Laminate or vinyl on a concrete basement floor?
Sorry this is so long, but I am hoping for some good answers, so I want to get out all the details....
I am in the process of remodeling my basement. It had nasty carpet (from previous owner), but I am installing a kitchenette so I don't want carpet there.
My wife and I are considering either laminate or linoleum. We removed the old carpet, and the concrete slab below is somewhat uneven, and has cracks (none bad enough to be noticeable through the old berber carpet). We know that laminate will require care in installation (moisture barriers, etc.), and we have heard that the floor has to be very level or else you have popping, "seesawing", or even breaking/separating slats. We have been told that vinyl is a better application for this situation, but I know from experience that vinyl eventually will show every little bump underneath, so the floor really would have to be near-perfect.
Most importantly, we are on a budget, and don't want to spend thousands on labor alone having someone grind/fill/level the floor, nor do I want to double the cost (or more) by buying and installing subflooring of some sort on top of the concrete. I would love to be able to level the floor myself and install click-together laminate (pergo or similar), but everything I have seen online about store-bought floor-leveling compound looks like it is easy to screw up, tends to harden very quickly and make a mess, and doesn't do that neat of a job.
So, in summary, I guess my questions are really just these:
1) How difficult is it for a beginner to level a concrete basement floor to the quality required for laminate? Is it worth trying?
2) Just how level does a floor really need to be for laminate? Are all the demanding rules by the manufacturers just covering themselves for liability, or does it really need to be perfectly flat?
Thanks for any help anyone can give!
Although I cannot answer all of your questions, I can comment on the leveling compound. I'm surprised to find people saying that it is easy to screw up and makes a mess really deters you from it. That could be said about lots of things. I used floor leveling compound after owning my first home for only a month and nevre having done a DIY project in the home before. I found it was pretty straight forward stuff. Messy - sure, but ever work with thinset? Or Drywall mud? Or even concrete for that matter? Same kinda messy. Easy to screw up? Maybe, but it worked great for me and didn't take much effort. I was careful and took my time. I found just the opposite. It took an annoyingly long time for mine to dry - more than over night in fact. It sets up fairly quickly I guess, but it levels itself before it does. You may wanna give it a shot.
Let others chime in here as well, i'm not a pro by any means.
self leveling may be the way to go.
Vinyl will require great leveling as it will show alot. Lam will require less leveling unless your just talking about a slope, and then vinyl will slope right with it.
If your area is large then Vinyl is not DIY friendly because of seams.
Lam however can be DIY friendly ESPECIALLY in large areas.
I would need to know more specifics on your floor to decide which to go with.
Thanks - more info
Thanks for the comments.
J187, what type of leveling compound did you use (if you remember)? Was it just from a HD/Lowe's place, powder that you mixed to make the compound? When you are putting it down, was it thick enough that it "stayed put" where you put it, or is it thin enough that it "runs around"?
Florcraft, the area is about 14x14, but seems to bulge in the middle - there are no really visible ups or downs standing in the room, but when I "scree" it with even just a 48" level, there are dips/bulges such that the floor drops away from the level in the middle nearly 1/4". I have read things that say laminate should not even have a drop that big over 10', much less 4' (again, do you think they are exaggerating to cover themselves?). The offset is fairly smooth - as I said, you really don't notice it just standing in the room - but I would think that it would be a problem with laminate because it's not a straight slope, but a bow. There is also a drainage system under one side (previous owner had installled) which was topped with newer, lightweight concrete, which is about 12" wide, and while it doesn't really affect the floor situation, the "newer" concrete really drops off even more, in just that last 12".
The compound I used was from HD. Not sure of the brand. By nature the stuff is not going to be too thick, otherwise it wouldn't self-level. But for me, it really wasn't all that tricky. I levelled a pretty good size section of floor too.
Be prepared, Floor leveling compound is not cheap. I think it goes for about $28.00 - $ 30.00 a bag.
It takes alot to do just a 12x12 room dependant on your pitch and level issues. You are talking about doing a whole basement?
Spend some time figuring out the costs in detail. Compare that cost to bringing in a company to pump it in. We have done both. The product that they use when pumping it in is mixed on site and called Gypcrete.
You should allow plenty of time for drying. At least 48-72 hours. The flooring leveler will push out excess water to the surface as it dries. So you may also want to run a dehumidifier and open up windows to speed the process up.
