Basement floor options?
March 17, 2018 4:06 PM   Subscribe

What are good flooring materials to turn a concrete basement into a living space? Ideally something durable, waterproof, attractive, inexpensive, and not freezing cold.

Putting a floor into an old concrete basement to use as a living space. The concrete floor needs to be levelled (probably with levelling compound?). It's fairly dry for a basement, but it will contain a kitchen and laundry, so waterproof would be good.

Currently considering a vinyl fake-wood Home Depot product that has a closed-cel layer in the middle which supposedly helps keep the floor from being too cold (has anyone tried that brand?).

Aesthetically, would like something that approximates wood, either in a fairly light colour (white / birch / pale grey), or a warm, realistic-looking multi-toned wood (similar to acacia).

Also considering laminate and other similar materials. There are so many.

Any product recommendations? Seeking flooring AND levelling AND underlayment reccos.
posted by pseudostrabismus to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ehh, I'd really suggest going to an actual flooring place and talking to their reps rather than going to Home Depot. Their stuff really isn't the best, and it's not necessarily the best price either.

That said, if you want something that looks a lot like wood, is durable and waterproof, is not terribly expensive, and is not cold on the feet, you're on the right track. Vinyl plank flooring is the type that I would point you toward. I just would talk to somebody at a for-real flooring store rather than a home improvement big-box.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:26 PM on March 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

We installed this ceramic tile that resembles hardwood in our basement and have been pleased so far. We're in the South so cold is relative for us, but we chose tile figuring it will last longer and be more durable than vinyl.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2018

Luxury vinyl planking is awesome and has all the attributes you listed.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:04 PM on March 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

If your budget can afford it, dricore tiles. Dricore at home depot It's a subfloor you lay under your laminate.

We went with a cheaper alternative: DMX vapor barrier It has similar insulation and lets the concrete breathe (if you're in a wet place). The one downside is its not as stable, since the Dricore has a solid layer. With good quality vinyl planks it hasn't been an issue.
posted by cfraenkel at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

+1 for DriCore. A little pricey, but it is easy to install and creates both a thermal and moisture barrier below your floor. Use a foam underlayment, then a reasonable laminate (I got a decent one for 89 cents/sqft at Lowe's), and you're good to go.
posted by LouMac at 8:28 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dri-Core with luxury vinyl floor is a great combo. Home Depot has a good selection and decent pricing for both. While I wouldn’t point to them for hardwood, they are strong in luxury vinyl.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 8:40 PM on March 17, 2018

As a 'temporary' measure (it's been down 6 years) we used the cheap and cheerful interlocking foam mats as a playroom floor on a fairly level, and quite dry, concrete floor. It has worked well for the kids, and makes a HUGE difference to the warmth. I have seen it in 'fake wood tone' versions. Certainly not a permanent fix, but a decent stopgap if there isn't much boots/heavy shoe traffic on it.. When we do it 'for real' we are going to put down Dricore and then laminate for the warmth. It was a shock how much of a heat sink that floor is.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 8:51 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

My parents went with vinyl plank on Dri-core and run a dehumidifier as well and the basement is now very comfortable.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:14 AM on March 18, 2018

If you have any intention of adding a powder room or bathroom down there, now is the time (before the concrete is poured) to do the subgrade piping. In this case, having a full plan (where the toilet will go; stud locations, wall coverings) drawn up will save you weeks of headaches in the future. I put in piping at my old house when I bought it (2002) but didn't install the fixtures and finishes until 2008.
On that same note, consider in-floor electric heat for the restroom. I was feeling flush and bought it on a lark when I finished our bathroom, but it was both a boon to our feetses while we lived there, and a major selling point when we were moving.
posted by notsnot at 5:00 AM on March 18, 2018

We went with luxury vinyl plank flooring for our basement apartment floor. It makes a HUGE difference in warmth and in making the basement look more homey.

We went with a 6.5mm option in acacia. It has an attached cork underlayment, and we put down a vapor barrier first (aka a thick sheet of plastic). We've had it for a year now and love it!

However, installation was a PITA...
Attached underlayment made it too thick to cut with a utility knife. It's nice to have the cork for the warmth and foot-feel, but we had to cut it with power tools and it was not as easy as every site makes it sound. If I did it again, I'd either hire someone else to install or go with a thinner plank and a separate underlayment.

We didn't get enough at first and the price skyrocketed. Due to the cutting difficulty (and life stuff), we took forever to install. We ended up short by about 100 sq ft, but when I went to order more, it would've cost about as much as the other ~600 sq ft. So yeah, we've got a bare patch... So measure really well and be generous with buying extra! Better to have a few left over in case of bad cuts etc anyways.

On a side note: basically all these planks come from factories in China and are rebranded to be sold here, so sites like Alibaba can give an interesting overview of choices. Shop around once you figure out what thickness & color you want; shipping will be the killer so look for places you can pick up from or places with low/free shipping. You'll find more-or-less the same thing at a few different places with different brand names.

On Home Depot's options: we tried the Allure Isocore for our bare patch and ended up returning it. The click-lock part was too fragile/brittle and kept breaking on us (this was after it had been acclimated and everything). Home Depot took it all back, including the open box with the broken planks, so it's low-risk to give them a try at least!

On laminate: we read that it's a bad choice for potentially-wet areas. We have many sources of water (washing machine, dishwasher, sinks, small children) so that was a big no for us.
posted by Baethan at 7:53 AM on March 18, 2018

Cork!!! Looks great, has the warmth of wood and best of all it's resistant to mildew. I've lived with it in a basement and loved it. Also flexible, so it can handle any irregularities in your slab.
posted by annie o at 6:12 AM on March 27, 2018

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