Subfloor Options for Basements

Before laying flooring, it's necessary to choose a basement subfloor that will provide you with protection and stability.

Floor Installation

Floor Installation

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik
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Subflooring is the material that lies beneath your basement floor, providing stability and durability.

11 Flooring Options: Best Ideas for Every Room

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Kids' Playroom

Safety and sound issues are foremost in this room, and carpet emerges as the best choice. It cushions kids' falls and takes the noise level down a notch. Some carpet is made from yarn that's virtually nonabsorbent, which allows spills to be cleaned easily.

Entryway

Any type of floor covering will work in this area, since most people wipe their feet off on a mat before entering the house. "If it's a high-traffic house with several kids and pets, I'd be more concerned with scratching (the flooring) than moisture," Jennings says. "Hardwood's still a good look for many homes, as well as ceramic tiles."

Bedroom

The most private room in the house is still the domain of carpet, which dampens sound and feels softer underfoot than other floor coverings. "Carpet is textile for the floor," Jennings says. "The construction of the fiber itself dictates how it performs underfoot. Choosing plush pile versus Berber is a cosmetic choice. Someone older, who's more tentative on their feet, wants a firm feel underneath, so a harder finished carpet is best to avoid slippage." Image courtesy of Shaw Floors

Dining Room

In most cases, the dining room is attached to the kitchen, so it makes sense to simply extend the flooring from one room to the next, whether you choose wood flooring, tile or cork. Image courtesy of Pergo

Guest Bedroom

While carpet is a popular choice for the bedroom, wood flooring, whether hardwood, engineered or laminate, can be a great alternative for a guest bedroom if you're looking to add style. Choose a warm color and a defined texture to up the coziness factor. Add a premium underlayment for maximum sound reduction. Image courtesy of Pergo

Library or Study

A study or reading room should exude a sense of elegance and formal serenity. Wood floors in dark, rich colors help make that statement. If you're on a budget, laminate is an affordable alternative to the real thing. Image courtesy of Pergo

Living Room

The flooring options for living rooms are many and should match the style of the house. Hardwood is timeless, and slate, terra cotta and carpet are also good choices.

Bathroom

Water splashed from the tub or shower and the high humidity in this room require flooring that won't be affected by moisture. Laminates and hardwood floors, which absorb moisture, aren't recommended, but ceramic tile is a good choice. And if you use natural stone or marble, seal them with a protective coating. Image courtesy of Daltile

Media Room

When watching television and movies or listening to music, the acoustics of a room are a factor. You don't want to disturb others in adjoining rooms, and at the same time you want to enjoy hearing what you're listening to. Carpet and cork are good choices where acoustics count. Avoid hardwood.

Basement and Below Grade

Before installing any flooring option, make sure there are no moisture issues with the concrete slab. If there are, laminate and wood wouldn't be good choices, because they tend to absorb water. Resilient vinyl floors are often used in basements because vinyl is unaffected by moisture and is low maintenance. Engineered wood or laminate flooring, above a moisture barrier, will also work. If moisture isn't an issue, carpet will help keep the room warm.

Photo By: Geoffrey Hodgdon

Kitchen

Wood flooring and tile are popular choices for the kitchen, which may be affected by liquids hitting the floor during cooking, but Tom Jennings, technical adviser and former chairman of the World Floor Covering Association, recommends cork for those who cook a lot. "Cork has a similar finish to laminate but has resiliency, which matters if you're going to be on your feet a lot," he says. Cork is virtually nonabsorbent and moisture-proof, and it won't burn. It comes in many patterns, making for a unique look. Jennings says the problem with using ceramic tile in the kitchen is that it adds weight and thickness to the floor, which can cause clearance issues with the refrigerator or stove areas.

Wood panels, such as plywood or oriented strand board, are common subfloor choices. However, because wood is a naturally porous substance that will absorb moisture, when used as a basement subfloor, these materials are often installed on mini-joists known as "sleepers," which allow it to sit above a concrete pad. Some experts also recommend coating the panels with a waterproof sealant for extra protection. Once a wood subfloor is installed and waterproof, you can install carpet, laminate and vinyl floors right on top.

Insulating subfloors are a welcome addition to basement spaces because they typically help to improve the warmth of the flooring that will be placed over it. These subfloors, which can be made from both synthetic and natural materials, are highly resistant to moisture.

A vapor barrier will protect flooring from the damp. This is a simple sheet of plastic that is taped over a concrete floor and will help keep out moisture.

Flooring Buyer's Guide

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