Picking the best type of floor covering for your summerhouse or log cabin can be challenging. Different options are available depending on the finish required and the budget available.
When constructing a garden building, the chosen materials for the floor can make a big difference to how the building looks and feels. Decisions including the type of underfloor framing and whether insulation is going to be installed must be made before installation. In fact, the floor covering can transform the interior, add warmth and create a comfortable environment.
Before deciding on a floor and floor covering, it’s important to understand the use of the summerhouse or log cabin throughout its life. A garden building used to spend time in throughout the year will require flooring that helps to reduce heat loss and provides a feeling of warmth. A summerhouse that contains a hot tub will need flooring that is structurally stronger and resistant to moisture build-up.
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Will a summerhouse or log cabin come with flooring?
A summerhouse is built using tongue & groove panels that are joined together to create a solid construction. Each side of the wall will be made from its own panel or several joined together for a larger building. Summerhouses generally come with the flooring included as part of the package.
The reason for this is usually due to how the panels are put together when constructing the summerhouse. As they all attach to each other, the floor plays a vital role in supporting the joining of the wall panels as the summerhouse is installed. A summerhouse floor is commonly constructed from tongue & groove panels.
The thickness of a summerhouse floor can vary between manufacturers, the minimum is usually 11mm. Larger and higher-quality buildings can go up to 20mm or 30mm in thickness. Tongue & groove flooring is fine if you are not planning on putting a floor covering on top and keeping the timber on display. For a floor covering to be installed, the floor needs to be completely level and will need to be covered over with plywood to enable the covering to be laid.
Although they look similar, the construction of log cabins is very different to summerhouses. A log cabin is built by placing interlocking logs on top of each other to form the walls. The first log or foundation beam is laid on the base and then each layer is built up. This type of construction is focused on the perimeter and creates a solid structure thanks to the thick interlocking logs sitting tightly together.
As a log cabin does not need a floor to be constructed, it is usually an optional extra which will come at an additional cost to the building. The most common flooring is tongue and groove board at roughly 20mm thickness and can usually be purchased as a pre-measured pack at the same time as the log cabin. If your log cabin is going to be used as a gym or workshop with lots of heavy tools, a heavy-duty floor will be required, consisting of thicker timber.
Just like with summerhouses, for the final floor covering to be laid on top of the floor, the interior floor must be flat. Plywood can be used to achieve a flat floor and purchased from local DIY stores.
Do I need a base?
If we could give one piece of advice to anyone purchasing a garden room, it would be to invest in a good quality base before installing your new summerhouse or log cabin. Everything you install after is going to be resting on the base and even the lightest summerhouse will weigh hundreds of kilograms before anything is placed inside.
A base needs to be solid, so there should be no movement when any weight is placed on top of it, even with multiple people and furniture inside the garden building. The base should also be completely level on every side. Garden buildings are manufactured to tight tolerances and an uneven base could cause difficulties in fitting the building together. We have seen many previous examples where a log cabin will not slot together properly due to an uneven base.
Guide: Choosing a summerhouse base
The exact choice of base will depend on the area you are working in. We recommend a concrete base where possible as it is both solid and level. Other options include paving slabs and ground screws for areas of grass.
How can I insulate the flooring?
Before installing the flooring, it’s a good idea to consider whether insulation is required. If the summerhouse or log cabin is going to be used as a garden office or additional room throughout all months of the year, we recommend installing insulation into the flooring.
While most heat is lost through the roof and walls, some heat is lost through the floor as well. A cold floor can also create a cold feeling in the garden building and create a draft. Insulation needs to be installed during construction and before the final floor covering has been laid. The most common way to insulate the floor is to place PIR insulation boards in between the timber framing and then install floorboards (e.g. tongue & groove or plywood) over the top. If the floorboards are already installed, insulating underlay can be used before installing laminate or a similar covering on top.
How to avoid dampness in a summerhouse or log cabin floor?
Dampness in the flooring can occur when a summerhouse or log cabin is not installed correctly and steps have not been taken to protect against moisture built up.
The flooring of a summerhouse should be raised from the ground by sitting on timber framing at the bottom. This allows air and ventilation to pass through underneath the building and prevent damp building up. The flooring is also raised above where any water can collect during heavy rain to prevent moisture from working its way into the timber. Without a gap underneath, little ventilation and a build-up of water can create the perfect opportunity for dampness to thrive and eventually end up on the inside of your garden building.
