Can I use laminate flooring in an unheated cottage?

By Jackie DavisJackie Davis



The Question

Do you have any suggestion for flooring in an unheated cottage? We currently have vinyl tiles, but we want something new and updated. Will laminate work?

—Jeff Watson

The Answer

Bamboo, cork, and engineered hardwood are all resilient, good-looking, and economical flooring choices for a non-winterized cottage, but, certainly, laminate can work. Though brands vary, in general, it’s durable, easy to maintain, simple to install, and won’t be affected by frosty temperatures in the same way as, for example, vinyl or linoleum, which may crack when cold (especially if the floor is not allowed to warm up before being subjected to heavy foot traffic). Laminate is also more stable than natural wood when it comes to changes in humidity. Plus, a laminate floor expands and contracts as a whole, so, unlike hardwood, it doesn’t leave gaps between planks or around nails. (Laminate isn’t fastened to the subfloor, so it can “float” on top.)

The real enemy is moisture: True, good laminate is more water-resistant than ever, but—if you get a poor-quality brand—your floor will suffer in a cottage with a serious moisture problem (if you have chronic mould, say, or the cottage always feels damp inside). When water gets into the fibreboard core of the laminate, the individual floorboards may swell and become misaligned.

Bottom line: Before you buy anything, do your research and shop around.


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Jul. 13, 2013

7:10 am

10 years plus of inexpensive snap together free floating laminate flooring in our un-insulated bunky and it is in perfect condition. Wet sandals, feet , bathing suits , towels don't faze it at all. Leave a good half inch around the entire perimeter for expansion and contraction and cover with a 3/4 inch quarter round.


T Cup

Dec. 27, 2011

9:49 pm

We decided to put laminated flooring in our cottage 5 years ago, we leave some heat in the winter time (not for the floor) we like to visit from time to time and we had no problems at all with shrinking or expansion. I installed the whole floor by myself. It was so simple it was a pleasure to work with it. We are glad we didn't put in other type of hard wood floor, and then worry about floor board expansion. Besides, laminated is cheaper, easier to clean, maintain, and or, at the worst case scenario replace it. The only think to remember is to be sure to have a firm and level floor to start with, other wise the squeaking is horrible


Dec. 21, 2011

5:42 am

We used engineered hardwood and have had absolutely no problems (either). We completely shut (no heat etc.) the cottage for the winter.

Ron Harding

Dec. 20, 2011

10:40 pm

I used the very inexpensive TrafficMaster Allue vinyl planks from Home Depot in the bathroom at our cottage. The manufacturer actually recommends against it in unheated conditions. Apparently the glue strips that bond the planks can fail. But it was cheap, and easy to install, so I took a chance on it. It's been down through one winter already, and seemed unaffected. This is the second winter just starting now.



Dec. 20, 2011

12:37 pm

I put laminated flooring in my cottage 5 years ago, turn off the heat in the winter and I have had absolutely no problems with shrinking or expansion. My wife and I did the installation by ourselves. It was so easy, it was a pleasure to do. I am glad I didn't put in a hard wood floor, which only brings continuous worrying about floor board expansion. Besides, laminated is far cheaper and much easier to replace.

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