Out of all the rooms in a home where flooring is installed, basements are among the trickiest. That’s partly because of the conditions in these areas, but also due to usage. Basements come in all shapes and sizes, and unless you’re comfortable with concrete, you’ve probably considered vinyl. In this guide, we’re going to talk about why it’s the best choice for these below-grade rooms and which types of flooring you should stay away from.
Why Basement Rooms are Bothersome
There are two general problems with basements – the design and moisture. Depending on the home, there could already be flooring in place if it’s a finished area. The floor in the basement could also simply be bare concrete which is resilient, but not very comfortable.
Whether you just want to cover up concrete with something a little easier on the eyes or plan to turn a basement into a living space, moisture can wreak havoc on those plans. The biggest concern is flooding, as a basement is a below-ground room. Without proper drainage in place on your property, it’s easy to end up with an inch or more of water in these areas.
Even if the driveway doesn’t slope near the basement and you have excellent drainage, moisture can still damage certain materials. You’ll also need to consider things that are overhead like air ducts which can produce condensation or plumbing leaks.
The Advantages of Installing Vinyl Flooring in Basements
To understand why vinyl is such a great choice for the basement, you’ll need to know how it’s made. Vinyl is a synthetic form of flooring made largely from PVC. The design is printed on an image layer, which is protected by a wear layer.
That top coat keeps light scratches and scuffing from damaging the image on each plank or tile. Beneath those layers is a PVC core, which provides stabilization. While layered like engineered hardwood, these layers are synthetic, not organic, which means they are not affected by moisture like other materials.
One of the biggest perks of vinyl flooring in any part of a home is its ability to resist water. The flooring itself won’t be damaged by leaks or spills, even if the subfloor beneath can be. Considering most basements have concrete subfloors, vinyl flooring is ideal for these areas.
With that in mind there are forms of waterproof and water-resistant vinyl designed with a unique click-lock system as well. While slightly more expensive, the additional cost is worth it if in basements with overhead plumbing or appliances that use water.
It’s Easy to Maintain
When flooring is resistant to water, even briefly, it makes cleaning easier. While you can’t use a steam mop on hardwood, you can do that with some forms of waterproof vinyl. Spray mops are generally safe as well as long as the edges are tightly locked together.
You don’t need a vacuum cleaner for vinyl flooring, and it’s more stain-resistant than carpet, engineered hardwood or laminate. It’s considered one of the best low maintenance styles of flooring, but is highly resilient to damage as well.
While not the thickest type of hard flooring surface, luxury vinyl flooring is surprisingly durable. On average, it’s thinner than laminate and most engineered hardwood. The core makes up the thickest parts of these planks and tiles, but the material itself is highly resistant and durable in high-traffic areas.
Vinyl flooring can still be damaged or gouged by sharp objects, but you won’t have to worry about scuffs or light scratches from everyday use. The wear layer plays a part in that, which can be more than 20mil on premium flooring. The most durable form of vinyl flooring is SPC, however, which is a rigid vinyl. WPC vinyl flooring has a bit more flex, but is also stiffer than luxury vinyl.
Easy to Install
Luxury vinyl flooring is considered budget-friendly by most homeowners, especially when compared to the materials it mimics. The price of the material is more affordable, but it’s also incredibly easy to install for homeowners and contractors alike. You won’t need nails to install vinyl tile, and you probably won’t need glue.
Traditional vinyl planks needed to be glued to the floor with adhesive whereas most modern planks rely on a click-lock system. This allows the edges of each board to be locked into place, which speeds up the installation considerably. Only a handful of tools are required to install vinyl flooring, which makes it one of the most DIY-friendly styles around.
Wide Range of Styles
Are you planning to install vinyl flooring in an unfinished basement? If so, you may not need anything fancy, but will certainly have a wealth of options to choose from. Most vinyl planks are designed to look like wood or natural stone. The former is a great fit for unfinished below-grade rooms, especially in vinyl tile format.
Manufacturers use a number of techniques to help these plastic planks look like real wood or stone as well. In finished basements, you’ll be able to find a board that will go with any style of décor from worn driftwood to a dozen shades of gray. Vinyl plank flooring is far more attractive than rubber and warmer underfoot than other basement flooring alternatives.
What about Laminate Flooring in Basements?
While we feel that luxury vinyl is the best choice for basements, the debate often comes down to vinyl or laminate in many homeowners minds. That’s because they both share similar price points, and are designed to replicate the look of hardwood or stone. Laminate can be used in basements, but before you choose it over vinyl, there are a few things you should know.
Laminate flooring is a wood-based product. It’s susceptible to moisture for that reason, and not the best choice for basements. Laminate boards affected by excess moisture or water damage can swell or buckle. While you may not have to worry about the subfloor, you will have an expensive remodeling job on your hands.
An exception would be laminate flooring that has been rated as waterproof or water-resistant. There are around a half-dozen companies that produce this type of flooring, although you still need to make sure it’s suitable for below-grade rooms like a basement. Other poor choices for flooring in below-grade rooms are carpet, hardwood and cork.
We hope our guide helped show why vinyl is the best option for basements, and that any type of flooring that can be affected by moisture is a bad idea. While there are a few flooring alternatives for basements, none provide the style of comfort of luxury vinyl flooring or tile.