In the United States, basements are not a common occurrence across all states. According to one source the percent of homes north of the Mason-Dixon Line with basements is close to 90%.” Why is this? Well, it comes down to a few things: the soil composition, climate, and cost. Soil that is too damp can cause flooding, mold, or rot. Soil that is too dry and comprised of clay can strain your basement walls. And, digging into the ground eight feet or more to accommodate a basement can cost a pretty penny. It’s typically more cost-effective to build on a concrete slab or piers.
Historically, basements acted as cellars that stored food and wine. Nowadays, homeowners are looking at basements in an entirely new way, seeing opportunity for additional livable space. If you’re planning to transform your basement into a bedroom or family room, just remember that you’re planning to remodel a room that is “below grade.” Below grade is another way of saying “below ground level.” When you go below ground level, you’re dealing with humid conditions and possibility of flooding, which should influence your flooring decision.
Before we dive into the flooring options you can use in a basement let’s first briefly talk about preparing your sub- floor. The 3 main things you need to worry about when dealing with a concrete sub-floor in the basement are: is it dry? Is it flat? And is it clean?
Flooring sanders and hand held sanders allow you to smooth out any uneven surfaces as well as remove adhesive or glue that was left behind from an older floor. A full proper cleaning of a concrete sub-floor requires pulling out any existing flooring materials left behind as well as old wax, dirt and build up left on the sub-floor.
The hardest part will be to make sure the sub floor is level. Often times there are cracks or depressed areas of the basement that need to be leveled out to properly install flooring. The best way to do this is to use a leveling compound to add to this area and seal uneven mounds. As a rule of thumb you don’t want one area to be more than 3/16” higher or lower for every 10 feet.
Now the fun part! Deciding what TYPE of floor to put in your basement. When it comes to the best flooring for basements, you do have options.
Tile flooring is a great basement floor option because it can stand up to humid conditions. You want to look for a waterproof tile (most are) that comes with a high PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating of either 4 or 5. The PEI rating scale measures durability and strength of tile. Tile trends have also improved over time, giving way to a wide variety of wood look tiles.
Vinyl Flooring is another worthy option. Before you scoff at the suggestion, keep in mind that vinyl has come a long way since the days of sheet vinyl flooring most people think. You’ll hear vinyl flooring often referred to as “luxury vinyl flooring” and even LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) these days. This is due to the 3D print films used, textures applied to mimic real wood or stone, and even the protective coating used. Vinyl flooring is typically water resistant and because of it’s composition, a tad softer underfoot.
Finally, you have the option of engineered wood. Typically, solid wood flooring is not recommended for basement jobs because of its ability to expand and contract due to humidity. Engineered wood is different in that its core is built of cross-layered boards in order to reduce expansion and contraction of the planks.
One of the most important aspects of installing flooring in basements is using a water-proof underlayment. This will go in-between the concrete subfloor and the flooring itself. This will act as a barrier between the flooring and the subfloor and prevent moisture from affecting the flooring itself. It also acts as a silencer especially in basements where concrete is prevalent. It will mitigate the “clicking and clacking” normally associated with flooring on concrete.
On your search for basement flooring, look for vendors who offer free flooring samples and who really know what they’re talking about in terms of floor materials and flooring installation processes. If you have questions about the right flooring for a basement, check out GoHaus. It is an online flooring retailer that manufactures its own flooring and sells it at affordable prices.
The main part of this whole process is to have fun!! Your basement is a place where you can experiment with different designs and maybe use some colorful flooring and furniture you wouldn’t normally use in a living room or hallway. So however you decide to deck out your basement, whether it be a man cave, a game room, or just another extension of the design you already have keep all this information in mind.