What lies beneath (laminate flooring)
January 22, 2017 6:15 AM   Subscribe

So, we've been in our house for a year, and we're tired of the cat using the basement rec room as a personal vomitorium. Said room is carpeted; said carpet is now disgusting. We want to rip it up and replace with laminate. The question is, how to deal with the subfloor.

I've ripped up half of the carpet and there is a half inch layer of foam underneath it, followed by some wooden slats about 1/4 of an inch thick, and it looks like there's concrete underneath.

Question: what's the best option for the layers beneath the laminate? The foam is at least 5-6 years old according to the previous owners. I'm worried that if we put the laminate on top of it, the floor will be "squishy," and not feel solid. On the other hand, without the foam I'm worried that the floor will be very chilly. Should we just replace it with a thinner layer of foam? Something more firm?

Any advice would be helpful!
posted by greatgefilte to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: For example, would this kind of vapor barrier be ok if we put it on top of the slates and then put the laminate on top of that?
posted by greatgefilte at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Instead of laminate, could you put down sheet vinyl flooring that already has a cushion layer underneath it? I have some in my spare room and it looks like a wooden floor, but it came on a roll and is super easy to keep clean. The foam layer underneath keeps it warm and comfortable to walk on. Lowes' website has lots of options.
posted by essexjan at 7:50 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, I should add, my vinyl floor is laid over a concrete floor.
posted by essexjan at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2017

Response by poster: essexjan, is there much of a cost difference?
posted by greatgefilte at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2017

It sounds like you're talking about carpet padding -- if that's the case, it definitely needs to come up before you lay a new floor. To figure out what kind of insulating underlayment you can use with a flooring, check the manufacturer's website for installation instructions. They'll usually spell out what the options are for a given flooring.
Seconding essexjan's recommendation of vinyl (frequently called "resilient" these days), though I'd go with planks. The maintenance is easier than laminate so if the cat makes a mess again your floor won't be ruined. It's easy to install yourself, and in my experience is generally cheaper than laminate for the same look -- I had it for several years and it looked and felt more like a wood floor to me than laminate I could have gotten for the same price. Vinyl's pretty warm too -- I walk around in bare feet pretty much all the time and even in the dead of winter it never felt like I was walking on cold concrete.
Really, though, your best option is probably to go to a local home store like Home Depot at a slow time when the salesperson in flooring can really chat with you. They'll know what underlayments and flooring options are good for your location (e.g., I live in the southern US so my take on the relative warmth of a flooring is probably not as useful to you), which products can work together, and what's readily available locally -- something you have to order from elsewhere will generally cost more than something you can just pick up at the store and take home with you.
posted by katemonster at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's comparable in price with decent quality laminate flooring, but more expensive than cheap laminate (which, in my experience, doesn't last, peels if it gets wet and looks like crap). The vinyl for my spare room (which is about 10ft x 10ft) was £90, which included the fitting.
posted by essexjan at 8:44 AM on January 22, 2017

Response by poster: OK, so get rid of the carpet padding and put laminate or vinyl with whatever underlayment is recommended.

What about the stick-on vs. click-in systems? Any major functional difference?
posted by greatgefilte at 9:00 AM on January 22, 2017

If you're going to put vinyl directly on the concrete, you'll want to clean and prep the concrete, probably with a sealant. Moisture coming through the slab is an ongoing issue. And even when the concrete looks clean, there's enough dust to reduce the adhesive's long-term viability.

Uninsulated, your floor will feel cold even in summer. So I would use at least a rigid foam insulation. Concrete floors are generally also not perfectly level, which carpet masks and vinyl will highlight.

Personally, if I were planning to stay in the house for a while and wanted to maximize use of the space, I would lay a moisture barrier membrane and install a subfloor using a frame of pressure-treated 2x4's, then flooring over that. There are higher-tech solutions as well.

Your cat would probably prefer floor heating.
posted by wonton endangerment at 9:47 AM on January 22, 2017

Response by poster: wonton, there's already a wooden subfloor on the concrete which I was planning on leaving in situ.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2017

Stick on vinyl tiles tend to come up after time, or after spills. I would recommend Allure vinyl click planks. Easy to install, good durability, long planks which make installation speedy.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 1:01 PM on January 22, 2017

It is a basement. It is the lowest point in your house. Start by examining the subfloor for any water damage. If there is any damage whatever solution you put in needs to be removable so that you can take care of flooding or whatever. As such, in my mind tilesending are good, as you can patch replace repair easily. Click and snap requires a much larger commitment to address issues.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:39 PM on January 22, 2017

We just installed Super Fast Hurricane laminate on top of concrete. It is water resistant, and made for basement installation. So far, we love it, and I would recommend it if you want a hard flooring. It's pretty warm (vapour barrier and foam underlay help), and looks great.

If I was putting vinyl on the floor in your situation, I'd do decent quality glueless roll vinyl (which is fairly cheap, looks good, and is easy). I'd also ascertain if there is any water damage, and if there is, repair and install 7/16" treated plywood over the slat wood, with mahogany floor underlay, then put down vinyl floor (which can be rolled up if necessary in the future).

If the subfloor looks ok, I'd just install the mahogany underlay, and vinyl on top. Remember that the mahogany gets stapled down (with like 1,000,000 staples), not screwed, and you want your seams to match very tightly and level, so they don't show through the vinyl. Remember that whatever you put on top of your slat wood flooring, if it's soft, will eventually show any imperfections in the subfloor. Click vinyl is an option as well but is more work than the roll vinyl.

Your other options (cheap laminate, stick and peel) -- stay away like the plague. Listen to katemonster -- pick the brain of someone who knows flooring and your options, and take some pictures with you.

Always remember, however, that it's a basement; even if you have never had water issues, assume that you will eventually, and plan accordingly. You may never have a problem, but if you do something that is water-unfriendly, and/or super hard/impossible to remove, you'll be a sad panda. imho. We had a dry, brand-new basement that never had moisture/water issues at all, and when the storm of the decade rolled through, we wound up with 18 inches of water, and ruined carpets, underlay and drywall. YMMV.
posted by liquado at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2017

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