When it comes to choosing a floor type for your basement, your options are somewhat limited. Basements are generally below grade, meaning below ground level. While some floors are suitable for below grade installation, others are not. Floors that have a higher level of water resistance, such as rubber, linoleum and most tile types, are generally suited for basement floor installation.
If you want to install hard surface flooring in your basement, concrete, tile and stone are best. Despite concrete’s hard surface, they can still be damaged by spills and must be sealed periodically. Less permeable stone floor types such as flagstones, granite and slate can make for a perfect basement floor. Slate tiles, stone tiles and ceramic tiles can all be installed below grade, but like concrete, also need to be sealed.
When installing flooring over a concrete subfloor, make sure that the concrete is completely level and free from holes and cracks. You should never install over a concrete subfloor unless it passes pH alkalinity and calcium chloride tests. These tests can usually be found in most hardware stores. Sometimes concrete floors can emit moisture over time that can negatively affect the adhesives used in floor installation. You may need to have the concrete subfloor sealed and/or install a moisture barrier (e.g. plastic).
Floor types that are not generally suited for basement installation include floors made with wood materials such as bamboo, hardwood and cork. Wood floors have a tendency to expand or contract when exposed to extreme changes in humidity. In some cases, cork floors may be approved for basement installation if proper precaution is taken. Before installing a wood floor in your basement, make you sure you verify with the manufacturer to avoid voiding your warranty.
If you want hardwood floors in your basement but don’t want the hassle of constantly repairing moisture-related damage, consider installing high-laminate flooring (HPL). Laminate flooring that can handle high levels of foot traffic can be manufactured to resemble the exact hardwood floor type you like.
Linoleum and rubber floors are usually approved for basement installation as they are durable, antimicrobial and resilient. This means that in addition to bouncing back upon impact, their surface naturally deters mold and fungi. This is an ideal characteristic for those who suffer from allergies to bacterial growth.
If you want a basement floor that can withstand a below grade environment and is also eco-friendly, look no further than ceramic tiles. When properly sealed, ceramic tile floors can hold up well to moisture exposure. They can also be made with up to 70% recycled materials such as windshield and used glass bottles. In addition to being as strong or stronger as tiles made with newer materials, green ceramic tiles are often cheaper.