Flooring can be the focal point of your houseboat, both for good or bad. Whether people walk into your boat and are amazed at the warmth and classic style or they're put off by a dated, dank feeling can depend a lot on what is under their feet. To get a better idea of what new houseboat owners are choosing to install these days, we spoke with three different designers: Debbie Sharpe of Sharpe Houseboats, Patty York from Sunstar and independent contractor Theresa York. Each came to the table with her own experience in this area, and all aided in helping us understand how to better educate our readers.
For starters, all three women explained that there aren't really any limitations on what to install in your houseboat. Any flooring that you see in a land home can be put into a boat, provided it is installed correctly. "We have installed everything from vinyl sheets to marble," Sharpe said. "We have done many beautiful custom travertine floors with coordinating showers as well. Just keep in mind your own lifestyle and maintenance issues." Roberts did caution against using real woods in a houseboat, as any wood flooring will eventually warp if exposed to moisture over a period of time.
After establishing that most flooring options are available, we tried to narrow down which are best for houseboats by asking which materials are the most popular today. All three experts mentioned laminates as being frequently used by new houseboat owners, and York explained why. "The cost of laminate is much less expensive and it looks like the real thing," she said. "Laminate wood flooring is water-resistant and cleans in a snap!" Sharpe outlined how most people choose a laminate flooring or vinyl tiles for their salon, galley, hallway and bathrooms, while carpet is the most used in staterooms. Roberts has seen a rise in the use of larger-sized tiles, up to 16 by 16 inches per square.
For those who want a classy look without taking a big hit to their pocketbook, each designer came back to the laminates. Sharpe explained that in addition to wood, laminate flooring can also mimic stone such as slate or limestone, making it a versatile option, whatever your taste. Want a glossy marble look? Laminates can do it. Want a rustic, weathered wood look? Laminates can give it to you. York pointed out that the only noticeable difference between real wood and a wood laminate flooring is the sound. "Laminate will have a hollow sound, and real wood flooring will absorb the sound, offering a more pleasant atmosphere," she said.
In general, vinyl, laminate and carpet are the cheapest options when it comes to flooring for your boat. Expect to pay more for hardwood, ceramic or marble, as these materials are not synthetic. "Not only are these typically more expensive to purchase, they are also more costly to install," Sharpe added.
For boaters with small children and pets, the unanimous decision was again to go with laminate flooring, for the ease of cleaning and scratch-resistant properties. Current houseboat owners enjoy the low required level of upkeep, as you simply dust mop it and clean it. This is a no-rinse floor solution and with no grout to worry about, it's also a big hit.
Sharpe recommended carpet, as many of the customers in the past who have used this material in a stateroom are still in love with it. "The comfort of carpet is unmatched," Sharpe said. "They like the fact that if there is a big family gathering, the children don't mind watching a movie or playing a board game on the floor." Sharpe acknowledged that while no carpet is truly 100 percent stain proof, the carpets Sharpe Houseboats installs do resist stains and have great warranties. She also recommended frequent vacuuming and spot cleaning as the need arises, as well as a choosing a quality carpet pad.
Overall, York stressed the importance of tailoring your choice to your specific needs. Be sure to take all of these factors into consideration: cost, style, convenience and whether pets and children will be onboard. After carefully weighing your options, give one of these lovely ladies a call and they can match you up both with the flooring you want and the flooring you need.