Flooring install in unheated cottage all about prep
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.
This 20-year-wold vinyl kitchen floor remains firmly adhered.