Authored by Douglas Mefford in Home Improvement
Published on 06-07-2009
Designing the decor of your basement requires understanding how to deal with the one specific problem this area of your home is subject to. Basements are either completely underground or very nearly so, and thus are very prone to absorbing moisture from the surrounding soil. That the basic form, and especially the floor of your basement, is concrete adds to this problem. The moisture will promote mold and mildew growth that creates a smelly and unhealthy basement environment. Wood flooring can easily buckle or warp and is also subject to some mold growth.
Even with a moisture resistant coating, the average basement will draw some moisture and this makes it impossible to lay a carpet directly onto the floor. This same moisture buildup can cause problems with hardwood or laminate flooring as well. One of the few methods for helping eliminate water and moisture damage to these types of flooring surfaces is to install a “vapor guard” under the surface. These guards are high-density polyethylene sheets with raised “dimples” that create air pockets to catch the condensed moisture and prevent it from rising to the flooring surface.
Engineered flooring can be a good choice for the basement flooring. While these types of flooring material are made of wood, the specific construction of the material helps eliminate many moisture-related problems. Engineered flooring is made in layers. Between the solid hardwood layers there is a core of high-density fiberboard. The cross-grain construction helps prevent warping and they are usually thin enough to add extra insulation and a vapor guard underneath so that the top surface hardwood is protected.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles also make effective basement floor covering. The tiles can be installed directly onto the concrete basement floor as desired, although one would have to seek out and repair any cracks in the concrete first to prevent the tiles from also cracking under the strain. As an alternative to this you can build a subfloor out of 2″x4″ rails under a plywood covering. This will give a smooth surface for attaching the tiles that is not subject to concrete cracks and can help keep moisture away from the floor surface.
Similar to the basic 2″x4″ rail system for keeping your flooring off the concrete underneath is to construct a “floating subfloor”. Floating subfloors have the extra advantage of being able to support a great deal of weight that may be involved with sofas or a regulation pool table if a gameroom is your objective. These come in 2′x2′ sections and are joined together with a tongue and groove fastening. They are not actually attached to the concrete but usually sit on a polyethylene vapor guard. Thus any moisture condensing from the concrete can easily be drained off to prevent mold problems. A floating subfloor can be surfaced with just about any flooring you want for a full range of decorating choices.
Linoleum floor covering can work well over concrete basement flooring as well as merely painting or staining the concrete directly. Area rugs will offer some protection from the natural chill of concrete flooring in high use areas and should be kept small enough to give the occasional airing out to. This will also help to prevent mold from growing in them. With a bit of planning, your basement flooring can be as beautiful and utilitarian as any other flooring surface in your home.