Advice please on selecting/installing flooring in our "utility" area
May 17, 2014 9:14 AM   Subscribe

We have a 450 sq.foot "utility" area (ground level, not a basement, but it is where our HVAC, water heater, laundry, freezer, storage, exercise equipment is). Floor is slab concrete, walls cement block. 45 year old home, original contractor cheap tiles over the years have loosened and the remaining ones are easy to pop up. We do not have ground water or dampness problems in this area. We have gotten so much advice from friends, coworkers, home center folks that I need kind Metafilter folks to steer us to solution for our snowflake needs. Details inside.

The remaining adhesive residue does not seem thick, and home center person said we could use long handle blade tool to scrape, then apply a primer coating with self-stick resilient tiles that are the thicker type squares (that can be butted or spaced for grouting) since the thickness will prevent the concrete roughness from being visible in the vinyl surface.

But I also see this interesting video about non-square resilient flooring that are floating and (unlike snap together plank flooring) they adhere via overlap adhesive. Wouldn't that save us the scraping up of the old residue?

People also warn us about this utility area flooding (overflowing washer, hot water heater leak) and the water getting under a floating floor and molding. But this is concrete slab and vinyl, right, and if the water could get between couldn't it also evaporate out over time? And except for sheet goods you would always have that danger in a utility area, right?

Estimate from a contractor to sand, seal and stain was $1700 (over $4/sq.ft) plus we worry how much dust they might create. We are willing to do the job ourselves, unless that is unwise. We are most concerned about not picking a solution that is just plain wrong for the application, than about beauty. But cost or value counts too of course. We could afford the $1700 range if we knew we were spending it wisely.

My Googling and Metafilter search turned up plenty of advice on flooring, some old, some on the floating plank floors which would be totally inappropriate for this area, or on ceramic or other more expensive solutions. But I think my problem is a "which to do" as opposed to a "how to do". Thanks in advance everyone!
posted by forthright to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at FLOR tiles? I'd do an indoor/outdoor sturdy type of FLOR carpet tiles. If you have a leak, you either pull up and clean the affected tiles or pull up and let dry then replace or simply replace the tiles with new ones. Probably cheaper is just a bound-edge indoor/outdoor area rug -- if it got soaked you might be able to haul it out to the yard or just replace it.

What's your aesthetic requirements?
posted by amanda at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2014

Response by poster: I just now visited the FLOR site. If I do the math right converting from 50 square cm to square foot times what appears to be a minimum of $14 per their tiles it seems like well over what we planned to spend on a utility area.

Aesthetic requirements would be easy to keep clean and durable. No kids in our home so not a play surface. We want it to look nice not great.
posted by forthright at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2014

If you put down anything that absorbs water - laminate or carpet, and don't have a subfloor like DriCore (interlocking tile subfloor, easy to install), you'll have to replace most or all of the flooring if there is a flood/leak. DriCore provides an air gap that gives water somewhere to go/evaporate (should you have just a small leak).You could lay down DriCore and not even worry about the adhesive. On top of that you could consider laminate or carpet tile. Laminate wood flooring is cheap, comes in a ton of colors/faux wood grains and is easy to install. I've purchased FLOR carpet tiles for several rooms and have been very satisfied with the quality, style and ease of swapping out a tile if something spills (buy some extra with your initial order).

You could also have ceramic tile laid within your budget Whatever you select, if possible, avoid covering up any floor drains
Best of luck with your project!
posted by walkinginsunshine at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2014

