Another reader question was my opinion on the best flooring options for basements. I’m not a flooring expert but I’ve seen my share of flooring options used for basements so heres my take on the topic.
Basements present some flooring challenges that are unique with respect to home construction. Whether your basement is fairly new or old the issues remain the same. Concrete basements by nature are a very damp environment. Concrete typically has a moisture content of between 2% and 8%. Moisture contents like that can really cause problems to flooring systems. You should test your concrete slabs moisture content before you start your flooring project. Most manufacturers require moisture contents below 4% to 5%.
The other big issue with basements is flooding. Many homes are threatened by the occasional spring flooding of basements. If your basement has a history of flooding it’s really best to solve that problem before spending money on remodeling your basement. There really are very few options for flooring that will withstand flooding. Not only that, but even if you find a flooring that won’t be bothered by the flooding the walls are still a problem.
So assuming you’ve got your moisture content under control and no flooding problems that you’re aware of the next step is figuring out what type of flooring you want. There are really three categories to choose from:
- Tile – In my opinion ceramic or porcelain tile is the best option for a basement. I’d install a layer of Ditra underlayment followed by the tile on a bed of thin set. Both of these products won’t be affected by the moisture and quite possible whether a flooding event unscathed. Installing tile is a great DIY project that anyone with moderate skills can do.
- Wood – There are engineered wood products on the market that are acceptable to glue directly to concrete. I personally have not done this but I know it’s done all the time. For me the idea of placing wood directly on concrete makes me a bit suspicious. The other option is to install a sub-floor prior to the wood. One sub-floor that I’m familiar with is a product by Dricore. The product is an OSB type plywood square that has plastic feet on the bottom of it. The idea is the feet keep the wood up off the concrete with an air space. If I were going to install wood in a basement this is the product I’d use. I would never use solid wood in a basement, only engineered wood products.
- Carpet – I’d only use carpet in a basement that has a history of being dry. I would make sure that you do this one of two ways. Either it’s a carpet specifically made to glue down to concrete or you install a sub-floor like the one mentioned above. Mold problems in this country are at an all time high and one of the big culprits are finished basements. Carpet can easily get wet and promote mold growth so make sure you evaluate this choice properly before you begin.
My biggest piece of advice is be honest with yourself. Don’t pretend that your basement is dry if in fact it’s not. Too many people assume that the past flood won’t happen again because it was a fluke or it was a 100 yr flood so that can’t happen again. Don’t waste your money if you have a wet basement. Use the money to fix the water problem before you spend it on finishes. Make sure your flooring contractor or supplier know the exact application. Lastly take your time making a decision, too often people just look at price with flooring and they are unsatisfied later.