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Basement Flooring: Best Choice, Cost Of Flooring, And Installation Tips

When it comes to home improvement plans, one of the major concerns for most homeowners is how to go about basement flooring. This is because the basement is a below-grade room that is subject to environmental elements such as moisture, humidity, and other water related damages. For most homeowners, a basement can be used as a storage area, playroom, sometimes the gym room and also it can be a family room that is frequented most of the time and so, it deserves to be taken care of just like the other rooms.

The basement, being below the other rooms in your home, it is prone to collecting all the moisture and water from the water heaters, dishwashers, cloth washers and supply pipes. It is important to put in mind the moisture factor when planning a basement flooring option. Due to this factor, your flooring options have to have the capability to withstand damp conditions and high humidity.

Basements are mostly used as recreational spaces or as utility spaces. They tend to take in a lot of hard use and abuse. Therefore, any flooring option you settle for, it should be able to take in these conditions and stand the test time. The flooring material should be able to keep moisture at bay to keep the basement dry and free of from condensation.

Factors to Consider Before Doing a Basement Flooring

For homeowners, choosing the ideal flooring material for the basement floors comes with challenges, and it might not be easy as it is when installing flooring in other rooms. There are several factors you need to consider before you start the flooring task. Let’s examine some of the considerations you need to factor in before flooring your basement.

Basement and Moisture Factors

Basement, being an underground room (below-grade), possess a challenge when it comes to moisture. These rooms are susceptible to flooding and moisture, a condition that can have devastating effects on the flooring.

Signs that your basement has moisture problems include:

  • Humid and damp air
  • If you spot water on the walls and floors
  • A damp, foul and musty odor
  • Presence of mold and mildew
  • Decaying or rotten wood

Before you consider flooring your basement, it will be a good idea to factor the issue of waterproofing. It will do you no good to install flooring without considering the idea of handling sub-grade moisture. It’s essential to note that very few flooring options will last long in a moisture-full environment.

Therefore, it will be critical to consider doing basement waterproofing, even if the process is tedious. If you have a newer home, an interior drylock waterproofing process can work towards containing moisture. However, older homes that were built in the 50s and 60s will require you to do an exterior waterproofing on the foundation to take care of the moisture issue. It’s essential to note that waterproofing is expensive but a necessity to consider when planning basement flooring.

The Purpose of the Basement

What you intend to do with the basement space will determine the flooring materials to use and the amount of work that will go in the basement remodel. If your basement is to be used as a playroom, family room, or even a guest room, your choice of flooring material should provide warmth and insulation. Also, you should consider getting a flooring material that requires low maintenance routine.
If you plan to use the basement as a storage area, or as the laundry room, your flooring options have to have waterproof qualities to protect your belongings and flooring cover.

Budget

Your budget will determine the quality of flooring material to use. Do not be tempted to settle for the cheap flooring material. If you want to achieve long-term flooring in your basement, it’s critical that you set a realistic budget that will ensure that all the important aspects are taken care of during the flooring process.

Also, take into consideration maintenance routine and care of the flooring option you plan to install. A cheaper option may wind up being more expensive due to frequent repairs and replacement. Note that, the size of your basement will impact greatly on the amount of flooring material required which means more cost.

Design and Finish

If you are flooring your basement for it to serve as a guest room or a family room, it’s important to factor the design you want to achieve. The type of flooring you choose will greatly determine the design you want to achieve. Different flooring options bring out different designs and themes. Do you want your flooring choice to resonate with your home’s theme; or do you want it to be different but still complement your home? Depending on your preference, ensure that you do not compromise on quality when finalizing your design.

When choosing the flooring option for your basement, make sure you fact in the kind of finish you want to achieve. Your basement will be part of your house and therefore, ensure you leave the floor with great finesse especially if you intend to use the basement as a family room.

Common Challenges When installing Basement Flooring

Basements are some of the most challenging parts of your house to install flooring. To be able to achieve a long lasting flooring solution, there are several issues that you likely to come across during the installation process.

Flooding

Basements are susceptible to flooding. Sometimes, despite the best efforts you put in place to keep the flooding on at bay, it’s possible to experience basement flooding from time to time. If your basement seems to flood too frequently, you should put in place preventive measures that will reduce the frequency of the floods. You can install a sound drainage system and ensure you have an elaborate site grading to keep water away from your home’s foundation. Also, when choosing flooring materials, go for the ones that do well with water.

