Best Flooring Ideas for a Basement?
December 27, 2011 6:55 AM   Subscribe

What is the best flooring for a basement? Has anyone had experience with the wood-like laminate?

We recently pulled up a nasty, old, flat carpet that was covering the floor in our basement rec room. The room is approximately 12x14. There is concrete underneath. Part of the carpet near the wall showed signs of water damage, but we do not know how old it was (the carpet looked like it was installed in the 1970s).

I want a flooring that:

1) looks acceptably nice,
2) doesn't cost a fortune, and
3) wouldn't need to be completely removed in case of water entry to the basement.

We were at Home Depot the other day and looking into the laminate pieces that you put together yourself. They don't look bad and it seems pretty easy to remove any that have been damaged.

Has anyone had experience using a flooring like this. Any specific types that we should use/avoid? Is there a better material to use in a basement? This will be a common area and will receive a lot of foot traffic. We'd like it to be somewhat cozy of a material (i.e. not straight concrete) as we will be using it as a den/family room.

Also: we will most likely be getting our materials at Home Depot so brands that they carry will be preferred. Money is definitely an issue, but so is longevity and durability.

Thanks in advance!
posted by amicamentis to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We have the wood-like laminate planks in our basement. They look nice (very warm in the room) and were not difficult to install. I'm not sure how easy it would be to remove just a section.

What I would do first, however, is get a couple of basement guys (multiple estimates/eyes) in to look and tell you if you you're looking at a water problem that can be fixed. How long have you lived there? Have you survived drenching rains in a wet spring without water? I'd want to be pretty sure the water problem will not reoccur.

We had to replace our dewatering system and sump pump (catastrophic failure when we'd been there about two years, it sucked), which was NOT CHEAP, but was entirely worth it since it increases the resale value of the house (a lot) and increases the usability of the basement. We did that BEFORE putting in new flooring.

I would honestly consider FLOR tiles, which we have in other parts of our basement (laundry area, pantry), which are definitely modular and easy to remove in sections in case of partial damage. They (or at least most of them) cost more per square foot than the laminate planking. But they are great in our basement, I love them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:06 AM on December 27, 2011

Home Depot here in South Florida usually advises us against using wood laminate floors - they delaminate in under five years due to humidity/salt/moisture problems.

They do recommend bamboo, and wood-look vinyl. Don't forget Linoleum, which now looks nothing like the 40s/50s stuff you remember, unless you want it to.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:09 AM on December 27, 2011

We put Home Depot's Allure vinyl "planks" down over a concrete floor in our family room last summer and we like it a lot. It feels more like a wood floor than sheets of laminate, and if a piece gets scratched or something, we can just pull up that piece and replace it.

Ours isn't a basement though, and doesn't have even a hint of moisture issues. Don't know how it would do in a basement.
posted by headnsouth at 7:14 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used these vinyl planks for my basement. They look ok... not as good as real wood, but they are relatively cheap, super easy to install and humidity/waterproof which is perfect for a basement.

As a note of caution, a friend of mine put in laminate flooring in his basement, and although it looked great at first, the humidity caused the floor to buckle within a year, making it look terrible. So, it probably depends on your actual climate conditions, but I would be wary of anything moisture sensitive.

There are also some really nice decorative concrete sealants available. Check out some example pictures here.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 7:27 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, as far as the waterproofing that I mentioned goes, I don't know what the official claim is for them, but a friend of mine did have a significant amount of water get under some of his at one point, and we were able to gently raise the edges of the floor up and get some air circulation from a fan under there for a day. Can't tell any difference now.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 7:33 AM on December 27, 2011

I think you'd want to make sure the floor is extremely level, in addition to being dry, before putting down wood or laminate.

I was going to recommend flor carpet tiles or vinyl as well.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:34 AM on December 27, 2011

Marmoleum is a nice, greener alternative to linoleum. The problem with wood of any kind but probably more so with an inexpensive laminate, click together system like you'd get at Home Depot, is going to be the moisture and humidity levels of your basement. Without putting up insulation and adequate ventilation, your basement will be damp. I agree that you should bring in one or more experts for a free consultation on making your basement "dry" for wood floor installation.

Secondly, most basements are sloped to a drain. Carpet and marmoleum can easily work with this. Wood floors? Not so much. You'd need to float the floor which is possible with the help of a professional but is not a budget, DIY solution.

