Thankfully, the quality and effectiveness of modern vapor and moisture barrier systems have evolved dramatically. This means that you can more confidently install some types of flooring material in your basement that you may have avoided in the past if the proper installation techniques are used.
Basement Flooring Materials to Avoid
Some flooring materials will absorb moisture in the air, so they should only be installed in areas of the home that may not have problematic high humidity levels. For example, some types of laminate flooring are manufactured with a core comprised of fiberboard. If this fiberboard has not been specifically treated and is not labeled as being moisture resistant, the laminate flooring should be avoided. Likewise, solid hardwood flooring could easily warp if it is exposed to moisture or high levels of humidity.
Essential Pre-Installation Efforts for Basement Flooring Options Over Concrete
Your basement’s shell is comprised of concrete, which is a porous material that could permit moisture to enter the home. Some homeowners believe that water-resistant flooring like porcelain tiles and other similar materials can be installed directly to the concrete slab. However, even these seemingly safe types of flooring can be problematic if proper pre-installation efforts are not made. Consider that mold and mildew may grow underneath these basement flooring types. While visible damage may not be present, mold and mildew underneath the floor can make the basement smell musty and may result in health issues for your home’s occupants.
Even when a seemingly safe type of flooring is selected for your basement, the installation of a moisture barrier is essential. Two primary underlayment methods can be used.
A Vapor Barrier
Several materials may be installed underneath the floor over the concrete slab to prevent water vapor from entering the space and damaging the flooring material. A common option is plastic sheeting. You can also apply waterproof paint or a special epoxy coating directly to the concrete floor as well as to the walls. However, these products should be selected carefully and applied perfectly according to the instructions. Professional installation may be beneficial to ensure that the pre-installation efforts are completed properly.
A Floating Basement Subflooring
A basement floating subfloor essentially is a type of subfloor that is installed between the concrete floor and the decorative basement flooring you select. A floating subfloor is usually made out of a waterproof material, such as plastic interlocking tiles. This type of waterproof barrier is called a floating floor because the plastic tiles are installed over a grid that elevates the subfloor above the slab. The grid creates an air buffer that can dissipate moisture that may enter through the concrete. In addition, because the basement flooring options selected is not installed directly over the concrete, the floor may feel warmer and more comfortable to walk on. Be aware, however, that a waterproof floating subfloor is not suitable for use with any flooring materials that must be tacked down or nailed into the subfloor. This is because the nails or tacks could break the waterproof barrier.
Types of Basement Flooring Options to Consider
Now that you understand the importance of using the right installation techniques, such as with a basement floating floor or special waterproof floor coating, you can explore the many suitable flooring options for this space.
Carpet tiles are easy to install, which makes them ideal for a do-it-yourself floor installation project. These flooring products typically have an underlayment that is waterproof, so the underlayment and flooring are essentially installed at the same time. In addition to saving time and energy with the installation process, these tiles are soft to the touch and add warmth to the ambiance. They may also be a great alternative to radiant heat underneath the floor.
Like carpet tile products, some types of vinyl floor are manufactured with a waterproof barrier in place. These may be vinyl planks that mimic the look of hardwood flooring. LVT squares or rectangles may look like stone or ceramic tile. Typically, you should still prepare the concrete, such as by applying waterproof paint rather than a floating subfloor, before installing vinyl or carpet tile flooring.
If you are searching for a harder flooring surface, ceramic floor tile is an excellent option. This is a durable material that is resistant to water damage. Available in many colors and styles, there may be a ceramic flooring product that is well-suited for your basement.
Engineered Wood Flooring
If you love the look of authentic wood floors, engineered wood flooring is a great alternative. The manufacturing process for engineered wood floors makes it moisture resistant, but it brings the warmth of wood into your home. This type of floor should be installed over a floating subfloor, and it should specifically be rated for subterranean basements.
If you are looking for a more casual and comfortable type of floor for your basement, rubber flooring is a smart option. Rubber tiles are installed in interlocking fashion and have extra cushion for comfort. Because of their cushioning and durability, they are often used in playrooms and game rooms.
Another idea is to skip flooring products altogether and to treat the concrete. For example, an epoxy coating applied to the concrete. This material is waterproof, and it is available in a wide range of colors to suit any decorative needs.
At first glance, it may have seemed as though your basement flooring options over concrete were limited. However, with professional installation of a suitable subfloor material as needed, you can choose from most types of floors. When hiring an installation expert, look for a contractor with extensive experience with basement floor installation projects.