I hate laminate, and I hate carpet. But I also hate cold.
February 24, 2015 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Flooring for a basement room -- what are my options?

We're buying a house that has a basement family room. There's currently carpet in it, but it needs to be replaced. I think there's just concrete under the carpet (though I'm not 100% sure of that obviously).

I'd like the floor to be not freezing in the winter, but I also really don't like carpet. My husband is thinking laminate click-lock floating floor, so we can stick an insulating layer under it pretty easily and cheaply. I hate the look and feel of laminate, but I can't think of a better option. Can you?

I'd love tile, but it's probably more expensive and time-consuming to install, and would probably be freezing. And I don't think hardwood is a good idea, right? Could I do linoleum?

I'd like the budget for this project to be less than $3K. I don't know the exact measurement of the space, but I'd estimate the room is about 200sf.
posted by rabbitrabbit to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
basements flood. I'd just stick cheap carpet in there.. or leave the concrete and put down some rugs.
posted by royalsong at 11:53 AM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

What about carpet tile, is that any better than carpet? It's pretty DIY, just keep a good amount of spares for flooding, and you can do something interesting with patterns. Not sure what your dislike of carpet is, though.
posted by kellyblah at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2015

Check out cork! I had it in my last basement apartment, and loved it. Felt awesome and warm underfoot. Other ideas, what about in-floor heating? A friend of mine has tile with infloor heating and I think its divine.
posted by snowysoul at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2015 [19 favorites]

We're exploring going with a stained and sealed concrete floor, then throwing a bunch of rugs down on top of it that can be quickly moved or replaced if things get wet.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Not sure if you have kids or what the possible use for the basement is, but we put down artificial turf over some cheap padding so my kids could play, spill and well be kids. We had one flood in 15 years, and just rolled up the turf, replaced the padding and put back the turf. The painted on (by us) yard markers a la a football field wore off over time, but otherwise we loved it.

Also, depending on the cement on the floor, I have seen one family have a really neat mural sort of like a candyland board painted on their basement floor.
posted by 724A at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

We bought fuzzy slippers for our cold hardwood floor. Our ground floor is not well insulated and is cold. If you're talking about insulating underlayment under the click-lock flooring, it's not going to be enough to make it warm.

Tiles are even colder than wood. If you hire somebody, it's going to be expensive. If you do it yourself, make sure you factor in the price of the tile saw, trowel, thinset, grout, etc. It's not an easy job.

As mentioned above, you can put in-floor heating (aka radiant floor heating). But the mat alone is going to run you $800 or so, and you still need a permit, to pull a dedicated electric circuit, and put self leveling compound (or thinset) over it. Basically, I think it would go way over your budget.
posted by ethidda at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Laminate or engineered hardwood with an underlay will be cold but not terminally so. I suggest that with an area rug on top. We got some engineered bamboo at lumber liquidators for our basement and it's turned out really nicely. It was also cheap. Just make sure there's a vapour barrier under there.
posted by GuyZero at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe go with laminate then top with rugs, underlined with something like this. That's a product called the RugBuddy. Essentially, it's a thin, plug-in heated mat that goes under a throw rug that provides space heat in a manner analogous to radiant in-floor heating.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: There is some surprisingly nice click-lock laminate flooring out there. We did a 900sf basement with click-lock flooring under your budget and didn't even DIY it. We did an insulating layer underneath and it looks great. With a few rugs around the room, it's not cold and it's easy to maintain.
posted by bedhead at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2015

Have you considered epoxy floor paint? That's what I'd do if I needed to cover concrete with something a bit more foot-friendly on the cheap.
posted by jordemort at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2015

We put down one of those modular dricore subfloors with a floating engineered bamboo click-lock floor on top of it in most of our basement 7 years ago. The subfloor makes all the difference in how cold it is down there -- that stuff is pretty fantastic.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

2nd GuyZero - I've seen some decent-looking/feeling engineered wood flooring. The one I saw (installed, at a friend's home) had a textured, kind of dull finish, which I think looks nicer than some of the flat laminate stuff I've seen.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2015

My BiL put down Dri-Core underfloor last year and has already recommended it to me with great enthusiasm.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is the subfloor we used. There is also a type with closed cell foam insulation for the same price as the plastic waffle type. The subfloor is what is important for keeping the basement warm and acting as a moisture barrier. Once that is down, you can stick whatever you want on top of it. We also did one room with soft-touch vinyl roll flooring.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:26 PM on February 24, 2015

Carpet and concrete don't mix well. We thought we did everything right and it still smells a bit moldy in the summer.
If I had to do it all over again, I'd do something (paint, slate, they even have nice linoleum) and put rugs on it.
posted by beccaj at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2015

Flooding concerns aside, I like the cork idea. (And I've also heard good things about Dri-core as an underfloor layer to block moisture/mustiness.) My parents installed cork flooring in their kitchen and it's noticeably more comfortable to stand on even if you're wearing shoes. Only drawback is that it's relatively delicate; you don't want to be dragging furniture around a lot.
posted by usonian at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can also do radiant heat under cork for warmth.

