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Tommy2 02-11-2009 08:57 PM

Basement flooring options..
I need to put down flooring overtop of concrete in my basement. About 600 sq ft or so worth. The space is evenly divided into 2 large rooms. (load bearing wall in the middle..could remove and put in a beam..but, eh..the house is solid, why screw with it??)

Id like one room to be the "nice" side. Some nice home built furniture, nice TV, nice book cases, etc.. The other side has the washer and dryer. It can be a little more utiltarian. May still work for a game room.

My wife and I are having a heck of a time agreeing on a floor.. Personally, I think Id like to just do VCT tiles in both rooms. Its cheap, holds up well to water (in case it ever flooded), and is easy to install.
I could do a nice diaganol pattern. 2 colors with 4 squares of each color.

Whats even better, is that I have about 400 sq ft of black and white tiles sitting in the garage. The plan was to use them there..but I really need to get the house finished before remodeling the garage.
But, my Wife refers to them as "garage tiles" and thinks they are too ugly to put in a house.

I also have about 400 sq ft of laminate flooring. However, this is cheap laminate flooring. Which can often be "clicky" and not terribly attractive. The concrete floor has some slight wavyness to it. Nothing bad, but something that could be a problem with a floating floor(subfloors really need to be immaculate for floating floors). Not to mention, if it gets wet..Youre pretty well screwed. (our bsmt is dry though). Im thinking of just letting that flooring go on Craigslist or something.

Then, I think..What about ceramic or stone tile? Big 16X16 tiles arent too expensive. That would work well below grade..

Also, I think about regualar wood flooring. Maybe just put down some sheets of plywood over the concrte floor, then nail down whatever flooring I want. Anyone ever do that? Is that at all damaging to the slab? (cant imagine it being too good for it..)

Anyways, as you can tell...I have alot of options and no idea what direction to go in. :eek:

Any help is appreciated!

onlinehandyman 02-11-2009 10:57 PM

Good question, Tommy2 I would have to say stay away from the wood in the basement. VCT is good, but if you want a little classier go with the ceramic or porcelain tile. Another good inexpensive option for the basement is low pile glue down carpet, but the easiest way is going with VCT both on the labor and the wallet.

yummy mummy 02-11-2009 11:13 PM

I also have two rooms in my basement that I am renovating and I have decided to go with ceramic or porcelain tiles.

That way, I can be certain that no water will damage, are durable, easy to clean.

There are some really nice tiles out there. Even some that look like hardwood flooring.

Mudd 02-14-2009 05:02 PM

Here's my take on basements slabs...

They usually have a pretty high moisture content. They can look and feel dry, but the moisture is just evaporating off from a little below the surface.

Concrete is finicky stuff... the chemical reaction that hardens it can go on for decades and overall, the slab will shrink a bit over decades.

The concrete you're looking at is in an equilibrium situation. When you make changes that affect this, the slab will go through changes until it finds a new equilibrium.

Now, I'm not equating equilibrium with steady state; even in equilibrium there are seasonal changes...

The best example (or worst, depending on perspective) that I've ever seen of what can happen to concrete when it's forced to find a new equilibrium is a church where vct was installed on an area that had been bare concrete for 20 years.

I was called in to look at it after the contractor who did the vct told the church it wasn't his problem...

I saw a vct floor with more lumps and bumps than the surface of the moon. The church said that the floor had been flat before the vct was installed but that in the months after the installation, it became extremely lumpy...

The slab had been in equilibrium for many years... moisture entered from below and evaporated off through a set of pathways ("capillaries" in concrete parlance). When the vct and adhesive were laid on the floor, that prevented moisture from evaporating off in that area.

The moisture built up, exerting tremendous pressure (most people would be surprised at the forces involved in this sort of thing), and the concrete moved. I could follow the lumpy subfloor to an expansion gap/partition in the concrete slab where the moisture found a new exit. The concrete on the other side of the gap was still flat.

