Wood flooring in basements is not such a far-fetched idea. Many homeowners immediately discount the idea in favor of more moisture-resistant floor covering options like tile, vinyl, and concrete.
Why Wood Is Not the Safest Approach
Being underground, basements are dreary places. So when finishing their basements, homeowners often take extra efforts to make the space warm and comforting.
Brighter lighting, vivid wall colors, extra heating, and more windows all make basements feel more welcoming. Wood also transforms basements into places that feel fit for human habitation.
Concrete is the safest basement flooring. Second to that would be ceramic or porcelain tile, sheet vinyl flooring, or plank luxury vinyl tile. Even in the event of something as catastrophic as a water heater flooding the entire basement, these floors would dry out to their original condition.
These are all inorganic materials. Any material that comes from a tree is organic and will be prone to rot and decay. The minerals in tile and concrete or the plastics in vinyl flooring will not rot.
Water in Basements
Basements are known as below-grade. In basements, water can come from within, sideways, or below.
- Within: This can mean water springing from leaky plumbing pipes, a backed-up clothes washer, or a failed water heater. Water may come from outside, via the edge of the foundation.
- Sideways: This can mean groundwater relentlessly pressing against foundation walls and forcing its way through cracks.
- Below: This is the more common than you may think, and this is moisture will seeping up through concrete in the form of vapor. Even if there is no visible moisture, vapor may slowly migrate upward.
Alternatives to Solid Hardwood
There is simply too much moisture present in basements to comfortably install solid hardwood flooring. You do have three alternatives. The first two are made from wood but considered to be more moisture-stable than solid hardwood. The third is not wood but it looks amazingly like wood.
- Engineered Wood Flooring: A thin veneer of real hardwood sits on top of a plywood base. This plywood is considered dimensionally stable as it holds shape better than solid hardwood in the presence of moisture.
- Laminate Floor – The top is not wood, but it looks like wood. But since its base is made of pressed wood, a laminate isn’t the best choice for high moisture environments. In that case, purchase moisture resistant laminate flooring.
- Luxury Vinyl Flooring – Yes, vinyl is inorganic, and we know that is a good thing is below-grade areas.
Conditions for Installing Solid Hardwood Flooring
In theory, though, if you have a dry basement that will remain dry, you can install hardwood flooring. Potential sources of moisture have been stopped:
- Pipes and water-related services that might leak are intact.
- Groundwater does not pose a problem. Grade-level water moves away from the house.
- Moisture barrier is installed on the floor.
- Humidity kept in check with a dehumidifier.
- A sump pump is operational.