Here are other options
, like rubber flooring (like at the gym) or regular vinyl (Armstrong Congoleum or Solarium)

For fast installation, low cost and good looks, as well as being warmer than stone, I might choose Sheet Vinyl, with nice rugs on top of them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on February 24, 2015

Unless you put down a real subfloor (3/4" ply or OSB) just about anything is going to feel cold, except maybe carpet with a really heavy pad underneath.

You're going to want rugs down on any hard-surface flooring, whether tile, laminate, linoleum, etc.

Linoleum is still around. Most people, if they are going to go that route, get the "peel-n-stick" varieties that look a bit like tile, rather than the old-school wide roll stuff. (The wide roll type is really out of style right now, and not yet to the point of being "retro". It's just bad. Like, meth-lab bad. I'd say you're better just leaving the concrete than installing it.) The only issue with the peel-n-stick stuff is that it has a lot of edges, and it will peel if it gets damp or if water comes up through the concrete from behind it. And sometimes it doesn't like to stick to concrete if there's any sort of powdery residue on it (which has to do with how the concrete was poured/cured).

We did ceramic tile in our basement and it was a lot of work and expense. Click-lock flooring probably would be easier. (However, we got a deal on the tile, which you can sometimes get if you hunt around. We got ours from a surplus-salvage place on an auction.) The good thing about tile is that it doesn't really care about water entry. If you are confident that your basement will never flood, then you could go with click-lock. If it floods or you have issues with water, I'd go with tile and bite the bullet on the expense, or not put anything down at all.

And then you'll want to get some throw rugs just to help with the feeling warm issue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2015

One option is an epoxy finish with foam tiles on top. That brand of epoxy finish can be custom tinted.

I've used both those products with happy results. Though, if you don't like the look of laminate... how fancy do you want the room to look?
posted by slipthought at 1:28 PM on February 24, 2015

We just got real, true sheet linoleum installed in our bathroom (Forbo's Marmoleum brand). It looks nice, is definitely not as cold as tile, was a period-appropriate choice for our 1800s house, and is a "green" material if that is something you care about. However, it is a pain to work with and requires a professional installer; I had to do some hunting to find someone who had experience with the material.

Vinyl will be easier, cheaper, and less fuss. There are some vinyl patterns that look a lot like tile, too. Go look at some, and see how you feel about it.
posted by yarntheory at 1:56 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

We have rubber flooring, like at the gym. It is comfy and warm and easy to clean. EXCEPT!!! We installed it over the (sealed)former well room, and the tile there has turned colors and the glue is seeping up between the cracks. I don't even want to know. Living in denial. But the rest of the basement is very nice!
posted by Malla at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding the idea of a sealed concrete floor, which can look really nice (especially in a warm tone, I think) and then just adding some nice wool or sisal rugs...
posted by three_red_balloons at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2015

Armstrong has some sheet vinyl that looks spot on like hardwood. Easy to clean no stinking mustiness from carpet. I think i paid about 1500. Installed. Looks like an oak floor.
posted by BarcelonaRed at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2015

We have this Armstrong Alterna groutable vinyl tile in our kitchen and bathroom. It looks very very much like ceramic or stone tiles, but is not icy cold underfoot and because its somewhat flexible, doesn't require special backer-board or perfectly-flat underlayment.
posted by aimedwander at 8:42 AM on February 25, 2015

Your budget appears to be $15/sf installed, which gives you a fair amount of flexibility. I've been researching a similar question. I've found a fair number of websites claiming that engineered hardwood handles moisture and temperature differences better, after you put down a moisture barrier. (I still have to research which ones off-gas significantly.) That might be your best bet if your prime concerns are warmth and appearance. There are also recycled "resilient flooring" options, including some snap-lock stuff that looks really easy to install (or remove to clean or replace in the case of flooding or other damage), some of which mimics wood in a neat way.
posted by slidell at 10:02 AM on February 25, 2015

What about Flor?
(carpet tiles, but not so bad)
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 5:21 PM on February 25, 2015

strongly recommend cork. It actually has inherent anti-microbial properties, and the material is a bit flexible so it can work well on a not-perfectly-level slab without a lot of underfloor leveling. I live in a partially below grade apartment with cork flooring a love it. We have one carpeted room which does smell a little dank, so carpet is not a good idea, I think.
posted by annie o at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2015

I still have an ugly unfinished basement and have never tried this, but loose lay vinyl looks promising (Karndean, Supreme). It looks like reasonably attractive flooring, seems pretty simple to install (over level concrete, if needed), and only key pieces need to be glued down in some installations. So if you do get flooding or damage to some planks, you just pull them up and dry the floor / replace the planks.
posted by maudlin at 9:24 AM on February 28, 2015

Response by poster: Just to update: we decided on bamboo, but the bamboo we could find that would fit our budget (which turned out to be way lower than I'd hoped, due to having to replace the washer/dryer first thing) had Consumer Reports ratings which were abysmal... so we ended up going with a laminate that was both highly recommended by Consumer Reports AND cheap as hell (Project Source Winchester Oak laminate). There was actually a subfloor under the carpet when we pulled it up, so we just put a little insulating underlayment under the laminate, and an area rug over it, so hopefully it won't be too cold.

Here it is installed in our basement. It looks better than the laminate we've used before from Ikea that I hated, and it is just a basement after all. And it cost only $300 (the basement was bigger than I thought, 320sf), which I like A LOT.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

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