Uneven Surface

Sometimes basements tend to b uneven. This can be challenging when installing flooring in your basement. In such situations, you might have to make use of self-leveling cement to be able to create an even sub-floor and make your flooring installation easier and doable.

You can also patch minor cracks or fill them up with an elastomeric sealant that is mainly made to be used on concrete surfaces. The sealant can be found in most homes improvement store. A 10-ounce tube costs about $4 to $10.

Challenges with Ceiling Height

Most basements lack extra headroom especially if the ceiling hosts HVAC and air ducts. This comes as a challenge when installing floor because even a slight increase in inches may end up making the room exceed the required minimum ceiling height that is set by the most local building codes. Considering the height of the headroom, it’s advisable you choose flooring options that are low profile.

Humidity and Condensation

This is one the most common problem with basement flooring. Since moist and humid air is usually heavy, it will settle at the lowest point of your house, and this is in the basement. When this happens, the warm, humid air comes into contact with the slab floor in your basement and condenses. The moist environment does not go well with the majority of flooring materials. You have to keep condensation in check to maintain your flooring and also avoid mold and mildew growth.

In most homes, the cooling and heating system is usually loaded with a dehumidifier which maintains relative humidity levels. The building codes recommend RH level of about 30% to 60% which supports a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. You can regulate RH value in your room by installing a portable plug-in unit in your basement. The plug-in unit costs about $200

Basement Flooring Options and Costs

Having established that basement area is likely to have a constant moisture issue, and the fact that it’s one area that stands a lot of strain especially if used as storage or recreational area; it’s important to be careful when choosing flooring options. Your flooring choice should be easy to install on a concrete slab.

But if you have taken care of all moisture and level issues, and you have achieved a smooth level surface; you will have the freedom to select your flooring preferences for your basement.

Concrete Flooring

Concrete is one of the simplest and cheapest basement flooring options because it is already installed. Concrete flooring can withstand any form of abuse, and it will need minimal maintenance. You can give the concrete surface a beautiful look by painting or stain the slab. You can also clean the surface, grind down any rough spot and you will have your floor looking good.

If the basement concrete is unsealed, and probably still porous, you can make use of colored stain. It penetrates the concrete and holds the color for a long a time before you need to do a reapplication. To coat an area of about 80-100sq ft, you will require one gallon of stain or paint that costs about $30. If you opt for paint, go for an acrylic formula that has a slip-resistant surface finish.

However, if moisture issues still lurk in your basement, it is not advisable to paint the concrete. There are chances that moisture can rise through the concrete slabs and with no time the paint will start to peel off the surface or blister.

You can also opt for epoxy coating system for the concrete surface. Epoxy provides a lot of colors, its waterproof and it’s totally easy to apply. The epoxy coating is combined with a solvent-based adhesive coating and color chips that are decorative. It’s a tougher compared to stain or paint. A gallon of epoxy coating costs almost three times more than a gallon of paint or stain but will cover a bigger area, almost four times. It also leaves the basement floor with a firm and industrial looking finish.

The options are many when it comes to concrete flooring. You can opt to cover the slab with an extra layer of concrete which has already been pigmented with color. Since the color is spread in the entire coating, you can play around with decorative ideas.

One of the major concerns with concrete flooring for most homeowners is the temperature. Finished concretes in the basement are not warm and tend to be cold. Compared to carpets, concrete may not be the most preferred choice especially if you intend to use the basement for recreational purposes.

Pros

Durable, resilient and can withstand any form of pressure such as heavy foot traffic, pressure from any heavy equipment.
Easy maintenance
Versatile-you can install any floor surface over it.
Long lasting
No need for a sub-floor
Least amount of materials needed

Cons

Hardness- makes them prone to cracking and shattering
Uncomfortable since it does not provide a soft cushioning for your feet
Tends to be cold- the floor does not retain heat
Susceptible to moisture if not well sealed on the top and bottom surface

Carpet Flooring

Carpeting is considered to be one of the best choices when it comes to basement flooring. A carpet has breathing spaces that allow moisture emissions to be able to find an escape route from the basement floor. A recent report by NAHB Research Centre indicated that almost more than 28% of basement floors for newly built homes are installed with carpet flooring.

