We are often asked about cottages and if hardwood flooring is even an option for the space. Often Clients are looking for an update, getting rid of scratched pine or strip hardwood flooring that has been there since originally built, or are just curious about the options available. Well, the answer is YES, you can put hardwood flooring in your cottage, but you need to find the right product for your individual space. Okay, you are probably sitting there thinking what do you mean "the right product for my space".
I've discovered that there are so many definitions of a "cottage" and it's important to understand your structure and the conditions that are common to your cottage before we even start looking at hardwood flooring options.
Here are some great questions to answer before you get started:
- Is their humidity control in your cottage? Do you have air conditioning or heat? If so, do you use these when necessary?
- Is your cottage a three-season structure? I.e - Is the cottage heated over the winter months or is it "closed-up" until the spring.
- What type of structure do you have? Is your cottage built up on piers or does it have a crawl space or basement?
Now that you have answered these questions, we will be able to find some hardwood flooring options that work well in your cottage. Who says you can't have a gorgeous hardwood floor for your little getaway. But first, we are going to get technical.
Different Structures & Hardwood Flooring
If your structure is built on piers this is likely a three-season structure and is not heated in the winter months. No wood products should be closer than 18" from the ground and it is important to remove all vegetation that is underneath the existing structure because it reduces the air floor. Laying 12ml black poly below overlapping and taping every 6" will be your best friend and is highly recommended. The black poly limits the sunlight which helps to prevent weed growth. This vegetation holds a ton of moisture and reduces the air flow which can cause floor joints and your subfloor to rot prematurely. If you love the look of lattice or decorative coverings to hide the piers, you might be restricting your air flow even more.
If you are built up on stilts, vegetation should not be an issue because there is increased air flow. Typically, cottages on stilts are built on a concrete slab. If you are looking to insulate under the floor joists, we recommend using a spray foam insulator. This will perform much better and not capture moisture like common insulation. Again, once your insulation picks up moisture it can cause premature rotting in your subfloor and floor joists.
Over a Crawl Space
If your cottage does not have a basement, it is likely built over a crawl space. There is an abundance of different crawl spaces ranging from concrete, clay, rock to even exposed earth. Many people attempt to heat their crawl space to get rid of the moisture in the space, although this is counterproductive and ends up drawing more moisture into your space. It's actually not even possible to dry out the earth in a crawl space! In these environments, moisture travels upward from the soil and evaporates in your crawl space.It is recommended to encapsulate your crawl space to help reduce moisture issues, and it even helps with the air you are breathing in! It really is a win-win! Covering the exposed earth with a 12ml poly overlapping and taping every 6" and even going up the walls 12" helps seal the space. It is also important to insulate the walls, a spray foam insulation will be your best choice as it does not draw in moisture. Look - you've just created a clean and dry space and made some major improvements to your cottage.
Humidity Levels in your Cottage & Hardwood Flooring
If you are like many of our clients, you probably have a three-season structure and your structure is not heated during the winter months. Typically, it is used from the spring until fall and then forgot about until the days get longer and the sun starts to shine again. In this type of situation, it is important that we acclimate your hardwood flooring. We want to acclimate your hardwood until it is within 2% humidity of your subfloor. Most cottages (in the Northeastern Region) have a subfloor moisture content of 11-14%. Meanwhile, our Gaylord hardwood floors are around 6-9% moisture content when they arrive at your cottage. We recommend stacking in our log cabin format to evenly distribute the moisture throughout the boards. Both our solids & engineered will be able to handle the acclimation process to ensure the most successful project.
It is important to understand that all of our species will shrink and expand differently when put in different conditions. The different species and different cuts of wood will generate different quantities of movement. It is crucial to include the proper expansion space when you are installing hardwood flooring in your cottage.(Listen to us! No one wants a cupped or buckled floor) To ensure you have left the proper expansion space, review our installation guidelines.
What to look for when choosing a hardwood floor for your cottage:
- Opt for a grain. Most cottages are meant to be low maintenance and handle the wear and tear of traffic and pets. We suggest choosing the wire-brushed finish to help hide any markings that could appear over time. It also means you have to clean less which is a major perk!
- Choose something rustic. Floors that have knots & checks throughout are a great option. They are relaxed, casual and help to hide any marking on your floor. With the changes in humidity in the space, it can help reduce the visibility of the movement. Rustic grades are also milled closer to the center of the log which unintentionally produces some really stable cuts.
- Opt for something narrow. Going with a floor 3" or less in a plain-sawn cut will be an excellent option. The movement of the wood is across a smaller board and there is also more nails to help reduce the movement in your space.
- Try our Livesawn Cut. This specialty cut provides amazing stability due to its unique sawing method and a large portion of the quartersawn grain. If you are looking for a wide plank rustic look, this floor has got you covered!
- Try our Quartersawn Cut. This specialty cut allows the wood to shrink and expand vertically. This creates incredible stability and allows for changes in humidity. It's also super beautiful giving you that "wow" factor you might be aiming for.
- Try our Engineered Hardwood. Opt for an engineered hardwood as it will handle the high humidity extremely well. Again, choosing something with character and grain will help reduce and marking with your floor. The solid hardwood will still want to move while the baltic birch wants to remain flat. If your engineered floor becomes too dry it may have the tendency to crack or check.
So start browsing and see what suits the style of your cottage getaway! Consider this an awesome investment for your cottage and find the product that works best for your space and one that suits your budget. That last thing you anyone wants to be doing at the cottage is worrying about their hardwood floors...or cleaning them!