Homes built in a predominately colder climate must make some sacrifices or alterations to ensure their functionality isn't compromised. For instance every single air gap should be filled in, double paned windows are recommended, and even backup heating plans should be explored. One thing that many homeowners might not be aware of is that a home's flooring is affected by extreme cold temperatures as well. If you live in or plan on moving to a colder climate region be prepared to examine these flooring choices.
Carpet is a nice choice for winter flooring as it has minimal expansion and contraction and serves as a nice temperature barrier. The main issue with installing hardwood flooring in a cold climate home is that when temperatures drop the wood contracts which can leave large gaps around the edges of walls. Putting the wood too close to the wall when installing to account for the contraction will cause the wood to buckle in the warm weather as it expands. Carpet on the other hand is tacked into place and stretched when installing. The only real downfall to carpet is the fact that it is more susceptible to damage from snow and mud tracked in.
Vinyl Plank Flooring
A material that provides all the benefits of carpet but with increased durability is vinyl plank flooring. It is perhaps the best choice for cold climates because it is durable, waterproof, stylish, and has insulating properties. Vinyl plank flooring is engineered to look like wood but doesn't expand and contract as oak or maple would. The plank design is installed in a floating manner so it can move with temperature changes unlike a vinyl sheet that will become brittle and crack in extreme cold. The foam pad underneath the vinyl plank serves as extra insulation and the surface won't be damaged by snow and mud.
Rubber flooring like that found in gyms is an outside the box approach to colder climate flooring. Rubber is most likely used in a cold garage as a barrier against the concrete slab but can also provide the same benefits in a basement. Rubber doesn't grow or shrink noticeably with the temperature changes and for the most part is weather proof.
Slate / Granite Tiles
Tiles such as ceramic or porcelain aren't very good conductors of heat and are very fragile in extreme cold so wouldn't be a very good option in a cabin that isn't heated year round. Granite and stone on the other hand are often used in outdoor flooring and are more durable when used in the home, especially with an underfloor heater installed underneath. Slate and granite tiles can be manufactured to be frost-free and can have an absorption rate of 0-5% but unfortunately are very costly to install. Homeowners have enough to worry about when the temperatures start to submarine but the preservation of the house's flooring doesn't necessarily have to be one of them.
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