A carpet has an insulating capability; it’s soundproof and warmer. Carpeting options such as low-pile and other loop choices last long and have minimal chances of tear and wear compared to the cut-looped varieties. Also, the nylon-blend types of carpet are more durable and more affordable as compared to natural options.

When choosing carpets, it’s also critical to consider the cushioning aspect. A denser cushion will insulate the room well from the other elements, and it will prolong the lifespan of the carpet.

When installing carpet in your basement, it best to do wall-to-wall carpeting. It is easier to install and also, less expensive. A nylon blend carpet costs about $1-$3 per sq. Ft. The overall cost of installing a new carpet in a basement of around 600sq. Ft. comes to about $1,200 to$2,400. This includes professional labor, glued perimeter tack strips, a standard pad and a new the carpet.

You can also consider installing carpet tiles in your basement. For example, the nylon pile 20-inch squares cost about $2 to $4 per square feet. They come in a variety of colors and styles for you to choose. These carpet tiles are manufactured with integral pads with an adhesive backing that makes the installation easy.

If you are still worried about moisture and dampness issues in your basement despite all the preventive measures, it is best to consider, moisture –resistant pads. These pads will block moisture from seeping up into the carpet, or for spilled liquid or other accidents; the pad will prevent moisture from seeping down past the pad to the concrete floor.

Expect to pay 70% more for the moisture-resistant pad as compared to the standard pad. The moisture pad will reduce clean-up, but if you experience frequent moisture problems, it will not solve the issue.

Pros

Soft and comfortable
They are durable
Easy to clean spills
Has insulating capability
It’s soundproof
affordable

Cons

Compared to hard floors, they are harder to clean

Vinyl

If you are looking for a durable, maintenance-free and moisture-resistant flooring option, then resilient vinyl flooring should be your ideal choice. Resilient vinyl has a bit of cushioning effect underfoot, and it’s fairly affordable. The sheet vinyl is made in a 12-foot rolls that eliminate the appearance of seams. If you want to install, your floors by yourself, the self –sticking tiles are easy for DIY.

You can achieve any style you want especially with the higher priced vinyl which can be made to mimic real stone, wood, or ceramic tiles. They also come in a wide variety of colors for you to choose and they are the best options when it comes to appearance.

You need to ensure that the concrete slab is stable and has a smooth surface before installing vinyl. If the surface has imperfections such as cracks and, they show through the vinyl, and they can end up causing damages to the flooring.

Expect to spend an average cost of $1 to $5 per square feet for sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles. It’s important to make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instruction in the installation process, and on prepping the slab. A professional will charge you $1 to $2 per square foot to install vinyl flooring for you. The labor charges will depend on the configuration of your basement.

Pros

Withstands moisture well
Its warmer compared to ceramic
It’s durable
It’s easy to clean- spills can easily be wiped off
It’s budget friendly and affordable
Comes in many styles for your choice-it can look like real wood
Easier to install making it perfect for DIY

Cons

It scratches easily
It will require a clean and spotless surface for adhesion

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tile flooring in the basements has many benefits. It is durable, moisture-resistant and can withstand floods and any other tough strain. It installs easily over the concrete slab and comes in a variety of styles and colors. In fact, if the ceramic tiles are properly installed, they can last the same duration as your house.

If you have moisture concerns especially due to condensation which can make ceramic tiles slippery, it will be advisable to install glazed ceramic tiles that have an anti-slip finish.

When it comes to the cost of installing a ceramic tile floor, the major expense here is in labor and not the material. Unless you are doing the installation yourself, the tile flooring option cannot be considered inexpensive. The cost of ceramic tiles will vary depending on the size, patterns, and shape. For a standard 12×12 –inch ceramic tile, expect to pay 80 cents per tile. The highly decorative tiles can cost as much as $10 per tile or even more. A professional will charge an average cost of $5 to $10 per square foot for installation of ceramic tiles.

When installing ceramic tiles, it’s essential to make sure the surface is smooth. If the concrete slab has significant cracks, it’s advisable you use an uncoupling membrane beneath the tiles to prevent the cracks from extending further.

