By Jenn Danko
Basements can be the center for family fun, but when it comes to laying the groundwork for good times that last, carpeting and certain types of hard flooring are not always the best options.
Just ask Alex Lloy, owner of Toronto-based Handyman Connection, who spends his days tackling small- to medium-sized home improvement, repair and remodeling services. As the lead specialist for his franchise repair business, he has seen his share of flooring-material mishaps, where materials all but buckled under various environmental factors.
"Typically carpet and hardwood are poor choices for basement flooring, as neither deals well with moisture," Lloy says. "The last thing a homeowner wants is mold growing under their flooring."
Although not the most weatherproof, some homeowners still choose to put carpet in basement areas because of the warmth and comfort it provides.
"But when there is a strong fear of flooding, homeowners typically look at vinyl options because you can use waterproof adhesive," says Jason Nicols, owner of Floor Coverings International in Mississauga, Ont. Tiles are also an option for flood-prone basements, but are also the coldest.
As an alternative to using traditional materials, there are methods contractors can use to maintain a dry base and provide a warm feel, Lloy says, including a new product called Dri Core. The product is applied in 2’ x 2’ squares, and allows moisture to move underneath to a designated drain.
"This product and others like it may not be cheap, but it will provide a rigid sub-floor for laminates and other products," he says.
Some products are also seemingly designed with basements in mind. Among those include engineered flooring, which consists of three or more layers of hardwood materials and high-density fibreboard core, which makes this flooring the most resilient to moisture or humidity, Lloy says.
Equally as important as weather-proofing is creating an evenly surfaced floor, Nicols says. He says one of the most innovative products on the market is Luxe Plank, by Armstrong, which essentially creates "a floating vinyl floor."
"Each plank attaches to the plank beside it—not to the floor beneath it—so there is no need for complicated tools, and it eliminates concern of an uneven floor," Nicols says. Contractors can install the flooring quickly and easily, and the adhesives around the edges resist water.
Despite various innovations however, when it comes to basement flooring, family comfort usually takes precedence, Nicols says.
"Homeowners will still chose flooring options that meet the needs of their families and how they are using the space," he says. "While there will always be standbys in basement flooring, companies will continue to add value to their products by adding features that make these products more efficient and durable."
In order to prevent flood damage, encourage your clients to survey their floors before hiring a contractor to install a new one, says Alex Lloy, owner, Handyman Connection in Toronto. When you have them on the phone, engage them on the current conditions of their homes.
"Moisture checks should be done before flooring is put down to see what exists," he says. "A simple test of taping a cut open garage bag to the floor and sealing all the edges with tape will indicate the level of moisture in your basement."
After a maximum of 48 hours, encourage clients to check under the bag for moisture; if it exists, the area has a moisture problem.
"Examine exterior grading to be sure water runs away from the foundation and install back flow valve in floor drains that will prevent sewer back up from heavy rains," Lloy adds. This will ensure the right floor is laid down that addresses and counteracts the floor’s flaws.