In a nutshell, as long as the slab looks and feels dry in a basement area, the best two types of flooring (in my opinion) are carpet over pad, and ceramic. Moisture can continue to evaporate off through the carpet and pad, and can evaporate off at the grout lines of ceramic.

I'm not saying you'll have a problem with other types of flooring, just that the potential exists. I'd definitely avoid laminate and wood, and think that sheet vinyl isn't that great below grade either (moisture can build up under it and migrate out to the wall line, causing mold/mildew issues).

And that's my two cents.

- Mudd

Tommy2 02-14-2009 05:20 PM

Wow..Ive done alot of looking into VCT and have never heard of it doing that.

I did wonder though if moisture could vent through the tiles..Guess not. Looks like another reason to go ceramic. Carpet is a no go..I dont want to risk it getting wet.

I bet the VCT would be ok though because the concrete is very dry. Most slabs look a little glossy, almost wet. Ours is more powdery in appearence. Very dry.

Mudd 02-14-2009 05:26 PM

Don't be so sure... the ones that have a powdery look generally have more moisture coming through them than the ones that don't.

The powdery look in these cases (especially whitish powder) is often from alkali dust expelled from the slab due to capillary action.

I guarantee you have some moisture coming through the slab.

Too much?

Do this...

Get a few pieces of clear plastic sheeting (the thicker kind) about 2' x 2' and duct tape them to the slab (taping the full perimeter of the plastic).

Wait a week. If the concrete turns dark and/or beads of moisture collect on the plastic, stick to ceramic.

Mudd 02-14-2009 05:49 PM

On a side note, making flooring changes that affect the equilibrium of water evaporation through slabs will often cause the concrete to do unexpected things.

I'm not talking about cutting out a 4 x 4 patch of dirty carpet at an entry and replacing it with a piece of sheet vinyl. The moisture doesn't have to go far to find a new way out, especially when it is close to the edge of the slab.

However, when putting in a relatively good-sized area of flooring that's impervious to moisture on a slab that didn't have such a covering before, expect something to happen.

Not saying it'll be major, but often hairline cracks in that area which hadn't grown in years (just opened and closed a bit with the seasons) will extend out into other areas. If one of those areas has ceramic stuck to it... you might see some cracks in the tile.

I've been in flooring a long time and have seen some weird things occasionally.

I had a customer call about a year after we put vinyl in a family room and say that there were bubbles forming in the vinyl.

Upon inspection, the bubbles followed a line to the outside wall. I went outside and saw a big vertical crack in the slab that corresponded with the bubble line.

When I'd measured, the customer had taken up the existing carpet and I'd got a look at the slab and I note big existing cracks on my diagrams as a CYA procedure. There was no note on the diagram. Also, the customer said she didn't remember any big crack there when she last saw the slab.

She insisted that the glue was failing and wanted to have the vinyl replaced.

I insisted that there was a crack in the slab that was causing the failure.

I called the owner of the store and asked him to come to the jobsite as a witness and showed him the crack outside and he agreed with my conclusion. The customer insisted we "prove" the crack in the slab was the cause of the bubbles.

Several times, we encouraged her to feel the floor (you could feel it with your hand through the vinyl) and told her we really didn't want to cut into the vinyl to prove things, but to no avail...

So, we cut away the vinyl and sure enough, the bubbles were all on top of a wide crack that hadn't been there a year before.

Can I prove that switching from carpet to sheet vinyl caused the slab to shift and crack? No. Obviously there were other forces involved.. but I have a strong suspicion that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

rusty baker 02-14-2009 06:09 PM

Whatever you decide to install, moisture test first.

DangerMouse 02-14-2009 06:28 PM

you might consider floating cork on it, soft and warm, and water resistant.


Tommy2 02-14-2009 07:06 PM

Great advice Mudd...

I might just go with tile to avoid any problems. Its kind of hard to imagine how moisture can flow/evap through the grout Ive heard that elsewhere, so it obviously does work..

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