Is Laminate Flooring the Best Option for a Basement?
As a rule, laminate flooring is not a great choice for your basement. Why? Because the majority of laminate flooring has a compressed, high-density fiberboard core that will absorb water and basements are renown for moisture problems thanks to their location below grade (underground).
In a hurry? The best laminate for a basement is one of the many water-resistant products now available. Click here to find out more.
Does this mean you can’t use laminate flooring in a basement and you shouldn’t even consider it? Not at all!
First off, not all basements are damp and if you have a completely finished, dry basement you can install any flooring you like, including laminate (more on that later). Secondly, advances in laminate floor manufacturing have led to many new innovative products that are water resistant verging on waterproof! Care still needs to be taken below grade, but it’s manageable with the right installation.
So, in this post we will take you through the pros and cons of installing laminate in a basement and then discuss what kind of basement you may have in order to determine what kind of laminate flooring you should use. Finally, we will spell out the best laminate flooring brands and products available for your type of basement, including theses new, so called, waterproof laminate floors. Check out our conclusion at the end of this post and please be sure to leave a comment or question of your own.
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Pros and Cons of Installing Laminate in a Basement
Let’s start with a quick and simple table highlighting the pros and cons of installing laminate flooring:
Home Flooring Pros Advice
The Home Flooring Pros position is that laminate flooring is not the best option for your basement, especially when you compare it to another cheap basement option, vinyl plank flooring. Decent luxury vinyl has most of the same advantages as laminate flooring and less of the disadvantages. Read our report on the best vinyl plank flooring for basements.
If your basement has moisture issues, especially a problem with moisture rising up through your concrete basement floor, then you are asking for trouble by installing laminate. If your basement is completely dry then we would suggest that there are more attractive flooring options to choose from like carpet or engineered hardwood.
Choose Your Basement
Before considering laminate, ask yourself what kind of basement do you currently have? Let’s remind ourselves of the different types of basement situations we typically find in a modern home:
Unfinished Basement – Bare concrete walls, unsealed concrete slab floor, basically not ready to be used as a living space.
If your basement is currently unfinished then you may already have moisture problems, and if you don’t you certainly have no protection against future floods or rising hydrostatic pressure. In this scenario, unless you are supremely confident that there won’t be any moisture issues, the only basement flooring that should be installed is flooring that is truly waterproof. Even the most innovative laminate flooring does not match these criteria.
Semi-Finished Basement – Perhaps a ceiling has been installed to hide wires and provide lighting, walls have been waterproofed and concrete floors have been sealed.
Now you’re entering a basement scenario where you can start to consider laminate flooring and we recommend purchasing laminate with water resistant or waterproof credentials (see below). This assumes that you have correctly sealed your basement concrete floor and that you don’t have a history of flooding. Nevertheless, you will still need to take careful steps to install vapor barriers under your laminate floating floor and control humidity. You must carefully read the installation instructions and warranty provisions of the laminate flooring you intend to install.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that water resistant/waterproof laminate is more expensive than normal laminate flooring. So, if you were considering laminate in your basement solely to keep costs down then you might want to reconsider. We will look at typical pricing later.
Finished Basement – A completely renovated basement where interior (or exterior) drainage systems have been installed making moisture a problem of the past.
This is the ideal scenario if you’re planning on basement laminate flooring. But having gone to the effort and expense of finishing your basement to such a high standard is this really the best type of flooring for a basement? We would wager not!
When you start searching basement floor ideas you’ll find options like engineered hardwood, warm quality carpet or even striking epoxy flooring that seem like a much better idea than cheap and often noisy laminate.
Installation and Costs
Laminate is fairly easy to install and makes for a good DIY project. If you’re using a professional you can expect to pay between $4 and $6 per square foot for installation which should include underlayment installation.
It is recommended for all basement floating floors that a moisture/vapor barrier (either 6mil polythene sheeting and/or moisture resistant underlayment) is installed to protect flooring from rising ground moisture. So, you will need to factor the cost of these materials into your budget.
NB Some of the better-quality laminate floors already have a protective underlayment pre-attached.
When it comes to the cost of your laminate flooring you might be surprised at the difference in price between typical run of the mill laminate (only suitable for a completely dry finished basement) and a water-resistant/waterproof laminate.