Many manufacturers now offer pressure treated versions of summerhouses and log cabins, including the floor. Pressure treatment involves immersing the wood in a liquid preserver when it is placed inside a pressure chamber. The process forces the preserver deep inside the wood to provide protection. If the building does not come pressure treated, you can apply a high-quality wood preserver yourself to provide protection. With any new garden building, we always recommend treating it with high-quality paint or a wood preserver. The base is particularly important and we apply several coats all of the way around. Be sure to get the end grains of the wood as this can be a common location for damp to occur.
For garden buildings on a concrete base, it’s recommended to install a vapour barrier into the concrete to prevent damp rising through the concrete and into the building. A vapour barrier is not used in the flooring as avoiding damp is best achieved by adequate ventilation.
Guide: How to insulate a log cabin
Should I paint the floor?
If you are not using a floor covering and going to leave the tongue & groove flooring exposed, we recommend painting the flooring. If you don’t want to paint the wood with a colour, clear garden paint can be used. Painting the wood helps to seal it and provides protection against water ingress. Each time you step in from outside or spill some water onto the flooring it can penetrate into the wood. Paint prevents from this happening as the water will sit on top instead. A painted floor is also more durable and easy to clean as and marks can wipe off easily.
Can I put Lino (Linoleum) in a summerhouse or log cabin?
Yes, lino can be put in a summerhouse but it may begin to separate after a few years. Lino flooring comes in sheet form and is cut to the measurements of the floor space when installed. Installation involves glueing around the edges to keep it firmly in place and the material is extremely robust and hardwearing.
The challenge with timber buildings such as summerhouses is that the wood can expand and contract throughout the year. As the wood adjusts to the moisture content in the air, it will take on or let go of water. This process causes the wood to move slightly on a regular basis. As lino is cut to size and stuck in position, the movement can cause it to separate from the floor as the floor area moves or becomes slightly smaller/larger underneath. We have seen this effect ourselves, particularly at the edges of a summerhouse floor, where there is now slightly more lino than needed to sit flush and up against the wall.
Can I put vinyl or laminate flooring in a summerhouse or log cabin?
Vinyl & laminate flooring are becoming a popular choice for garden buildings, just be sure to buy them in planks instead of sheets. If the summerhouse or log cabin is going to use used as a garden office or additional room, both vinyl and laminate is our recommended selection for the floor.
Vinyl and laminate are both similar and made from synthetic materials, but as vinyl is plastic it is better protected against moisture. Both are very durable and easy to clean which is ideal for muddy shoes from walking through the garden to get to your summerhouse or log cabin. Installation can be completed as a DIY job but we would recommend finding a tradesman for a professional install.
When installing vinyl or laminate in a garden building, the floor will need to be completely flat underneath from wood such as plywood or thick OSB. We recommend using an insulating underlay to keep warmth in the building and prevent any draft. A slight gap is usually left next to the skirting board to allow for any expansion & contraction in the wood.
can I put carpet in a summerhouse or log cabin?
While you could use carpet in a summerhouse or log cabin, we would avoid it where possible. The issue with carpet is that it likes to hold onto moisture and throughout the winter months generally won’t fair well with the cold and damp weather. Carpet is also not the most durable and a few pairs of muddy shoes are soon going to leave it not looking its best. If you do choose to use carpet, stick with a hardwearing one similar to those found in offices. These work a lot better as they are easy to clean and are generally more robust.
Installing a carpet will require the garden building floor to be boarded flat first and underlay can be used. We would recommend using a damp proof underlay to avoid any moisture rising from the floor underneath and creating a wet carpet.
Can I use underfloor heating in a summerhouse or log cabin?
Yes, while not common, underfloor heating could be used in a summerhouse or log cabin. We generally recommend using an electric heater in a garden building as they are low cost and heat up the room fast. Underfloor heating has the benefit of taking up no space in the interior and providing constant background heat.
The flooring will likely need upgrading before underfloor heating can be installed. Inside a house, there is usually concrete below, but thick wood should be suitable to provide enough insulation for the heat. We recommend speaking to an underfloor heating professional before installing heating in the floor of your garden building.
Guide: Heating a garden building
The flooring inside any garden building is a big decision and one you want to get right from the start. Summerhouses make the initial flooring easy as it is generally included standard. Log cabins often require purchasing the floor separately due to their construction not requiring a floor to be installed.
The choice of floor covering will depend on how your summerhouse or log cabin is going to be used. For use as a garden office, pub or cinema room, laminate and vinyl flooring makes a great choice and is very durable.