A friend is asking about his basement and considering putting down some type of flooring to finish off the basement. He hasn’t asked about all other tasks that come along with finishing your basement but he is at the point where he has asked a few contractors what they think and we thought it would be a good time to go over what materials work best in your basement.
For many people the concrete flooring in their basement will remain their finished flooring. After some cleaning up and surfacing with a small hand grinder to remove any imperfections a concrete floor isn’t a bad surface because it is durable. However if you want a finished basement where you spend large amounts of time rather than just a place for the washer and dryer and maybe a ping pong table for the kids you might want to look at some more refined flooring.
Many people like to try carpet in their basement because its inexpensive however you have to consider the moisture that comes through your basement floor and the walls of your basement. This moisture can cause mold because the carpet pad and the rug will hold the moisture over extended periods. You end up trying to cure the problem with dehumidifiers that can never compensate and you have a musty basement and carpet that the kids are playing on and maybe sleeping on if you have a TV down there. Personally carpet in a basement is not something I would ever suggest but if you are considering it there are options for sealing the floor.
Vinyl sheet goods is another consideration because of price. The cost is low and often you can do the work yourself. It does require mastic and will require that your basement floor has all of the imperfections removed so that they don’t magnify through the vinyl due to foot traffic. This material is an option and it is somewhat water proof so it should reduce some of the mold buildup but eventually it will fail and need to be removed. Just remember that and consider that in a few years you will be replacing it. It won’t last as long as it does in your kitchen or bathroom.
Stick on tile that you peal and stick to the floor is not a product you want to think about. The adhesives just are not suited for basement floors. You may think you are saving money up front but they will quickly fail if you have moderate moisture in your floor.
Ceramic Tile is a great choice. This product requires that you prepare the floor by removing most of the ridges and chunks of concrete on the surface but you don’t even have to worry about leveling low areas because the mortar you will use to lay the tile will do this for you. Mortar is also forgiving to the lower levels of water found in basement floors. A floor with an extreme problem will obviously have problems with all materials but if you have a normal floor moisture level it will not be an issue.
Hardwood and Laminated Wood Flooring is a possibility for your basement as it is less porous than carpet and won’t normally hold moisture however before wood and laminate gets to that point that it is holding enough moisture to be a problem it will begin to warp and buckle. You can use a variety of methods to seal your floor if you decide on wood flooring but I would also suggest that you look into simulated vinyl floor planks that commercial settings often use and bamboo over a higher dollar wood floor as bamboo will react better.
Methods For Sealing Your Basement Floor
There are a variety of methods for sealing basement floors depending on your moisture content and the problem you are having however sometimes it is just impossible to seal the floor well enough to have a flooring material last over a long term. If you have a high water table or spring in your area, if you normally find moisture on your basement floor or if you do a moisture test and fail then sealing will not help you.
Normally the best method of sealing a floor with moderate moisture is to apply an epoxy paint finish to the concrete and then follow that up with a plastic barrier made of thick poly plastic. Over the plastic you would put a rubber carpet pad if you are considering carpet or a soft foam sheet between your wood or laminate and the poly plastic. I would suggest that you do not skimp and go for a 10mill barrier as you want it to last over many years.
Basement Floor Moisture Test
To perform a basement floor moisture test without bringing in a contractor with dedicated moisture detecting tools there is a very simple way to see if you have moderate to high levels of moisture in your basement floor.
You should perform this test in a few areas to make sure you have good results.
Take a piece of clear 2 mill plastic sheet about 1 foot square and duct tape it to your basement floor and wait. That is all you have to do.
If you see moisture forming in the first six to twelve hours then you have very high levels of moisture in your floor. If you find there is moisture after 24 hours then you have moderate levels of moisture. If you do not find moisture after 48 hours then you can count yourself lucky.
Now this test will depend greatly on the time of year. The summer months will be much drier and could give you false hopes. It is best to perform this test in the spring and fall months when there is a good amount of rain in your area. Again in the winter months you might not find the same levels of moisture as rain won’t be entering the ground if it is snow and your heating system will burn off a good amount of moisture in your home. However duct taping plastic to bare concrete will likely show some moisture and this is where it might be good to call a flooring company in for a better test and evaluation if they do it for free.
Again less than 6 hours and you have a serious problem.. over 24 hours and you are probably good to go with normal precautions.
Basements really are a pretty close to perfect breeding ground for mold. There are molds in the soil around your house that can be pulled in with moisture through your walls and slab. Mold spores will travel in the air and all they need is moisture and a moderate temperature to grow.
Dehumidifiers can be of some help as can sealing your walls and floor. Sealing the outside of your foundation is very important and diverting water from your downspouts a number of yards away from your home will help reduce moisture in your basement.
If you have a sump pump and it runs a lot because you have a spring or high water table then bare concrete is probably your best bet.
Some things just won’t work in all areas and you need to realize that when considering remodeling.