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Community and Q&A

Below-grade flooring options (over concrete slab) ?

oldbungalow | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

Hi we’re looking to put some flooring down in a basement. We have oak wood floors above grade and would prefer something wood or wood-like, for example laminated, engineered oak or maybe, LVT  (luxury vinyl tile) in wood grain pattern. Would also consider floating bamboo if more sustainable.

In reading this site I see there are a lot of vinyl installations, could someone pipe-in with brands that are low-VOC/zero-VOC and phthalate-free? Any other considerations for vinyl?

What are some “greener” options (i.e. low VOCs, lower lifecycle), and pros/cons?

Basement is dry (for a basement), no moisture or humidity issues that we know of but it’s still a basement and below grade. There is also a HWH down there. Slab was poured over 2″ XPS.

thank you

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  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    Safest would be to use some kind of laminate flooring that won't be affected by moisture. After that, and much more risky, would be engineered wood flooring. The worst option would be natural wood planks. The reason for this is that basements are almost always worse in terms of moisture compared to the rest of the house, so it makes sense to use moisture tolerant flooring here. Laminates are plastic-type materials that don't really care if they get wet, and some of the ones that look like wood are very realistic these days.


    1. oldbungalow | | #2

      I'm still trying to figure out the diff between laminates (with a printed image layer) and LVT, which is similarly printed. Maybe they are merging into one kind of flooring. There used to be engineered or laminate flooring that used hardboard (MDF) in the sandwich but I think MDF swells when wet. I wonder if there's a real hardwood laminate over vinyl / stone plastic core.

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #7

        LVT is solid vinyl, laminates are layers of wood and plastic. LVT is completely impervious to water.

  2. oldbungalow | | #3

    Updated Q to include below-grade bamboo (is that a thing?) and clarification on vinyl- is all vinyl pthalate free or are there certain brands/lines to consider? thank you.

  3. Andrew_C | | #4

    Assuming your basement is relatively dry, linoleum is the green version of vinyl, biodegradable, no VOCs, etc. Some versions don't like water much, so you might have to do some research. You've got sub-slab insulation, so the moisture problems that effect so many other basements are much less likely to cause issues for you. Modern linoleums can be quite nice.

  4. Expert Member
    Akos | | #5

    "Slab was poured over 2″ to me it means care was taken with the basement. In that case you can use any flooring you want. Engineered click is a nice option, avoid the ones that use an MDF substrate. Regular hardwood can also work glued down.

    I've had very bad luck with bamboo dimensional stability, even small changes in relative humidity can cause the material to expand a fair bit. Pretty durable otherwise.

  5. norm_farwell | | #6

    This article from joe lstiburek might be helpful:

  6. jonshn | | #8

    Hi, I am glad to see this article as I am always ready to post informative and educative posts. I recently had the opportunity to try out the commercial kitchen flooring orlando and I must say, I was quite impressed. The flooring not only met my expectations but exceeded them in many ways.

    1. Patrick_OSullivan | | #9

      Spam. Delete, someone, for the love of everything, delete.

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