All about Floors

Last post was all about doors, and I wanted to rhyme, so….
I’ve been thinking about my budget for this project a lot recently, so that lends to thinking more intently about some of the more expensive details of this project; Doors, floors, windows, and heat. So I stopped into a few different flooring warehouses this week to talk to people more knowledgeable than I. Here’s some of what I learned:

Types of Flooring:


Hardwood: Available in just about every species, color, and finish imaginable. Some species are more common than other, based on durability, color, and cost. Maple, Oak, Hickory, and others are common. Exotic woods are popular but also trop cher. One of the more expensive options.

Laminate: Usually an engineered substrate in tongue and groove boards. Easy to install, can be done right on subfloor, over underlayment, or floating (more on that later). Because it’s not a solid piece of wood, it is much less susceptible to warping and problems due to expansion. This is an important factor when building a house on a trailer that will see some serious heat variation as it is used or left empty throughout the year. Similar durability and price point as hardwood (a little less durable, slightly cheaper).

Bamboo and Cork: The most expensive option, these lightweight materials are relatively new in home construction. Touted as very sustainable sources, bamboo and cork are even more durable than hardwoods as they have the ability to spring back when damaged. Easy to clean. Easy to install. Again, expensive.

Ceramic: Cost varies widely. Stain resistant, easily repaired, replaced, or refinished. Heavy. Installation isn’t particularly hard, but requires special underlayment, grouting, and just overall more work. I ruled out ceramic just based on weight and the heat sink quality ceramic tends to have.

Vinyl: Solid sheets in a wide array of patterns and designs- most imitating wood planking. By far the least expensive option, and probably the easiest to install (glue it and forget about it!). Can vary from high to low quality as far as durability goes.

Types of Floor Installations:

Floating: Much like how the panels in my front door need to ‘float’ in their frame to compensate for expansion with the weather, floating floors need to as well. Floating floors have become common in modern construction mainly for their appeal to your budget, but also because they can cut down on floor noise and be ‘sprung’; which is common in movie theatres, dance halls, professional gymnasiums, and various other settings where vibrations need to be controlled. The pieces in a floating floor are attached to each other, and just sit on the subfloor. When the wood needs to expand, the entire floor expands as one piece. Thus, floating floors cannot go through a doorway less than 4′ wide; a threshold needs to separate one floating unit from another.

Structured: This is the original way wood floors were installed, with planks side-by-side glued or nailed directly to the floor, with underlayment or vapour barrier beneath. When the wood expands, each piece expands individually.

Laid: This is how sheet good flooring is installed- vinyl, plywood, or what have you. Usually a soft underlayment is placed beneath the flooring as it is glued or sometimes stapled down. Simplest installation method.

My Considerations: Cost, Weight, Durability, Installation

Flooring can vary widely in cost. Even between flooring suppliers, costs can go from $800 to $250 for the same basic thing. I received both those estimates on the same day, for the same type of lumber (engineered white oak flooring, 5″ T&G), in the same amount, and was told by both salespeople that was the very best price I could find. Makes you wonder….
I definitely don’t have the budget for bamboo or cork, and I don’t care for ceramic. As much as I really like the look of hardwood/engineered flooring, I also like the pros of vinyl flooring. I don’t have to worry about warping or expansion, it’s cheap, lightweight, easy to install, and can handle being beat up upon. I can get the ~140 sq. ft. I would need for around $90. With construction adhesive, the cost of installation would be an afternoon and $120 max. But I’m concerned about ruining the aesthetic inside my tiny house with a synthetic material. I know vinyl flooring can decrease the resale value of a home significantly, don’t know if that holds for homes on wheels! I’ll have to do more research before I bite the bullet on that.
This isn’t something I need to worry about until much later on in this process, so I can definitely make the decision based on how much money is left in my coffers at that point.

Other ideas I have floating around:

If I can find some reclaimed flooring for cheap, I’ll definitely spring for it. Hell, if I can get some plain old lumber for cheap enough, I’ll cut the tongue and groove in each one myself and finish them all just the way I want them. I’ve seen people use pallet wood as flooring, but I’m reluctant to use wood that I don’t know the sourcing and previous treatments of. It’s fine in small quantities, but pallet wood especially can be dangerous to one’s health in a small space like a tiny house.

I’m also looking into DIY solar hot water radiant flooring! This article talks a lot about solar hot water heating having various uses in a home. I was already planning on heating my own water with a SHW system, but radiant floor heating could be neat as well! That’s an idea that requires more research, however. This other article I found talks about how radiant floor heat is a waste in a tightly made passive home. Like everything, there is a cost to such an endeavor, and I don’t want to put time and money into something that would end up unused and possibly be a pain to deal with.


One response to “All about Floors

  1. Jacob- Your blog posts are a great blend of your personal experiences/challenges and the knowledge you have gained. I appreciate hearing about all the the research you are engaging in to help make your tiny house as economical, functional and beautiful as possible. Thanks for sharing!


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