Pros

Extremely tough and durable
Easy to maintain-you can easily wipe dirt, stains, and stains off
Endless designs, patterns, and styles of your choice
They can resemble stone or hardwoods
The tiles can be cut into different shapes, e.g., rectangles, triangles or planks

Cons

Too hard making them uncomfortable especially when doing activities that make you stand for an extended period
Cold- ceramic material does not retain heat well and can be very cold during winter
Installation takes time and its time-consuming for DIY

Engineered Wood

Before the introduction of engineered wood, it was rare to find any builder or remodelers installing hardwood floor on a below-grade surface. Solid wood tends to change dimensions when there are changes in temperature and humidity. Due to this, chances of the wood cracking and warping are high making it least ideal for basement flooring. Besides, there are no alternative methods of installing wood without the use of nails and screws.

Engineered wood provides your room with the beauty of the real wood, they provide warmth, they are stable, and moisture-resistance. The engineered wood has a thin layer of a veneer of solid wood that is already laminated to the plywood support. The reason why plywood is used is that it’s more dimensionally stable compared to solid wood which allows the wood planks to be able to withstand moisture and temperature changes without a possibility of warping.

There are two methods of installing engineered hardwood planks. You can glue the planks to the basement using an industrial adhesive, or; they can be floated on top of a layer of a thin foam sheeting. Here, the planks will hold by interlocking the ends and the edges to form a perfect fit.

Engineered wood planks cost around $1 to $20 per square foot. A professional will charge you around $4 to $5 per square foot to install the planks.

Pros

It’s a beautiful and looks like wood
It’s durable
It’s easy to clean

Cons

It’s expensive compared to other flooring options
It’s likely to warp if exposed to water spills for long

Laminate Flooring

If you are looking for an inexpensive flooring option for your basement, the laminate flooring is one of the best choices for you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that laminate on its own is not moisture-resistant; but, you can install it over a moisture barrier and a foam underlayment that is also moisture-resistant. This way, the laminate flooring will be protected from moisture below the concrete slab.

Alternatively, before installing the laminate, you can lay a floating subfloor on the concrete slab, and then proceed to install the flooring. The subfloor panels have a plastic honeycombed bottom which lifts the subfloor a little off the slab, and it’s covered with a waterproof surface or in some cases, engineered plywood. The edges of subfloor panels snap perfectly to present a flat subfloor where you can lay the laminate planks. When you do this, you will eliminate issues of slab moisture on your flooring.

The laminate flooring will cost you about $3 to $5 per square foot, and a professional will charge you $4 to $5 per square foot if they do the installation.

Laminate flooring is durable, has a factory finish that is resistant to stains, scuffs, and heavy foot traffic. However, its seams can be weak. If spillings, especially from water are not cleaned up quickly, they can lead to bubbled edges which can easily chip away.

Pros

Easy to install making it suitable for DIY
Snaps easily together eliminating the use of VOC-releasing glue
Easy to clean and maintain
The underlayment makes the floor comfortable under the feet
Can be styled to look like real wood, stone or any other natural material

Cons

Flooring cannot be sanded or refinished
Excessive or stagnant water can be able to seep through the beams leading to swelling

 

Flooring typeQuantityAverage cost
Concrete –staining or paintingOne gallon for 80-100sq.ft.$30
Carpet flooringNylon blend carpet-600sq.ft$1,200-$2,4000
VinylPer square feet
Professional labor per sq. Ft.
$1to$5
$1 to $2
Ceramic TilesCost per tile-(12-12 )
Professional labor –per sq. Ft.
80cents
$5-$10
Engineered woodPer square foot
Professional per sq. Ft.
$4 to $5
Laminate flooringPer square feet
Professional labor per sq. Ft.
$3 to $5
$4 to $5

Basement Flooring Tips

As mentioned in the guide, basement flooring can be tricky and should not be handled like the other rooms in your home. Its proximity to the ground makes it susceptible to moisture, humidity, and condensation. Therefore, all your flooring ideas should stand the moisture test regardless of the measures put in place to keep flooding in check.

Here are essential basement flooring tips that should help you when planning the flooring project.

