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Basement Flooring

Low Moisture Levels are Critical for Installing Certain Basement Floorings

By: Mark J. Donovan

Basement flooring is an important component of a finished basement. When deciding upon the appropriate basement flooring for your basement remodeling project, it is extremely important that you first determine whether or not you have a moisture barrier underneath the basement floor. If you do not have a moisture barrier underneath the concrete slab then you will have high moisture levels that will wick through the concrete floor to the basement flooring.



To check if you have a moisture barrier underneath your basementís floor, cut open a few plastic trash bags and lay them in a few different places on the basement floor. Spread them out on the basement floor and tape them down. After a couple of days remove the plastic trash bags from the basement floor and observe if they are wet on the bottom side. If they are, chances are there is no moisture barrier underneath the basement concrete slab. If this is the case, your basement flooring choices are more limited.

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It is possible, however, to increase your basement flooring choices by applying a basement waterproofing sealer to the basement floor and to the walls. You can also have a French drain installed around the basement foundation; however this is an expensive endeavor as it will require excavation, gravel and PVC pipes to be installed.


If it is determined that you do have a moisture barrier underneath the basement concrete slab then there are a number of flooring choices to choose from.


Basement Flooring - Carpeting


Though not the ideal basement flooring, carpeting is frequently used in basement remodeling projects.  Berber carpeting seems to be quite popular today due to its durability and comfort. Carpeting can be installed even in cases where it has been determined that a moisture barrier was not installed below the concrete slab.  A cellulose underlayment can be installed on the concrete floor, prior to installing the carpet padding and carpet to provide a moisture barrier.


Carpeting is great for absorbing sounds that are typically found in a basement, such as furnaces turning on and off, and water running down drain pipes.


Basement Flooring - Free Floating Engineered Flooring


Engineered flooring is ideal for basements, as it floats on top of a foam underlayment that is first placed on the basement floor. The foam underlayment helps to mitigate unevenness in the basement floor and also helps to reduce sound. The engineered flooring floats on this underlayment and can effectively breathe with changes in the basementís moisture levels.


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Engineered flooring is also ideal for basement flooring due to its construction. It is constructed of several layers of wood materials, which helps to stabilize the flooring from warping or twisting. The top layer is usually an attractive wood veneer finish that really gives the look of a solid hardwood floor, but without the concerns of damage due to high moisture levels.


Basement Flooring - Laminate Flooring


Like engineered flooring, laminate floats on an underlayment. Laminate floors have a wood based core and a photographic resin layer based surface that resembles a hardwood floor or vinyl floor look. Laminate floorings need to be installed in dry basements with low moisture levels, as it is possible for laminate floors to delaminate if they come in contact with water.


Laminate and engineered flooring are both designed to be installed by the do it yourself homeowner.


Basement Flooring - Ceramic Tile Floors


Ceramic tile floors are also another excellent choice for basement flooring, however they can be cold on the feet. It is also important that there are no moisture issues with the basement as this could negatively impact the life of the ceramic tile.  In addition, it is important that the basement floor is level prior to installing the ceramic floor tile. A leveling grout or mortar may need to be applied on the basement floor before installing the ceramic floor tiles. Also, it is imperative that any basement floor cracks be filled in and sealed as ceramic floor tile has a tendency to crack along basement floor cracks otherwise.


Painting Basement Floors


An inexpensive alternative is to apply a couple of coats of paint to the floor. This is typically acceptable in a low-end basement remodeling project, and it may be the only sensible thing to do if there are concerns of high moisture levels or if there is the threat of the occasional flood.

You can fancy it up a little bit by adding two color tones and or creating interesting patterns.


Basement Flooring - Hardwood Flooring


Hardwood flooring should not be considered as a basement flooring material. It is very susceptible to high moisture levels and can not come in contact with water. If it does, the wood will warp and quickly become ruined.


For more help on Finishing Basements and Basement Flooring, see HomeAdditionPlus.com's Basement Remodeling Bid sheet. The Basement Remodeling Bid Sheet will help ensure that your hire the right contractor so that your basement remodeling project is done correctly and you get the project finished on time and budget.

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