Wow, I swore I mentioned the cost in my posts, but reading back I guess I didn't. I definitely intended to. Atlantic raises an excellent point, I found leveling compound Shockingly expensive for the amount of coverage - that said, its hard to put a price on these types of things. I gladly paid the price, but he's right, if you are talking about a large area, just be ready to pay.
Did you go with the pergo by any chance? I am considering it and I would like to hear what some others think of it.
I have installed both Pergo and more "off brands" as well...I found Pergo to be worth the extra money for three reasons:
1. The tongue and groove was solid and much easier than other to get right and lock in without breaking.
2. Much more resistent to chipping at the corners...
3. in general, Pergo, the Pergo I installed anyway, feels more "solid and secure" to walk on.
I have had Pergo in my kitchen for 5 years and it is still in excellent shape.
I have had a more generic brand "dream home" in the playroom and it seems to be chipped in a few areas and is more sensitive to various kinds of cleaners. Mind you I have two young boys so the chips may have something to do with the Tonka trucks and such...but they "play through" the kitchen as well and I have seen a couple of accidents that I was certain would do some damage and...nothing.
The brand I installed in my neighbors house was an also an "off" brand and I had the same issue...even being very careful I occasionally would break the tongue on the board...was very frustrating ...at times I also had trouble getting the planks to lock up tight with no gaps. I had none of these issues with the Pergo...
I can tell you that installing the Pergo was a dream compared to the other brands I tried...
In general, I like laminate but I think in the future, now that I have gained a new love for tiling, I think I would do that....at least in the kitchen anyway...for a basement it is good because it isnt "cold" and because it is floating it can move in temperture changes...
I think floorcraft is correct though...it is important to define what is going on with the floor before you make the final decision. SLopes, dips, etc.
If you have dips it can be tough to install the laminate and you can get lips which will really cause chipping.
Hope that helps :)
Have you considered Tiles?
I know that this isn't what you ask, but, have you considered tiles?
Tiles aren't that difficult to fit (anyone can learn how to do it) and without any doubt will last longer than Vinyl or Laminate.
Remember that "cheap is expensive". Sometimes we try to save a few $$$ using certain materials and long term we end up wasting much more money than initially thought.
Besides if the floor isnít badly unlevelled (shouldnít be so bad being a concrete floor) youíll save the self-level compound as the minor problems will be covered by the thin set (or whatever youíll use to stick the tiles)
I believe that for a basement the best option are tiles.
If you want to know a bit more eMail me and Iíll send you a few urlís for some articles you may find interesting about basement remodelling. Since Iím new to this forum and Iím not sure if I can post urls (specially because they point to my own site and I donít want the moderator to think Iím just trying to spam the forum).
Hope this helps
Basement Floor COvering
Based on my recent experience finishing my 1100 sq. ft. basement, I would agree with MANOLOK. The main bar area is 12-18' w x 45'l and had a concrete floor in pretty decent shape with some random snots and dents; overall the floor slopes up into the foundation corners. The entire variation in the floor was about 1". After talking to several people who looked at it I decided to lay a QUALITY 12"x12" ceramic floor over QUALITY thinset finished with grout. I had one experienced guy leading and my self and another tyro helping. We did the entire floor in 2 1/2 days. The floor looks great with no trip hazards. I was able to literally cut the cost of the job by 2/3rds vs. using leveler and don't have any of the probelms expected with vinyl or laminate flooring.
Siken basement floor areas
My I ask how much did it cost you for the company or can you give me a company so I can get an estimate on floor leveling
Response to the original question about putting floor down in wet basement. Using most laminate products will be a problem because the "wood look" is actually printed paper with a coating and it is normally laminated to MDF, which is a fiberboard that will expand and fall apart if it gets wet and it will also support mold. Not to mention that normally in the manufacturing process for MDF a glue is used which often releases formaldehyde. The product I do recommend was specifically designed for use in wet basements and other wet areas. It is called Forest Waterproof Flooring. Web site is Forestaflooring.com. I finished my basement and one bathroom with it last year. It looks great and I have had 3 floods in my basement since the installation. Each time we pumped out the water and the floor was fine, no change, no odor and no mold. Great product.
The foresta product looks interesting. However, after looking through two pages of Google results, I still can't find a price.
Something tells me if you have to ask....
One other option that you could consider are OSB tiles mounted on a PVC base. These are 2' square! Just flop them down, then put what ever floor you want on top. I believe that Home Depot will carry these!
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