If you go with FLOR, call them up and ask for their recommendation on carpet tile for your installation. They'll help you select the right type.
posted by amanda at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Read this article.
posted by JayRwv at 8:12 AM on December 27, 2011

I've read in several places that wood or laminate flooring can be problematic in leaky basements, because mold can grow in the nanometers of space that separate the wood from the concrete.

Personally, I like wall-to-wall carpeting, because it dampens sound and lessens the echo-y quality of my speakers. It also serves as an insulation barrier, too. When the carpet gets soggy due to heavy rains, I raise it and dry it out with fans, not the ideal solution of course, but I'm mold-free so far.

The look is 1980s Rocky III-era bachelor pad, but it's the basement so who gives a damn?
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:18 AM on December 27, 2011

We put Home Depot's Allure vinyl "planks" down over a concrete floor in our family room last summer and we like it a lot.

Was just going to recommend vinyl planks as well. My folks installed something like this in their cabin and everyone assumes it's wood. It feels denser and wears better than laminate, in my opinion, and it's not impossible to replace sections as needed.
posted by mochapickle at 8:24 AM on December 27, 2011

I wouldn't put anything directly on the concrete. Even in the best circumstances, some humidity is bound to seep through the concrete and damage whatever you put on it.

In a similar situation, I started with a DRIcore subfloor (available at Home Depot), followed by Allure vinyl tiles. Both are extremely easy to install and give great results. The DRIcore plastic underside creates a water barrier that still allows the concrete to breath. It is also much thinner and easier to install than a regular subfloor. In my opinion,it is worth the expense to obtain a longer lasting floor.
posted by bluefrog at 8:32 AM on December 27, 2011

We did laminate over DRIcore as well and have been happy with the results (it was on sale for less than a dollar a sq. ft.). The floor has to be really level. We decided to use black roofing paper under the laminate because we didn't like the squishy feeling of the standard foam underlay. Be aware that you can't just lift up any section of laminate easily. You have to start at the point you last laid down and work backwards, unlocking sections as you go. I don't know if it applies to all brands of laminate but it helps to attach an entire row end to end before trying to click it into the previous row.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2011

So long as your basement is clean and dry, most flooring products will work.

When I was in the industry (been out of it for >1 year), one of the most commonly used products for basement floors was laminate flooring. The reason being it's reasonably priced and easy to install since the joint click together and it "floats" over the substrate.
If you choose to go this route, be sure to follow the installation guidelines EXACTLY and use a moisture barrier underneath.

Other common options included:
Marmoleum* in either roll/sheet form or click together
sheet vinyl* (aka 'resilient')
Vinyl tile/plank
Carpet tile (easy to install and replace damaged pieces)
Ceramic/Porcelain tile

The best overall value is likely to be a laminate floor since you can easily find them for around $1.00 a s/f and can install yourself.

The best option for a basement that may flood is ceramic/porcelain tile. This, however, is probably the most expensive option.

Feel free to MeMail me with any additional questions.

*Note - Marmoleum is linoleum. What most people refer to as linoleum is actually sheet vinyl.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2011

You can always just finish and stain the concrete itself, or pour a new layer on top of the existing and stamp it or pattern it. You can't get it at home depot but once it is done it is done forever, if you want longevity.

You can get the epoxy sealers they use for garages and such and put that down. It really isn't pretty but it will be cheap and really, really durable. You can then use rugs to pretty up areas and this will also be easy to update, repair if it floods and make the basement space easy to modify as your needs change. My choice would be tile. If you put it down yourself (it aint that hard) and don't get anything really expensive the cost is about what good carpet costs.

I wouldn't use wood flooring of any kind at all without somekind of breathing space under it. Almost guranteed to rot, buckle and mildew. Regardless of vapor barrier. The big problem is the flooring will be warm and the concrete below it cool so you will get condensation even if you never flood or have a perfectly watertight basement. It is the reason wood floors don't work great on slab foundations either.
posted by bartonlong at 9:35 AM on December 27, 2011

Commercial carpet tiles work well. The kind with a thick rubber cushion backing. I purchased a good amount of them for my old house at a building surplus / closeout place. they had piles of the stuff.

We also had laminate flooring in part of the basement, but we had a bit of water and it bubbled up and we had to repair it. It sucked.

The carpet tile got a bit damp in places and we just pulled up and dried out and put it back down. carpet tile glues to the floor using a peach colored adhesive that is only somewhat sticky - keeps it from moving around, but you can pull it up if necessary without damaging the tiles themselves.
posted by freq at 10:54 AM on December 27, 2011

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