Most basements are below grade which means they are partially or completely underground. This leads to numerous problems which make flooring installation tricky. They are dark and damp and can get flooded at times if the drainage system is faulty. Keeping all these variables in mind, a flooring material that can withstand all such adversities must be chosen.
Our flooring experts have listed some best-selling options for basements along with the various factors which you must consider while choosing the material.
Factors to Consider for Below-Grade Flooring
Below grade is the term that refers to the level below the ground. Any area below the ground level is susceptible to minor flooding and moisture damage. Certain important factors that you must keep in mind while choosing flooring material for such an area are:
- Harder, inorganic materials work best for the basement. They may grow mould but will not rot away due to moisture exposure.
- Monolithic flooring like concrete is easier to dry and hence most suitable for the basement. Multiple layers tend to trap water more. You will need a proper underlayment to ensure materials like laminate and vinyl lasts.
- Determine the purpose for which you are designing the basement. If you are designing a home theatre or playroom or a home gym- the flooring should be chosen accordingly.
- Consider the chances of flooding and the average moisture level in your locality while designing the basement.
- Warmth and comfort under-feet are two things that shouldn’t be ignored. However, look for materials which are comfortable to step on and can withstand the moisture well at the same time.
- The affordability and your budget should be considered as well while choosing the material for your basement.
- The subfloor must be of high quality and durability, so there is least complication in the installation process.
Best Flooring Materials for Basement
There are numerous flooring materials which you can choose for the basement. Their benefits and drawbacks should be compared to determine which is the most suited for your home.
Sheet vinyl is nearly seamless, creating a surface that is impervious. It is also called resilient flooring and is ideal for basements.
- Prevent water from penetrating into the subfloor
- Inexpensive and one of the most affordable option
- Warmer and softer compared to concrete and tile
- Need smooth, levelled and clean surface for adhesion
- Many homeowners consider it a cheap fix
Luxury vinyl plank
Luxury vinyl planks are noted for their look and durability. They are designed to mimic the organic materials like hardwood and stone accurately. The material can hold up to moisture and water very well which make it an ideal choice for the basement.
- Deep embossed surface, mimicking the texture of hardwood accurately
- Can withstand moisture and water sufficiently
- Easy to install
- Sounds and feels better than laminate flooring underfoot.
- Water can seep in through the seams and get trapped underneath
- Does not bring a good resale value for your home
Engineered hardwood flooring
While hardwood cannot be used in a below-grade area like the basement, engineered hardwood is an alternative that will serve your purpose. These planks are designed with perpendicular layers to reduce the expansion and contraction rate. Moreover, the flooring is treated so that it is significantly more resistant to moisture, compared to hardwood.
- Looks very beautiful and luxurious
- Adds to the resale value of your home
- Warmer to step on compared to other materials
- Can be installed with different methods like glueing down, nailing down and floating the floorboards
- Extra preparation for the subfloor is required- additional dehumidifier may be needed depending on the moisture level of the basement
- More water-resistant than hardwood, but cannot tolerate more than minor moisture exposure
Cork is an organic product that is a good fit for below grade areas but will not survive if your basement is prone to flooding. Nevertheless, with proper underlayment and subfloor preparation, it is a good option depending on how you utilize the basement.
- Provides insulation against the cold basement floor
- Soft and comfortable underfoot
- Provides significant sound absorption
- Since it is an organic material, it can deteriorate from continuous exposure to moisture
- Rolled cork flooring can be difficult to install without professional help
If your basement humidity and water leakage are under control, laminate flooring can be considered for it. The base material of laminate is susceptible to swelling from prolonged exposure to moisture and water. You can choose waterproof laminate flooring or install a vapour barrier before laying down the laminate floorboards to overcome this problem.
- It is warm under feet due to the foam underlayment used for installation
- Aesthetically appealing and suitable for designing a living space in the basement
- With the right underlayment, it provides fair sound absorption quality
- Laminate is prone to moisture damage when it comes from underneath
- Often lead to static electricity buildup
- Hollow feeling under feet
Other Suitable Floor Materials
The basement flooring is susceptible to water damage and hence materials which are not affected by water should be chosen. Most of the options mentioned above must be installed after proper subfloor preparation to reap the maximum utility out of them. Apart from the above-mentioned floor materials, you can also choose:
- Ceramic or porcelain tiles- These do not get affected by moisture but is extremely cold and uncomfortable to walk on.
- Acid etched concrete floor- This is a stylish variation of plain concrete flooring, but it is hard, cold and loud under feet.
- Rubber flooring- If you want to transform your basement into a home gym or playroom, this is the ideal choice but not aesthetically appealing or suitable for a living space.
Basement flooring must be chosen with care to make sure you get the maximum utility out of it. The materials mentioned here are suitable for the basement when you are using the right underlayment along with it and ensure the moisture level fluctuation in the basement is under control.