What is the best flooring for a basement?
“What type of flooring I should use in my basement renovation?” We get this question a lot.
The answer simply is – it depends. Depends on what is right for your family. It depends on the look and feel you are going for and it depends on your budget. Let’s review the most common basement flooring systems and our recommendation.
Basement Hardwood Flooring
The look and feel of real hardwood flooring cannot be beat. There are countless of wood species and textures to choose from. But, concrete is one of hardwood’s worst enemies and the reason for that is the exchange rate of moisture. Concrete slabs are naturally porous and sweat so when hardwood is installed directly over it you’re just asking for trouble because you’re going to cause mold and all kinds of water buildup. The challenge with installing hardwood into the basement is you’ve got to prep the concret slab either by sealing it or installing some kind of product over it – usually a DriCore subfloor. As you can imagine, this option for a basement flooring system gets expensive without any guarantees of no moisture damage or mold in the future.
Depends on what is right for your family. It depends on the look and feel going for and it depends on your budget. Let’s review the most common basement flooring systems and our recommendation.
Basement Tile Flooring
Tile is a tied-and-true flooring material that has been around for ages. Large format tile such as 24” x 48” give a sleek and modern look to a basement. Although ceramic, porcelain or even stone tiles are 100% waterproof this basement flooring option comes with its own set of challenges. The first is cost – 8mm thick porcelain tiles will range from $5-15 per square foot and will require additional materials for installation such as mortar, grout and a decoupling membrane. If you are hiring a professional tile setter, be prepared for an install cost in the $8-12 range per square foot. Another cost that is often overlooked is preparing the concrete slab which often requires self-levelling. Tiles installed on top of a concrete slab will result in a cold floor, while there are options such as in-floor heating systems, area rugs, etc. these will increase installation costs and running costs substantially. In general, we do not recommend a tile floor system for the entire basement and limit it to wet areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.
Basement Carpet Flooring
Carpet is another basement flooring idea that’s been around for a while. If not done correctly, a carpet as your basement floor can lead to the “basement smell”. Most carpet manufacturers recommend a synthetic underpad and a carpet that is made of synthetic fibers if installed in on concrete. The reason for that is the synthetic fibers will allow some of the moisture to escape through it. Of course, some of the benefits of carpet flooring are the padding and the cozy warm feeling on your feet. If you have young kids, it’s a great option. However, we don’t recommend a full carpet flooring system for your basement because of the potential of moisture being trapped in or under the carpet which could result in mold growth.
Basement Laminate Flooring
Laminate is a manufactured flooring product that has been around for decades. Just like hardwood, it comes in planks with a tongue and groove or a “click” system and is the most affordable basement flooring option. Laminate is mostly made out of an MDF core which by using wood fibres combined with resin binder and forming it into panels by applying high temperature and pressure with a printed top layer to resemble the look of wood. While laminate is a popular choice for a basement flooring system because it is a “floating” floor – not nailed or glued to the concrete slab it does two drawbacks. The first and main drawback of laminate is that it is not waterproof. If you have a kitchen, a laundry, a dishwasher, or any other water source that has the potential of leaking then laminate is a poor choice and will require replacement if damaged by moisture. This brings us to the second drawback and that is the need for a subfloor or underlayment like DMX 1-step or similar to prevent the moisture from the concrete slab to come in contact with the laminate. Subfloors add cost offsetting the cheaper price of laminate and reduce your basement height which may be limited.
Basement Vinyl Flooring
Our recommendation to clients and the flooring system we install the most is vinyl plank. Often referred to as Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) or Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) it has the same look and function as laminate flooring – it mimics the look and feel of real wood and is a floating floor system without the need for nailing or gluing it down to the slab. With vinyl there is no need for a subfloor, underlayment or any other slab preparation unless the slab level is off significantly. Vinyl flooring has a built-in underlayment attached to the bottom of every piece and can be installed directly onto the concrete. It has a little bit of flexibility so if you have to float over some pockets or spaces that aren’t 100% level this does a really good job conforming to the contours of the slab. Although more expensive than laminate, this is probably one of the most budget-effective basement flooring systems because there is no concrete preparation or subfloor required. Of course, the number one advantage of vinyl flooring is that is it water and moisture proof. Any spills, leaks, floods or other water events will not damage the vinyl flooring because all layers of vinyl flooring are plastic and will not absorb any moisture.