A basement is a great addition for storage in your home. It is a perfect opportunity for many DIYers to take a space and shape it into whatever they like. From home gyms and mini-apartments to home movie theatres and game rooms, basements offer extreme customization options to fit your specific lifestyle.
Finishing your basement adds extra space to your home and increases your home’s value. The first thing to decide is what type of flooring you will install in your basement, which is influenced by several factors.
Basement + Moisture = Vapor Barrier
As most basements are constructed of concrete, you will have to deal with one of concrete’s biggest cons. It is very porous, and moisture passes through it easily. When water collects under the concrete, it will pass through as water vapor.
As your basement is below ground level, you will be contending with the surrounding ground soil when it becomes saturated. This is especially an issue if your basement is older and made of materials that may allow more moisture to seep through or if it has cracks from age or settling. Humid climates, faulty plumbing, and leaks from upper floors can also cause basement walls and floors to take on moisture.
It’s a safe bet to assume that you’ll have wetness in your basement that you will have to deal with at some point. If it does flood, this means that your floor will be taking the brunt of the impact.
When installing any type of flooring in the basement, you need to install a vapor barrier will need on top of the basement floor before your flooring. This is especially the case in older basements where builders did not yet utilize newer construction methods. Even if your basement is part of a new build, using a vapor barrier is a smart choice that ultimately helps you protect the investment of your new basement flooring.
If you do not have a vapor barrier installed, water vapor may come into contact with your flooring and ultimately ruin it. Also, many flooring warranties can be voided if you do not use a vapor barrier between the flooring and concrete slab. This can be a headache if you are dealing with the aftermath of a flood and your floor needs to be replaced.
Vapor barriers are commonly made of plastic and come in varying degrees of thickness. The thickness of the vapor barrier is important, as you’ll want a vapor barrier that is difficult to penetrate. The flooring you select may indicate which type and thickness of vapor barrier are best for protecting your flooring.
When finishing your basement, deciding on the floor is a big decision. You’ll want to ultimately base your decision on what activities you will be doing in the space while being aware of moisture issues and working to prevent them.
Floating floors are a perfect flooring choice for your basement project. Since floating floors do not have to be attached to the sub-floor (in this case, the concrete slab), they are the perfect flooring solution for your basement, with the vapor barrier acting as a protector between the concrete and the floating flooring. Since this type of floor interlocks together, it is the perfect way to ensure that your vapor barrier isn’t compromised.
Floating basement flooring gives your basement a polished, “finished” look, and you have multiple options depending on your basement and what you’ll be devoting this space to.
Types of Floating Flooring
If your basement will become a workout room or workspace, you’ll want floors that do not dent or scratch easily that are also easy to clean. If your basement is set to become a movie theatre or living space, you’ll want flooring that makes the space cozy and comfortable.
When looking for floating flooring, be on the lookout for “suitable for below grade.” Seeing the words “below grade” may make you think it isn’t up to quality, but this isn’t the case. It simply means below ground level. When seeing that flooring is suitable for below grade, it can withstand the moisture that comes with having a basement on the occasion that it does flood.
Depending on the type of basement you have, there are multiple options of floating flooring, each with its own look to help you design the space you want.
Luxury vinyl flooring is made from PVC, a type of plastic, making it waterproof and perfect for the basement. Luxury vinyl flooring comes in many colors, so you can easily match flooring you may have in other areas of your home. You can choose from hardwood flooring looks to ceramic tile looks.
One of the best things about luxury vinyl flooring is that it doesn’t come in large sheets you cut to fit. It comes in planks that resemble actual planks of wood or tile pieces. They are easy to install as they click together and can be removed in case of a flood. The planks are also easily replaceable if they get scratched. It is also very affordable if you want to renovate. A DIY dream!
You’ll want to stick with the type that can click together, as this is what makes the floor “float.” Some types of vinyl flooring can be glued to the subfloor, but you don’t want to take any chances compromising the vapor barrier!
The planks are constructed in layers to make them more resilient. This also offers some insulation from the cold concrete floor below. You can also install additional padding on top of the vapor barrier to help with acoustics, shock absorption, and temperature control.
Luxury vinyl flooring is easy to clean and reacts well to all cleaning methods. From a quick sweep to a deep scrub, this flooring will hold up to anything you throw at it (or spill on it!).
One of the most important prerequisites of installing luxury vinyl plank flooring is ensuring that your basement’s concrete slab is level. The rigid planks will not line up and connect if it is uneven.
Luxury vinyl flooring is not suitable for refinishing, and quality can be an issue when looking at budget-friendly options. When it comes to luxury vinyl flooring, you’ll want to invest in the best option you can afford to ensure your floor is durable and will last.
Laminate flooring is another option for your floating basement floor. However, you will want to ensure that your basement does not have moisture problems.
Vinyl flooring is made of synthetic materials, which helps it be waterproof. However, laminate flooring contains wood products, which helps with its thickness and appearance. If your basement has any moisture problems, it will ruin the laminate flooring as the wood in the laminate will swell from moisture. This swelling will not go back down and cannot be fixed.
For basements that are well protected from potential moisture, laminate flooring offers the look of real wood. It has a thicker feel that makes your basement space an extension of your home.
Laminate flooring is also very easy to install, as its pieces lock together like a puzzle, and it can be cut to fit into any space. Laminate wood also can expand or shrink with the humidity in the room and not crack.
If your basement is waterproof, laminate flooring can closely resemble or even match the flooring that you have throughout the rest of your home. This can increase the value of your house!
There are also waterproof laminate options available, but be sure to check out what materials the core is constructed of. If the core has any organic materials, they can be affected by moisture and humidity.
When considering basements, you may not think of a carpeted space. Even thinking about a flooded basement with carpet flooring sounds like a nightmare. With all of the new flooring options on the market today, carpet has evolved away from large rolls to easily installed tiles that can also act as a floating floor.
Raised carpet tiles are a great way to infuse coziness and warmth to a basement, as well as soundproofing capabilities if you are using your basement as an entertainment area. The square tiles are made of plastic that snap together. The plastic tile resembles a tray holding a carpeted square in the middle. This setup is a great way to keep potential water vapor from seeping into the back of the carpet.
There are also carpet tiles that are not raised but can be used as a rug on already installed floating floors in your basement. This is helpful if your basement is multipurpose. You can section off a cozy, carpeted area for watching movies, while the rest of the basement is covered by luxury vinyl plank flooring for activities like exercising.
Finishing your basement is a great way to use the extra space to your advantage, fuel your interests, and increase your home’s value.
Transforming your basement from a concrete box to the room of your choosing is a lot of work and takes a good deal of decision-making. Installing the right floor in your basement is the foundation (pun intended!) of making your basement a spot where you enjoy spending time with friends and family. When it comes to flooring, floating floors are a great way to design a room that you’ll love for many years.
Do I Need a Vapor Barrier Under Concrete Slab? | Plasticine House
Vinyl vs. Laminate Flooring Comparison Guide | The Spruce