Design & DIY

Can I use laminate flooring in an unheated cottage?


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

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.