It’s known that wood and water are natural enemies. Considering the moisture and condensation that basements receive, most people disregard the option of a hardwood floor for their basement and opt for intuitive choices like ceramic, porcelain, or even concrete.
However, hardwood is a safe and reliable option provided you take the right measures. Here’s a guide on the best type of hardwood floor for your basement!
Problems With Solid Wood
Let’s start by getting this out of the way. What’s the issue with solid wood? Well, water is the bane of the wooden floors.
Since basements often fall prey to water now and then, traditional solid wood should be avoided when flooring a basement, primarily because it’s highly organic and is susceptible to withering and, as a result, swelling and warping.
Alternatives to Solid Wood: Types of Hardwood
Fortunately, modern engineering has given us several alternatives usually created by binding lumber with more water-resistant materials while maintaining the hardwood’s beauty.
Engineered hardwood is made by compressing wood and binding it with inorganic materials like veneer, resin, and polymers. It’s then topped with real hardwood. Engineered hardwood can be installed on top of different types of subfloors as long as they’re leveled.
The materials put into engineered hardwood can withstand humidity and heat better than solid wood. They’re also much less likely to warp than solid wood, and even if they do, the hardwood will remain flat due to the expansion space installed around its perimeter.
And while engineered hardwood’s lifespan can be a bit shorter than solid wood, it can still last decades with proper care.
While laminate hardwood may not be real wood, it can imitate it very well with today’s printing technology. Laminate flooring is made by printing a very high definition image of natural wood and gluing it to a fiberboard (a wood product) that’s treated to prevent damage from water.
It’s also covered with a protective layer on top to help prevent scratches and maintain its overall look and feel. Laminate hardwood is designed to withstand, and it does so against humidity very well – its structural stability prevents gaps from popping up due to moisture.
Vinyl hardwood is quite similar to laminate in that it can simulate real wood very well. Vinyl is one of the most popular flooring types (not just in hardwood) because it’s versatile and incredibly resilient.
When it comes to design, vinyl is also durable against scratches and scrape marks. It also fairs exceptionally well against moisture, which is why it can be a reasonable consideration for basement flooring.
However, one of the drawbacks of vinyl is its tendency to gray over time if exposed to sunlight too much, but in a space that practically doesn’t get sunlight like the basement, that wouldn’t be an issue.
The Recommended Choice
Out of the three options above, our recommendation is engineered hardwood.
Engineered hardwood combines the best of both worlds: the aesthetic of organic wood and the durability of inorganic materials. It can endure moisture without most of the problems solid wood faces like cupping, gaps, and warping.
One of its significant advantages over laminate and vinyl is that it can be refinished when it gets older instead of being replaced entirely — it’s authentic wood, after all.
After you’ve settled on your hardwood of choice, there are two main things you’d need to consider before proceeding with the installation of the hardwood: the underlayment and the kind of the wood itself.
When installing hardwood floors in a basement, it’s crucial to find a quality underlayment that can be a sound barrier between the wood and moisture. Foam, felt, and cork are some of the most popular options. Rubber is also a great option, but it comes at a higher price tag since it’s considered more premium.
We recommend a foam underlayment such as irradiated cross-linked polyethylene (IXPE). IXPE is an excellent advancement in foam technology and offers many benefits such as:
- Waterproofness: This is one of the first things to look for when flooring a basement. IXPE is almost 100% waterproof, with data revealing that it absorbs less than 0.5% of water, making it great for combating moisture.
- Mold and bacteria resistance: Microscopic parasites like mold, fungus, and bacteria tend to develop on surfaces over long periods. Mold colonies don’t develop on foam because they don’t find it a reliable food source.
- Acoustic (sound) insulation: You know the annoying echo you hear whenever there’s a sound in a large room? Sound insulation helps prevent that. It can also muffle sounds made on the floor itself, such as footsteps.
- Thermal insulation and comfort: You’ll be thanking yourself when winter comes, and you find that the underlayment is insulating heat and making your floor more comfortable to walk on.
Type of Wood
The type of your hardwood depends on how much traffic your floor is bound to receive. While there aren’t many significant differences between the various types, you can add a nice extra bit of optimization.
If you expect your basement to be a high traffic area, you’ll want to go for tougher wood types such as rosewood, hickory, or mahogany. There are also many choices of walnut species, which vary significantly in terms of durability. For lower traffic, some of the most popular options are oak, maple, and American cherry.
Basements don’t have to be a gray and dreary space in your home; they can be just as bright as anywhere else, and the beautiful aesthetic of hardwood helps you achieve that.
Provided that you install it correctly and take proper subsequent care of it, hardwood can give your basement a charming tone with a warm, cozy setting for very long periods.