I stained and sealed my concrete slab directly, we couldn't get all the old adhesive from decades of tiles and carpet up so I sanded it lightly and stained over it. I love it, it was super inexpensive and if I get tired of it, putting a new floor in isn't going to be more difficult than when I started. I do dog rescue and water/pee proof and easy clean up was important to me, so far so good and it's been a year.
posted by yodelingisfun at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have that vinyl Allure floor in two kids' bedrooms and I love it. It's easy to put in and really cheap. It's much nicer than the fake Pergo we had before. The sub floors aren't super smooth - crappy plywood - and it was fine. Every once in a while there was a big bump that would show through so we'd kind of lift the last plank up a couple of inches and scrape off the bump and keep gong. I can do a whole smallish room by myself in maybe 4 hours. You can cut everything with an exacto knife but there were some complicated parts that we did with a jigsaw. It's waterproof but water could get underneath the edges around the perimeter. I've thought about putting it in our bathrooms but would worry that some water would get under where the floor meets the tub and rot the wood floors underneath. If I flooded the room, at least I'd know to rip it up and let everything dry out. I'm not sure if this is still the case but last time we bought it, home depot's online price was cheaper than the price in the store and it had free shipping so it came right to the door. UPS guy wasn't exactly thrilled but I was.
posted by artychoke at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why not regular tile? Equal durability to vinyl (assuming a good installation), fewer chemical byproducts of its manufacture and installation. You're looking at $0.89 - $1.99 / sf for the tile itself, plus mortar and grout will still keep you well under $4. Water is not really a problem with tile. The only question is how much of this adhesive (whatever it actually is) you have to remove. If you want to do it yourself, you could buy the tools you'd need for maybe $40.
posted by slidell at 10:15 AM on May 17, 2014

For a utility area, I would not hesitate to do the brown paper floor thing. I've done this myself. It's time-consuming, but cheap, interesting looking and has held up in my office with wooden chairs scraping on it for over a year now.

If that's not your thing, I'd go with some sort of mid-grade floor tile, not the thick stuff which would be overkill for a utility area.
posted by sageleaf at 10:21 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

In my humble opinion, bare concrete is an excellent floor finish in a utility area. Cheap, too.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:26 AM on May 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

I had a floor like this in a bathroom in a house I lived in in London, and Daniel from the blog used it on Manhattan Nest and I think it would serve all your needs, in addition to being very inexpensive.
posted by momochan at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, not to over answer but, I have a room that was an addition so no slab and I too did the paper bag floor. I used garage floor epoxy to seal it and it too has stood up to all the dogs, family parties, a kitty and my compulsive need to rearrange furniture just fine. I did a very large room and it took a good three days even with help but I love it and it blends nicely with the stained slab. If you want a photo, memail me!
posted by yodelingisfun at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2014

I've had the unfortunate experience of water leaking under a laminate floor, and that floor went kaflooey right quick--warping, discoloration, etc. I currently have laminate in my laundry room, and I pine for the day when I can have it taken up and replaced with tile. So, yeah, avoid laminate around water.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:01 PM on May 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your recommendations and suggestions! It gives us new ideas and materials to research.

artychoke: yeah, the Allure stuff looks good and the video makes it look easy to install

slidell: i originally asked the home center folks about low end ceramic tiles, and if I recall correctly they felt that it's more work including surface preparation, installation plus tile cutter rental, but I see your point that it would not have water concerns

Bruce H: living with the tiles pulled up has shown that it's a dirty proposition (old adhesive, dirt in the concrete crevices, etc.) We would at least have to seal it like some other replies suggested.

momochan: that roll flooring looks great, and I even see something like it available at our local Costco (maybe different manufacturer, diamonds instead of circles), gets mixed reviews on-line, plus in our situation (13 foot by 33 foot) we'd have a bunch of seams.
posted by forthright at 1:18 PM on May 17, 2014

Response by poster: Follow-up: for anyone who finds this question later, what we settled on was 18" x 18" square vinyl floor tiles by a company called Multy Home...they are the puzzle type that you just join together with a rubber mallet. It came out to about $2.25/sq.ft. and they are rugged and water proof, so it meets our needs. Others might not like them...they only come in black with a basic coin type texture, and they are so rugged I had to cut them with tin shears. But both my wife and I are pleased with the results (and durability so far) in our utility/exercise/laundry area. FWIW. YMMV.
posted by forthright at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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