Hard flooring materials are better when it comes to basement flooring. They include tiles and concrete flooring material. The two perform better in areas where floods are prevalent than the softer flooring materials like carpets.

Avoid layering- multi-layered flooring materials in the basement may not be a good idea. This is because they will take longer to dry in case of flooding or other related water issues. You also risk dampness, mold, and mildew in your basement area.

Materials like carpets for basement flooring are great and provide comfort. However, you may have to replace the whole carpet flooring in case of water damages which are very common in basements.

It’s better to use flooring material that easily dries out and gets minimal damage in case of flooding. For instance, the ceramic tiles a good example of flooring material that is not affected very much by water. However, you can still use other flooring materials such as laminate and vinyl but keep the issue of water damage in mind.

The first step towards basement flooring is to make sure you already have a concrete basement slab that is already smooth and free of any cracks and bumps.

Some flooring options can be installed directly on the concrete basement slab. The perfect example is ceramic tiles.

When using laminate flooring, you can install the flooring without the use of sub-floor. In this case, you use foam-underlayment between the concrete slab and laminate.

There are some types of flooring which will require you to use a sleeper system of plywood, 2×4, and also, an underlayment that will lift the flooring slightly off the slab. The floors that require sub-floor sleepers include carpeting flooring and vinyl.

Subfloor for Basements

Since basements are potentially prone to water seeping from the foundation walls, heaters, washers, or plumbing to the concrete slab, it’s important to install a subfloor before installing your flooring covering. The subfloor will raise the floor cover and block moisture seeping upwards towards the flooring, and also, provide the floor with stability and durability.

The most common subfloors include the plywood system, and the newer subfloor method referred to as DRIcore system. The plywood system uses 2×4 sleepers which are installed in mini-joists, plastic vapor barrier, exterior grade plywood (5/8) and rigid foam insulation. The panels can be coated with a waterproof sealant to provide extra protection. The DRIcore system has all the features and functions of plywood system in one unit.

For a basement area of 675 square feet and ceiling height of 7×4”, it will cost you an average of $750 to $1000 if you construct your plywood system subfloor. For DRIcore system, a panel of 2″x2″ goes for $6.43 meaning the total cost per square foot is $1.61. For a basement of the area measurement as mentioned above, it will cost you about $1,318 to cover the space.

Once you have installed a subfloor, you can proceed to install the flooring of your choice on top. You can also insulate your basement subfloor to help increase the warmth of the flooring option you use. Other additional moisture control measures include installing a vapor barrier over a concrete floor to protect the flooring from getting damp.

Basement Floor Preparation Costs

DescriptionQuantityAverage costs
Preparation and labor.Costs associated with basic labor in prepping the floor to make it and in good condition for flooring installation. This includes installing and leveling the floor. Installing vapor barriers, gluing and screwing the subfloor. Planning on how to get materials, equipment and cleaning up and setting the basement for flooring installation.12 hours$806.50-$1,309.50
Materials used for flooring surface preparation.
Costs for materials and supplies required for basement flooring preparation. They include connectors, fasteners, dimensional lumber openings, etc.
129 square feet$178-$202
Cost of equipment required for flooring surface preparation. These are equipment used to ensure a quality job and also, efficiency. They include; miter saw (12”), electric planer (31/4”) pneumatic framing nailer. Cost of renting and other extra equipment that may be needed. A single basement flooring job$28-$48
Total cost of preparing the basement flooring 120 square feet$1,200 to $1560

Conclusion

Even though basement flooring comes with moisture and other water concerns, flooring it to your preferred design and style is achievable. Basements are no longer being used for storage purposes only. Most homeowners are transforming them into recreational rooms, living spaces; children playroom, etc.

Except for hardwood flooring which still has an excellent alternative which is engineered wood, there is a wide range of flooring options for your basement. If you want a comfortable, soft and lush surface for your feet, you can use carpeting flooring. For a real wood appearance for your space, you have the laminate flooring option, vinyl, and the timeless ceramic tiles. Any style and design you want for your basement can be accomplished.

However, due to its proximity to the ground, moisture and humidity issues, it’s advisable to consider waterproofing and installation of subfloors before you cover the concrete slab with the flooring of your choice. The idea is to keep to keep the area dry to protect your flooring cover and also to prevent it from harm in the event of water accidents.

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