Whether your basement is finished or not, it can be a great bonus space with endless possibilities. Now that you have made the decision to put this space to good use, or just update your existing space with a new flooring option, there are many important things to consider. In order to find the best floor for your basement, it is important to consider what the ultimate purpose of your basement is. Whether you want a bar, home theater, recreation area, spare bedroom or another living space, this will have a major influence on what type of flooring you choose. Another influence is your budget, as this will dictate what your options are. Once you have determined what the primary use of your basement will be and how much you can spend, it will be easier to narrow down which flooring option is the right fit. There are many types of flooring that are ideal for basements, and we are here to help you choose the right one!
Floor Installation Preparation:
Regardless of the flooring option that you choose, there will be a few things that you will need to do in order to prepare your basement. Your basement is most likely below grade and is the lowest surface in your house. Below grade means that a space is below or partially below ground level. In almost all cases, they are built on a concrete slab and may be uneven. The key to successful basement flooring installations, regardless of the material you choose, is to make sure that the basement is dry and that there is a smooth, flat surface for the new material to be installed on. Moisture problems can be an issue for many basements, but if done correctly, these can be avoided. Sealing your basement from moisture and water damage before your installation can prevent major damage in the future. It is also important to closely examine your existing concrete basement floor (if you are not simply replacing your existing basement floor) for any noticeable flaws, slopes, or bumps. Once you have a smooth, level surface that is protected from all moisture-related issues, you’re ready to choose your new basement floor!
Often times, carpet is unfairly vilified as a poor choice of flooring option for basements. Still, nearly 30% of basement floors in new homes are finished with carpeting (National Institute of Home Builders Research Center). Carpet also tends to be one of the cheaper options for basement flooring. It is important though to prevent damp basement floors from ruining your carpet. For a dry, moisture-free basement floor, install a vapor barrier before laying a wood subfloor or carpet pad. A great benefit to installing carpet as opposed to different materials is that it can be pulled up to and reinstalled in extreme cases of water damage. Additionally, with a wet-dry vacuum and patience, you can typically remove moisture from your carpet flooring in your basement. As with any other material, wipe up any spills or moisture immediately and thoroughly and you will enjoy your carpeted basement for years to come.
Vinyl flooring is extremely durable, moisture-proof, and nearly maintenance-free. It is made of plastic, so water cannot penetrate it. Vinyl flooring installs very easily over concrete, though as we mentioned previously, it is important to do so on a smooth surface. Vinyl also comes in a variety of styles and colors, some mimicking ceramic tile, stone, and real wood, and is easy to install. It also has a cork underlayment for a bit of cushioning and insulation, as well as sound absorption.
Tile easily installs over concrete and is available in many styles and colors, making it extremely versatile for matching existing interior styles. Often times in below-grade applications, condensation can occur. This has the potential to make ceramic tiles slippery. If you feel that this may be an issue for your home, we recommend choosing glazed ceramic tiles with an anti-slip finish. Making sure the concrete surface of your basement floor is smooth and level is extremely important with this material, as it can cause the tiles to crack if not.
This is one of the trickier materials to install in your basement. It holds up pretty well to mild amounts of moisture and can be glued or floated on concrete sub-floors. Though, if you are gluing the floor and it is not smooth, the planks will pop up as humidity levels fluctuate or as the adhesive wears down. If you are floating the floors and they are not level, they can bounce. If moisture is a real and constant threat, engineered hardwood may not be the best option for you.
Laminate flooring has similar reconstruction to engineered hardwood, however, the top veneer is a layer of tough film covered with plastic resins. When laminate flooring is exposed to moisture long-term, the top veneer and wear layers will begin to peel. The only way to fix water-damaged laminate flooring is to completely replace it. Proper installation of a subfloor system assists in the protection against water vapor coming up from the concrete slab. Also, in the event of very minor flooding, the subfloor system will elevate the laminate flooring above the water. One thing to watch when installing laminate flooring below grade is that they are highly likely to expand and contract due to the absorption of moisture and temperature change.
No matter what you decide, the most important thing is to keep your basement as dry as possible. In the end, you are choosing the option that fits your needs and your budget best. There may be trade-offs with this decision, but keep in mind the factors that are most important to you. Also, when weighing your options, keep in mind both long-term and short-term costs. Now that you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision, choose your floor, your contractor, and enjoy your new basement!