Standard laminate flooring can cost as little as $0.65 per square foot, although for the sake of quality we would recommend starting your search at products costing $1 per sq/ft and above. As the quality of laminate increases, and more features are incorporated, you will start to see prices rising.
Water-resistant and waterproof laminate flooring, suitable for a basement, typically cost around $2.50 to $2.99 per sq/ft. At these prices your laminate flooring should also include features such as scratch and noise resistance, pre-attached underlayment and suitability for use with radiant underfloor heating.
Depending on the brand, quality and style, laminate floors can increase in price to between $3.00 and $5.00 per sq/ft. Click here for our selection of the best waterproof laminate floors available.
Laminate Flooring Options for a Fully Finished Basement
To summarize again, if you have a fully finished basement with zero moisture problems then you are free to use any laminate flooring you like. Check flooring warranties as some laminate might not be covered for installation below grade no matter how dry your basement is.
You can click here to see our selection of the best laminate flooring brands and read reviews, but here is a simple list of the laminate floor brands we like for a fully finished basement and where to buy them.
If you’re looking to keep prices down then you can find decent quality laminate at a cost of $1.00 to $1.75 per sq/ft at the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes.
At Home Depot you will find laminate floors from TrafficMaster and the Home Decorators Collection (Home Depots store brand) at between $1.00 and $1.60 per sq/ft
By far the widest selection of laminate is in the $2.00 to $2.99 price range. Again, big home improvements stores and respected online retailers like Wayfair are a good place to start your search.
At Home Depot well-known brands like Pergo and LifeProof are available, while at Wayfair you can find some QuickStep, Shaw and Montserrat in this mid-price range.
Top of the Range Options:
Any laminate floor over $3.00 per sq/ft can be considered top of the range and includes all the best-known brands like Mohawk, Mannington, QuickStep and Shaw. Here we recommend you look online at Wayfair and Flooring Inc or pop into your local flooring retailer.
Best Waterproof Laminate Floors for a Semi-Finished Basement
If your basement is semi-finished and there’s any questions around moisture, either from the concrete floor below or from air humidity, then we recommend a water-resistant or waterproof laminate flooring, while also bearing in mind what we have already discussed regarding correct installation.
Water-Resistant & Waterproof Laminate Flooring Brands:
Here are the most popular water-resistant or waterproof laminate floors for your semi-finished basement with prices and where to buy.
Please do your own research when it comes to each flooring manufacturers definition of water-resistant vs waterproof. Remember that none of these laminate floors are completely waterproof from bottom to top as they still contain a fiberboard core. And finally, always read the warranty for basement installation conditions.
Average Price Per Sq/Ft
Where to Buy
|Home Decorators Collection||$1.49 – $2.49||Home Depot|
|AquaSeal||$1.32 – $3.19||LL Flooring|
|Shaw Repel (review)||$1.50 – $2.39||Menards|
|HydroShield||$1.56 – $2.39||Floor & Décor|
|Mohawk PerfectSeal||$1.77 – $2.48||Menards|
|Mohawk RevWood (review)||$1.90 – $3.50||Flooring Inc|
|LifeProof Laminate (review)||$1.99 – $2.49||Home Depot|
|Tarkett AquaFlor||$2.18 – $2.34||Menards|
|QuickStep NatureTEK (review)||$2.50 to $5.00||Local Retailers|
|Pergo Portfolio WetProtect (Portfolio review)||$2.79 – $2.99||Lowes|
|Pergo Outlast & Defense + (Outlast Plus review)||$2.79 to $2.89||Home Depot|
|Armstrong Audacity||2.80 – $3.25||Local Retailers|
|AquaGuard||$2.99 – $3.99||Floor & Decor|
|Mannington Restoration Collection (Review)||$3.50 – $4.79||Wayfair|
Home Flooring Pros Conclusion:
- We do like laminate flooring but there are better options for a basement
- There isn’t a 100% top to bottom waterproof laminate floor so don’t install in an unfinished basement
- Typically, it is the surface layer of the laminate floor that is water-resistant or waterproof
- Water-resistant and waterproof laminates should be installed as a floating floor in most basement situations
- Expect to pay a bit more for laminate floors labelled as waterproof
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure created by standing water, so when there has been heavy rainfall or snow melt for example the ground becomes saturated, the water table rises and and the water, which weighs a lot, pushes up against your basement walls creating pressure and looking for a place to go.
About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years’ experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”