Design & DIY

Cottage Q&A: Should I use vinyl flooring in my unheated cottage?

A man installing pieces of vinyl flooring on a sub-floor

We are removing the 1960s yellow shag carpeting in our three-season cottage and considering vinyl flooring instead. Which vinyl should we use? We want waterproof. And we want something guaranteed not to shrink or expand.Cathy O’Brien, via email

Go with “floating” (as opposed to glued-down) vinyl planks or tiles, and look for a product designed for cold spaces or temperature fluctuations. One option is SPC (stone plastic composite) vinyl planks, says John Haswell of Quality Red Tag Floors in Edmonton. 

Will it shrink or expand? Yes. But that’s kind of the point. “All floating floors expand and contract,” says Haswell. They’re meant to move without individual pieces buckling, since during installation, you leave an expansion gap around the floor’s perimeter. 

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And vinyl floors are, by nature, waterproof, says Shannon Currie, a sales manager with Taylor Carpet One Floor & Home in Huntsville, Ont. Waterproof within reason, in that vinyl can stand up to water falling on top of it as opposed to water seeping through from underneath.

“Vinyl is basically a plastic, to dumb it down a whole lot,” says Currie. “Most vinyl flooring is guaranteed waterproof for up to a certain number of hours.” So, the floor would be fine if, for example, the cat knocked over a glass of water, and it took a day for anyone to notice the spill, she says—assuming, of course, you installed the floor correctly, with a silicone bead around the perimeter to stop any water from getting in that way.

But, c’mon. It’s the cottage. You’re not concerned about water glasses and cats. Three months’ worth of water from a leaking roof in the spring likely would damage the floor. As it would pretty much any floor. But with click-together vinyl planks, it’s often possible to remove wet pieces, dry them out, and reinstall or replace them, says Currie. 

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Not sold on vinyl yet? There are plenty of other flooring options available. And all of them will be better than yellow shag carpet.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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