Choosing the right flooring for your basement and other areas of your house where humidity fluctuates must be done with care. The aim is to make sure the flooring lasts a long time and does not get damaged by moisture. If your basement is well ventilated and treated properly, you can use flooring materials like laminate and engineered wood. Many homeowners opt for laminate because it is more cost effective and looks beautiful. If you prepare the basement subfloor properly, laminate flooring is a viable option.
Potential Problems Posed by Laminate Flooring
Before you choose laminate flooring, understanding its potential problems is important so you can take the necessary precautions.
Your basement’s subfloor is usually made of concrete slabs that are porous and absorb moisture easily. Depending on your region’s climate, including how much rainfall and humidity you get, the groundwater level fluctuates. Moreover, many old buildings do not have a vapour barrier between the ground and the concrete which can lead to further moisture seeping into the basement due to high groundwater levels.
The basement is often the most humid area in the house. It is also comparatively cooler than the rest of the house which further allows ambient moisture to condense. Rainfall saturates soil around the basement, increasing the moisture level and making the place feel damp. Humid air can eventually seep into the basement through cracks and fissures, and this in turn can lead to warping and rotting of laminate flooring.
- Below-grade flooring
Basements are susceptible to flooding for various reasons, which means that your basement flooring should be durable enough to withstand that flooding. This could be due to heavy rainfall or leaky pipes, but the effects on laminate flooring can be adverse. Flooding can also happen due to malfunctioning appliances like washing machine, dishwashers and water heaters which many homeowners install in the basement.
Precautions for Laminate Flooring Installation in Basements
In order to ensure that laminate flooring is durable and works for your basement, there are certain precautions you need to take.
- Choose the right materials
There are different grades and qualities of laminate flooring available, and they should be carefully chosen. While laminate flooring has a waterproof decorative surface, the backing is usually made of fibreboard and wood particles. When this backing comes into contact with moisture, floorboards can warp and rot from below. Mould and mildew growth are also aggravated. To avoid these troubles, it is important to choose the right type of laminate. There are new types available with a solid plastic core that resists water, making it ideal for basements.
- Preparing the subfloor
When installing laminate flooring in a basement, it must be well prepared to make installation go smoothly. Certain precautions, like cleaning gutters and downspouts, are important to reduce humidity. Also, ensure that the surface levels and drains are not exposed to direct rainwater. Before installation, the humidity level should be checked using a moisture meter and brought under control so that the boards do not expand or contract too much.
Tips to Install Laminate Flooring in the Basement
The following are factors you should keep in mind when installing laminate flooring in your basement:
- The condition of the basement substrate should be examined thoroughly. Look for and seal cracks, fissures, and slopes before installing the laminate. Be sure to control the moisture level as well before you start.
- A moisture test can be done by taping plastic firmly to the concrete slab and checking it after a couple of days; water droplets will collect on it if there is high moisture. The best way to make sure that laminate floorboards are not damaged by moisture from the concrete is by sealing the subfloor.
- Once you are sure that the moisture level of the subfloor is under control, you can use an underlayment to further protect the laminate, as well as to control noise.
- As the floorboards are being installed, make sure enough expansion space is left so that there is no peaking or gapping. Like hardwood, laminate tends to expand and contract according to moisture levels and temperatures.
- If you have a concrete subfloor, it should be poured and set at least 60 days before the laminate is installed. This is because newer concrete has higher moisture content than old concrete and constantly loses moisture which can affect laminate installation. Also, a steady humidity and temperature should be maintained in the basement. The temperature should be 60° F to 75° F; humidity, 35% to 50%.
- A moisture barrier is a must when installing laminate flooring in your basement. Do not compromise on quality by investing in cheap materials as this can cut into your flooring’s life span.
- Measure the basement accurately so that flooring fits well. Get the installation professionally done so that floorboards are cut to precisely each corner. Your contractors have the necessary equipment to cut floorboards and ensure they are neatly shaped.
- Safety gear like goggles, face masks and gloves should be worn while installing laminate flooring. Depending on the method of installation, they act as a precaution against harmful fumes and splinters, which are common when working with laminate and similar flooring materials.
Basements, mudrooms and any areas in your house where humidity fluctuates require special attention. If you are considering laminate or similar flooring materials, there are several stores to explore in Toronto. Laminate flooring is a popular choice for basements, and if you take note of the factors and criteria listed above, it should work out for your home perfectly.