When considering what material to use for a new basement floor, it’s important to remember that even when the weather is dry, basement floors may still be in close proximity to moisture. This is due to ground water. And, of course, after a heavy rain or melting snow, this is all the more true. As such, when it comes time to replace or install a basement floor, you’ll not only want to think about how to avoid moisture but also how well the floor will dry out if it does become wet.
As an easy rule-of-thumb, remember that hard, inorganic materials like tile and concrete perform better than soft, organic materials like carpet and wood which can trap water, grow mold, warp in shape, or rot. There are many options for materials though, so here is a quick review of options.
For homeowners seeking a practical solution and/or an industrial rustic look, concrete may be a great choice. Concrete can be painted or stained, and it is easily patched. It tolerates moisture well, does not require a sub-floor, and can be cost effective. However, it’s cold and very hard, so area rugs might be needed to soften the space and absorb sound.
Porcelain or ceramic tile flooring is often seen as an ideal choice for a basement floor. It’s more finished than a raw surface like concrete, and, in fact, in can be installed directly on a concrete slab. You have a wide variety of color and design choices in the modern market of tile production. And while it is cold like concrete, radiant heating can be installed between the concrete and the tile to warm the surface of the tile. Plus, tile will dry quickly if it does get wet. On the down side, like concrete, you may need an area rug to absorb sound – especially if you are using your basement as a home theater.
Have you ever noticed a wood floor that, upon closer look, is actually tile? Plank tile that looks like real wood has taken the market by storm in the last few years, and with good reason. It is highly water resistant, highly durable, and highly attractive. It’s become a very popular option for restaurants, hotel lobbies, and other areas with high traffic area where aesthetics create value. Unlike regular tile, it has rectified edges that produce less visible grout lines. However, it is more expensive than regular tile and still has same sound absorption and warmth issues.
Along with concrete and tile, sheet vinyl flooring is often considered a resilient option for basement flooring, if sometimes thought of as a “cheap” alternative. While it is comparable inexpensive to other options, it offers some benefits for sure. Sheet vinyl flooring creates a seamless and waterproof surface that will resist water penetration. It’s warmer to the touch than concrete or tile, too.
Another version of vinyl flooring is a plank or tile “luxury” vinyl. This is often considered an upgraded version of resilient flooring. Unlike sheet vinyl which is joined to the sub-floor with an adhesive, it is adhered to the floor below piece to piece as a “floating floor.” This luxury vinyl flooring also has the benefit of having a truly upgraded look, mimicking wood or stone in many cases. It can have the deep grooves of a true wood floor, or replicate the look of slate or marble. It is highly durable – and, due to its thickness, it can feel soft and warm to the touch. However, it is a more expensive option, and the seams between the planks or the tiles can leak moisture.
Unlike natural hard wood which is not recommended for basements due to its organic nature, engineered wood is a reasonable option for basements. It can tolerate a mild amount of moisture without warping or rotting. It’s very attractive and absorbs sound very well. However, it’s expensive and not as easy to install as other options.
If your basement is being used as a play space, gym, or studio, or simply for storage, a rubber floor may be a great option for you. While it is not meant for formal living spaces, it is soft, provides excellent insulation and sound absorption, and it can handle moisture. It comes in easy-to-install interlocking tiles which makes it a simple DIY project.
There are few floor coverings that are generally not recommended for basements: carpeting and laminate. Wall-to-wall carpeting certainly provides warmth and a nice sound quality for home movie theaters. However, it is expensive, traps moisture, and dries slowly. And while laminate is better looking than ever before, it is highly problematic if it comes into contact with water for too long. It can become very warped, and it will not dry out. Plus, it tends to disintegrate and peel.
Of course, before you install any type of flooring in your basement, be sure your basement is waterproofed. Not sure? Contact us for a review and service estimate.