Can You Install Hardwood Flooring in a Basement?

Can You Install Hardwood Flooring in a Basement?

Hardwood flooring is one of the most elegant, durable and versatile options when it comes to residential properties or commercial office spaces. It can work for virtually any space, including living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, as well as office spaces, retail spaces, and other commercial properties.  

However, hardwood floors are not always the best option. For instance, hardwood floors are not recommended to be installed in bathrooms or kitchens, where there are constant fluctuations in temperature and humidity. But are they suitable for basements? Keep reading this article to find out our recommendations on installing hardwood floors in a client’s basement.

The pros and cons of hardwood floors in a basement 

Hardwood floors are the epitome of elegance and timelessness, and they can add value to any space. They are extremely durable, easy to clean and maintain, and can last a lifetime if properly cared for. For a residential home, hardwood provides comfort, warmth, and is a great option for families with children and pets, as they can handle a lot of wear and tear and be refinished every few years to extend their lifespan. 

On the downside, hardwood floors can be expensive, and they can present issues like scratches, dents, warping, and even buckling over time. In order to maintain the floors in top condition, clients need to work with qualified professionals to properly acclimate and install the floors in place. Cleaning and maintenance should always be done with special products designed to be used on hardwood, avoiding wet mopping or cleaning using water or household items. 

Moisture is hardwood’s worst enemy, and in a basement, it’s hard to avoid it completely. Wood is hygroscopic, which means it’s highly susceptible to damage caused by shifts in humidity and temperature. In a basement, where dampness is almost always a concern, it can be hard to provide a good environment for hardwood floors to work. 

Additionally, installing hardwood floors over concrete basement floors can prove challenging, and might require extra steps during the installation process. A gravel substructure would be ideal, as it will help drain any groundwater buildup on lower levels. A level, flat concrete slab should cover the gravel level and it should be allowed to cure and dry for at least 30 days, preferably longer. You’ll want any moisture in the concrete slab to evaporate before even thinking of installing hardwood floors over it, to avoid damage caused by moisture. 

Last but not least, a full subfloor with a moisture barrier is critical if your client really wants to install hardwood flooring in their basement. There are different types of damp-proof barriers that can be used to install hardwood flooring above concrete, but you should always consult a professional to help you make the right decision. Most barriers feature a layer that can be attached to the subfloor via an adhesive, or a primer or sealer coat that protects the subfloor from moisture. The floor will also need to be coated with an anti-damp finish to prevent damage down the line. 

A final consideration for clients who are set on installing solid hardwood flooring in their basement is this: failing to follow the manufacturer’s guidance and recommendations can void the warranty on hardwood flooring, which in turn means pricier repairs for your client. Installing natural wood in a space it’s not necessarily designed for can also pose challenges in terms of insurance and damages, if there is ever a claim made by the homeowner. 

These potential situations should be presented to the client so that they can make an informed decision. Of course, hardwood floors can work for a basement space, but even with proper installation and care, there is still always a potential risk involved. 

Alternatives to hardwood flooring for a basement space

As we’ve seen, the cons tend to outweigh the pros when it comes to installing hardwood floors in a below-grade space like a basement. Your clients should always be aware of their alternatives, which include engineered wood flooring, laminate, vinyl, or ceramic. 

Engineered wood floors are a great option for a basement, especially for those clients looking for a hardwood ‘feel’ to their space. If the plan for the basement involves a movie room or a game room, or even a guest bedroom, engineered wood floors can add warmth and comfort and turn a dark space into a cozy sanctuary. At the same time, engineered wood is not as susceptible to water damage as hardwood, and isn’t as sensitive to changes in humidity. 

Engineered wood floors feature a synthetic core and a thin, veneer-like layer of hardwood to give them a similar appearance to oak, cherry, or maple, to name just a few. They are not waterproof, but are much more water-resistant than solid hardwood, and they also tend to be more affordable. 

Laminate flooring is another good option for a basement, consisting of a waterproof surface over a fiberboard core. The core, unfortunately, is also prone to water damage, and can warp and even rot, but on the upside, replacing it is fairly easy and not too expensive. If you want a truly waterproof, solid surface that provides the best possible protection against moisture, then ceramic tile is your best option. It’s not, however, the warmest or most elegant option, so the final decision will ultimately depend on how the basement is going to be used. 

The decision to install hardwood flooring in a basement will depend on various factors, like the moisture level in the space, the type of hardwood, the installation process and the subfloor, and the purpose of the space itself. We don’t recommend installing solid hardwood floors in a basement, but if a client is looking for that hardwood feel and elevated look, we’ll advise them to go for engineered wood flooring and a quality subfloor. 

For more information on our products and services, or if you have any questions regarding the best flooring options for a particular space, feel free to reach out to us at First Atlanta Flooring and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.