Your unfinished basement is bonus space just waiting to be discovered. A cozy home theater, a spare bedroom or a workshop are hiding there in the shadows cast by the bare light bulbs, ready for your handy skills to bring them to light.
And if you start from the ground up, the first thing you’ll have to think about is the floor.
Before we get into the pros and cons of various floor treatments, take a good look at your existing floor. Is the basement dry or have you had water problems in the past? A bit of seeping moisture doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck; it just affects the way you attack the floor. For example, you’re not going to want to apply carpet directly to the concrete.
Start by seeing what you can do to eliminate the water problem. Good working rain gutters, proper drainage outside and a sump pump are three preventive solutions that will keep you drier.
Now let’s look at your flooring options. Your choice will depend on a variety of factors, including your ceiling height, dryness, and what you’re going to use the room for.
It’s the most inexpensive technique, and it’s pretty easy to do. You can achieve a number of attractive decorative effects with paint, which lets you go wild creatively. But a painted floor is as hard as the concrete beneath it, and the floors will often be cold.
As mentioned, you can’t apply it directly to the concrete if you have moisture problems. But if the floor’s dry, you may. It adds some warmth, and the underlay can provide some springiness. It’s also reasonably economical. But while it’s a big step up from paint, it’s still a somewhat unyielding surface and it can still be cool.
Raised floor (finished with wood, tile or carpet)
This technique gives the most comfortable surface, as there will be a bit of “give” to it, and the distance from the concrete (with the potential for added insulation) makes it warmer than other methods. But it involves more work and expense. And it decreases your headroom somewhat.
Next time, we’ll look at how to install the floor you’ve chosen.