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Basic Basement Flooring Options

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Installing flooring in a basement can present you with a number of unique challenges. The concrete slab which is usually found at the base of these rooms is a porous material, which is surrounded by earth which will contain varying degrees of moisture throughout the year. That means that any flooring material which you lay over the concrete slab will have to be able to deal with a damp environment that is prone to seeping, leaking, and occasional floods.

The ideal basement flooring material will be:

  • Resistant to mold: Moisture can lead to the spread of germs, mold, and bacteria. You want to make sure that your flooring is either resistant or impervious to these forces.
  • Low Absorption Rate: The more that your flooring absorbs the moisture that seeps up from below, the colder, wetter, and more prone to mold it will be. Absorbent flooring will also tend to break down over long term exposure to moist conditions.
  • Warm: By choosing flooring which is warm to the touch, or which can be easily warmed by radiant heat systems, you can add a sense of comfort to a space that is often considered cold and impersonal.
  • Easy to Remove or Replace: In the case of extreme weather and flooding, even the most durable flooring can become damaged. That means material which is easy and inexpensive to repair or completely replace is ideal in this location.

The following are some of the most popular basement flooring materials.

Porcelain

Available in a variety of different colors and textures, you have to make sure that you choose impervious tiles rated for moist basement environments rather than absorbent non vitreous tiles. Porcelain should also be installed over a sub floor to prevent cold and moisture from interfering with the installation.

Natural Stone

This is a popular look for rustic basement flooring, but these tiles can be particularly expensive to purchase and install. Natural stone is also highly porous which means that it may be susceptible to water seepage damage and mold. All basement stone installations should be sealed using a below surface chemical sealer. This should be reapplied every six to twelve months.

Linoleum

A very popular choice for basement flooring installations, linoleum is an inexpensive inorganic plastic material that is resistant to mold and impervious to moisture. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, it is a relatively quick install when purchased in sheets.

Vinyl Tiles

These easy to install tiles are resistant to mold and impervious to moisture. However you have to make sure that the adhesive you use will remain strong in a moist basement environment. The fact that they come in tile form allows you to create your own unique patterns and designs. It also allows you to easily replace damaged squares. The drawback to vinyl is that the seams will show any unevenness in the concrete slab. They can also be cold to the touch unless coupled with a radiant heating system.

Laminate Flooring

One of the best basement flooring materials, laminate is an inorganic material which can be manufactured specifically to be resistant to moisture and mold. It is relatively expensive, but it also provides you with a wide variety of colors and finishes, many of which can simulate less viable flooring options such as ceramic or natural hardwood.

Carpet

Should only be installed in a dry basement with adequate flood protection and a sub floor. Choose an inorganic water resistant material. Carpet squares allow you to remove, deep clean, or replace individual areas. If not properly installed in the right basement environment carpet can quickly become damp, uncomfortable, stained, and even turn into a haven for mold.

Cork

Soft, eco-friendly, and naturally resistant to bacteria, cork is an easy to install, choice for basements, that can also help insulate the space. Cork scratches easily, and may show wear and tear over time, but it is also inexpensive to replace.

Stained Concrete

A versatile and resilient option, stained concrete allows you to add a sense of color and style to the basement. However it will not by itself create a seal against moisture damage. Make sure that you apply a varnish or sealant that is resistant to hydrostatic pressure or it may end up pealing.

Epoxy Floor Covering

An expensive option that might be worth the cost. An epoxy coat can create a seal against moisture penetration and can even be used as a vapor barrier that allows you to install other flooring materials on top of it at a later date. This is often the best choice for basements where it is impossible to completely eliminate the threat of flooding.
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