Why laminate should be avoided in waterfront cottages

Written by Mya Stolte, August 27 2021

Laminate is a great flooring option, but it has a time and a place. One place that it should not go is in a cottage. Especially waterfront ones. I’m here to help explain why.

Let’s talk about the water resistance of laminate. Most laminate is not rated for the kitchen or bathroom, so putting it in a place where people are often tracking in water from the lake or pond doesnt make much sense either. Laminate is a paper composite flooring, and paper is not waterproof. There are some laminates that are considered “Water resistant”, but they still arent perfect.

Cottages are also not the most moisture resistant structures around. Yes they have to be inhabitable, but most cottages are used seasonally only. That means that they don’t have the insulation and waterproofing systems to stand up to the winter months, especially here in Canada. Lots of cottages are also built up on stilts, like the one pictured above. If there is no basement, the main floor is left open and vulnerable to heat, humidity and any other moisture in the air.

Recently we were called out to do some repairs on a cottage in a similar situation. Here is their story

Every once in a while I get a little envious of the homes that we work in, but this cottage takes the cake. It had a screened in porch that wrapped all of the way around the front of the cottage with a small bunkie off of the porch for guests. It had a monster sized master bedroom, and a beautiful walk-in closet and en suite. Not to mention the many outdoor entertainment spaces, including and patio, bar space, and double decker dock. These homeowners lived in their cottage for the warm months of the year, and in Florida for the rest of the time, so it wasn’t heated throughout the winter. This cottage was also up on stilts because it was built on a hill.

When we got the call, we were happy to help, but we were also rather concerned with what we would be facing terms of damage. A couple of years ago they had some damage to their floor, and the insurance company would only replace the existing laminate, with laminate even though the homeowners knew the risk of heaving such an absorbant flooring and requested vinyl plank. The homeowners rolled with the punches and called us for their most recent repairs.

Luckily, we were able to complete this repair in under a day. Here is how we did it.

  1. We cleared out the furniture.

In order for us to get a good look at the bedroom where the defects were, we had to clear everything out.

2. We assessed the damage

When we took a closer look, we were able to see multiple places where the boards had come apart. This is because when laminate gets wet and hot, from humity or spills, it can swell. If it’s exposed to moisture and heat over a long period of time, the boards can swell so much that the tongues can crack and cause the boards to pop out of the floor.

3.We started the tear out

We flexed our muscles and pulled up the laminate. We also numbered each row and board. It was quite time consuming, but it would be even worse if we lost track of where we were got entirely lost because nothing was labled. As we went, we removed the broken pieces and threw them out.

4. We put it all back again!

Once everything was up and the broken boards were gone, we got right back at it, and started laying it all down again. We simply put the boards back, in reverse order, replacing the missing boards where needed. It got a little bit tricky once we got to the doorway, beacause the same laminate continued into the rest of the cottage. The mighty Brian was able to shimmy those boards into place (with a little help from yours truly) and we were right back on track.

Once we were finished putting all of the laminate back in place, we put the furniture back and went on our way. The customers were very happy with how it turned out, and so were we. This repair should keep them set for a years to come.

To recap, Laminate is a great flooring for many spaces, but it can swell, pucker, and crack when it is layed in a moist hot environment, that is not heated year round. A great alternative for cottages is vinyl plank. It is water proof and just as easy to install as laminate.

When you are choosing flooring for your seasonal home, make sure to check the moisture resistance of your product of choice.

I want to thank the homeowners for thinking of us, being so kind, and giving me a unique learning oppurtunity.

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