­wood, usu­ally avail­able from lum­ber­yards in rus­tic grade red oak or birch for about $3 per square foot. Years ago I helped friends lay about 700 square-feet of three-inch by ¾” T&G rus­tic red oak in the kitchen and din­ing room of their Whiteshell cot­tage. At the time, we were in­formed by a neigh­bour that the floor­ing would crack dur­ing the win­ter if the cabin was un­heated. We ig­nored his warn­ing and air-nailed the floor­ing to a new ply­wood sub­strate. Aside from cut­ting out some open knots and dis­card­ing a few rough pieces, the in­stal­la­tion was al­most glitch free and com­pleted in a cou­ple of days. The fol­low­ing spring the floor was in top-notch con­di­tion, no crack­ing, swelling or open seams. A score of un­heated win­ters later, the oak is still firmly in place and has sur­vived two gen­er­a­tions of dogs, much guest traf­fic and un­told spills of dish­wa­ter, bev­er­ages and food. About four years ago, I pur­chased 400 square-feet of T&G ash on an In­ter­net site, in­clud­ing a pneu­matic nailer, un­der­lay pa­per and a full box of nails, all for $400. I nailed the ash over top of the old sheet vinyl that cov­ered the kitchen and bath­room. The un­stained wood has a gor­geous fin­ish and a nat­u­ral straw colour that bright­ens both rooms. Best of all, be­cause of my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with the red oak floor­ing, I re­main un­con­cerned about the ash split­ting be­cause the cot­tage is un­heated in off-sea­son months. For those still scep­ti­cal about glu­ing or nail­ing new floor­ing to the sub floor of a three-sea­son cabin, there is the op­tion of wall-to-wall car­pet that floats on top of the sub­strate. It’s com­fort­ing on the feet, easy to vac­uum and re­mov­ing spills is sim­ple, es­pe­cially if the ma­te­rial is olefin, ny­lon or polyester. We have a sand-tone wall-to-wall car­pet in the liv­ing room of our cot­tage that has lasted many years and, be­cause of the colour, does not show beach dirt. A fi­nal tip con­cern­ing floor­ing for cab­ins is the use of in­door/out­door car­pet. We have a piece of brown in­door/ out­door car­pet in our screened porch that we roll out in the spring and roll up and store in the cot­tage dur­ing the win­ter. Be­cause this car­pet is wa­ter re­pel­lant we do not worry about the ply­wood sub floor rot­ting from con­tact with mois­ture that is blown through the screens dur­ing down­pours.

PHOTOS BY DAVID SQUARE / WINNIPEm FREE PRESS

This 20-year-wold vinyl kitchen floor re­mains firmly ad­hered.

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