Finished Basement Flooring
Finished basements are very popular today for a good reason. Properly finished basements can significantly increase the amount of living space in your home without the need for an addition. The key is the proper selection of techniques and materials to ensure a mold free, dry, healthy space for you and your family.
Basement Flooring Options
When it comes to basement flooring options for your finished basement the sky’s really the limit. Today it’s possible to enjoy every type of flooring in your basement as long as you pay attention to the details and specifications.
Tiling a basement floor is one of the best options when it comes to durability and performance. I say this because tile is a great choice for areas that may get wet. Tile floors can withstand moisture due to a flood better than any other flooring product. Tile can be installed directly over the concrete slab provided that the slab is in good condition.
Tile flooring is also a great choice if you have installed radiant heating in your slab. Even if you don’t have radiant heating in your slab you can add it before the flooring. One Project Closer has a great article about how to install electric radiant heating on a slab. Tile makes a great conductor of heat and works the best over radiant heat.
Carpet is a popular choice for basement flooring. However, carpet in basements can lead to serious mold and mildew problems if you’re not careful. First off you need to be very certain that your basement has no water problems. If your basement gets a wet floor on a regular basis then that problem needs to be corrected before you think about installing carpet.
There are several methods for installing carpet in basements and I’ll just touch on each briefly. The most basic approach is installing the carpet directly to the concrete with an adhesive. This method is the cheapest and also the most appropriate if you have radiant heat. The other approaches involve installing a sub-floor first. I’ll go over the sub-floors below as they apply to both carpet and wood floors.
There are many different types of carpet to choose from. Be sure to check with your carpet supplier for carpet materials that may contain anti-microbial benefits to help prevent mold and mildew. Square carpet tiles have become very popular with DIY folks and they make a great choice for basements. The beauty of the carpet tiles is you can replace one or two of them if you do have a water problem without replacing the entire carpet.
Hardwood flooring is certainly the most popular flooring choice today. Like carpet, hardwood flooring can also be installed in basements if you take care to follow some important steps. There are several installation methods available depending on the product.
Engineered hardwood can be glued directly to the concrete and this option works well for slabs with radiant heating. If your slab doesn’t have radiant heat then you may want to consider installing a sub-floor first. Sub-floors can help make the concrete floor feel warmer and also isolate the finished wood flooring product from the damp concrete. Sub-floors also make it possible to install solid hardwood flooring which is not typically recommended for basement floors.
Installing a proper sub-floor over a concrete slab is one of the best ways to create a long lasting finished basement floor. Sub-floors are not really recommended or practical if you have radiant heating as they will drastically reduce the efficiency of the heating system. However, if you have a regular slab and you’re looking for a way to make the floor feel warmer and “softer” then I recommend you consider installing a sub-floor.
There are several approaches to a subfloor and they all work well. If you have a slab that’s dry all the time then you can install a vapor barrier (6 mil poly will work) and then attach 1/2 inch pressure treated plywood to the concrete using Tapon screws. If you have a slab that occasionally gets damp then I recommend one of the following approaches:
- Install the DRIcore subfloor system. The DRIcore subfloor system is made up of 2′ x 2′ panels of 5/8″ thick OSB sheathing with a high density polyethylene moisture barrier on the bottom side that creates a 1/4″ air space under the floor panels. This system works very well and we’ve actually used it on several projects in the past with great success. I like this system because it’s very easy to install especially for DIY folks.
- Install Delta-FL plastic subfloor system. The Delta-FL plastic subfloor system can be installed under a plywood subfloor to create an air-gap membrane to keep moisture from contacting the flooring materials. With this system you’d intall the Delta-FL first, tape the seams, then install a layer of 1/2″ plywood and screw it to the concrete with Tapcon screws. I prefer this solution if you plan on using carpet because it’s all screwed down.
If you’re looking for an insulated sub-floor then you should read our article on How To Insulated A Concrete Floor for more information.
Basement Flooring Options Summary
Regardless of which flooring type you choose it’s important to take your time and select a system that will perform well. Installing carpet in a basement that occasionally gets flooded is a serious mistake and one you’ll regret. Be sure to ask for recommendations from your local flooring suppliers and follow all of the manufacturers specifications.