If you’ve had your sights set on renovating your basement for some time now, there are some things you may want to consider before you hire a flooring contractor to install new floors. One of the key things you’ll want to keep in mind is that not every flooring material can withstand the rigours of a basement.
So before you buy a new flooring material for your basement, read on and we’ll explain what makes basements difficult to floor and which flooring materials perform best in the basement.
What Makes Basements So Tricky to Floor?
Every room in your house has its share of “vulnerabilities”. For example, a bathroom is a moist environment, so you’ll need flooring impervious to water. In a dining room, you need flooring that can withstand dings and scratches from chairs dragging across the surface.
A basement is “below grade,” aka below ground level, meaning it’s highly susceptible to moisture. In fact, there are quite a few ways moisture can find its way into your basement floors, such as:
- The residual buildup of moisture leading to water vapour
- Pipes burst or localized water collecting in a laundry room or elsewhere
Flooring contractors know that basements, like bathrooms, are prone to water or moisture damage, so it’s all important you install a suitable flooring to avoid dealing with costly repairs down the line.
Basement Flooring Material Checklist
Rather than just taking a trip to your local home improvement store to pick out flooring you like, you want a flooring material that passes this checklist:
- Hard vs. Soft Materials: A hard material is concrete or tile, whereas a soft material is carpet. Ideally, you should install a hard material like tile as it’s water-resistant or waterproof, so it’ll do well in moisture-prone environments.
- One vs. Many Layers: Single-layer floorings such as concrete outperform multi-layered floorings as moisture can slowly seep through the layers until it warps the boards.
- Organic vs. Inorganic: Organic materials are wood or wool, whereas inorganic materials are tile, concrete, or vinyl. Inorganic materials are preferable for your basement flooring as they won’t decay if exposed to moisture as organic materials will.
Whether or not your basement sees a ton of visitors, it’s important to be realistic about the flooring you choose and not just opt for one that you like visually. The right flooring helps protect your home from damage but can still feel homey and welcoming.
How to Protect Your Basement from Moisture
If you want to safeguard your investment and help “dry out” your basement to have more freedom to choose your flooring material, then there are two things you can do.
Although running a dehumidifier won’t fully protect your flooring from moisture or water, it will help keep the space drier, which will help optimize the performance of your flooring.
By far, the best option for homeowners is installing a subfloor. A subfloor, especially a raised subfloor, is necessary if you want to install a soft material like carpet in your basement. It creates a barrier between the moisture-laden basement floor and your flooring material. Not only will your floor feel more comfortable underfoot, you’ll create a thermal barrier that keeps your basement temperature moderated during the swings of summer and winter.
Talk to your flooring contractor about different subfloor varieties and if it’s something you should consider installing. Also, don’t forget the Brothers Flooring offers free consultations, so don’t hesitate to run your basement flooring or subfloor questions by us before you begin renovating.
The Best Flooring for Your Basement
If you do not plan on installing a raised subfloor to offset the moisture seeping up from your basement floor, these are the best flooring choices for your space.
Luxury vinyl plank may be all the rage, but with all those seams, it does not perform as well as a roll of sheet vinyl. Some other advantages of sheet vinyl are that it’s warm underfoot, inexpensive, and impervious to water.
Cons to sheet vinyl:
- Not easily done by a DIYer
- It needs a clean surface to stick to
- May have the stigma of being “cheap” looking
- Hard to rip up
If sheet vinyl isn’t for you, keep reading for more options.
There’s a reason unfinished basements are concrete: water or moisture doesn’t affect it. However, you can uplevel basic, builder-grade concrete floors by having fresh concrete poured by a professional flooring contractor or getting them to install concrete tiles. If you do not want tile, you can update the look of concrete by patterning, painting, or staining it for visual appeal.
Cons of concrete:
- It’s a cold surface
- It may be costly if you’re patterning it
- Poor sound absorption
Concrete is one of the safest options for a basement, but it can feel a little cold and uninviting, so a great way to fix this is with large area rugs that are cushy and cozy on the feet.
Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles
You trust porcelain or ceramic tiles in your bathroom, so they are equally trustworthy in your basement as they can handle moisture and water. Although you can affix tiles straight to a concrete floor, it’s worthwhile to install a subfloor or an uncoupling membrane (which prevents the tiles from breathing/cracking with the concrete) before installation because most builder-grade concrete floors are not level.
Cons of porcelain or ceramic tiles:
- You may want radiant heating
- You’ll likely need a subfloor or an uncoupling membrane
- It can become costly, especially if adding a subfloor
- Poor sound absorption
- Hard to remove
If none of these options are speaking to you, keep reading for a solution.
Basement Flooring Materials With a Subfloor
If you want more freedom to choose your basement flooring, consider adding a subfloor. A raised subfloor will allow you to install these flooring materials:
- Engineered Wood: Any flooring with a seam between boards/planks is vulnerable to water or moisture creeping up from the ground, but engineered wood becomes a strong flooring candidate with a subfloor in place! Hardwood still is not ideal for a basement as it shouldn’t be exposed to water, but engineered wood handles water much better and is warmer underfoot than concrete or tile.
- Vinyl Plank: Vinyl plank is a type of plastic, so it’s a great flooring choice for moisture-rich basements. Not to mention it comes in desirable faux wood or stone patterns, so it’ll look sharp in your basement.
- Carpet: Basements are so cool, so if you want carpet in the basement, you’ll need a raised subfloor first. However, carpet cannot get wet or moist, so weigh the possibility of water/moisture getting in before installation, as no one wants to replace a floor soon after it’s laid.
Your basement can be everything from a cozy retreat to a home gym, office, or even a mini apartment. You need flooring that can keep up and help prevent damage that derails your basement’s function. Whether that’s a water-resistant flooring like concrete or tile, or installing a subfloor so that you can choose a more inviting flooring, you have options.
Final Thoughts on Flooring for Your Basement
Basements are below grade, so they are at high risk of moisture or water damage; for this reason, you want to install a flooring material or subfloor that can withstand a potentially damp environment.
Before installing your new basement flooring, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced and trustworthy flooring contractor who can properly advise you on mitigating water damage. If you’re ready to speak with something about your basement renovation, then call the Brothers Flooring today for a free consultation. We have over 20 years of experience in the GTA and are always happy to help our clients actualize their flooring vision for their basements!