Homeowners who have
full or partial basements that can be transformed into a living space are
essentially sitting on a goldmine. Realtor surveys show that finishing a
basement ranks just behind kitchen and bathroom renovations in maximizing the
return on the homeowner’s investment, with the payback sometimes exceeding the
remodeling expenditure. What’s more, expanding the living space into the
basement is often much more economical than adding another room or floor onto
an existing home.
So when deciding to
finish your basement, don’t assume that hiding the concrete under carpeting or
other floor coverings is the best way to strike it rich in terms of value and
It’s time to bust
some of the common myths about the perceived disadvantages of concrete floors.
In fact, assuming that the basement and floor are structurally sound, enhancing
the concrete rather than covering it up is fast becoming the gold standard in
basement floor treatments, with benefits that extend well beyond aesthetics.
The growing trend, particularly in upscale homes, is to install decorative
concrete interior floors.
Myth #1: Bare concrete floors are cold
constructed newer homes, code requires better insulation than in older homes
and commonly, vapor barrier to prevent moisture problems. Concrete floors in
your basement can even decrease allergies by reducing moisture contaminants.
To keep concrete floors warmer underfoot in winter,
homeowners can install in-floor radiant heat before
the slab is poured. Basements are one of the most popular areas to install
these systems, which circulate heated water through polyethylene tubing. Some
systems can also be retrofit into existing basements by covering the tubing
with a self-leveling overlay.
Carpet is not recommended on
uninsulated or unheated concrete basement floors
because the carpet will be susceptible to mold and mildew. The basement
floor is generally cooler than the basement air temperature, and installing
carpet only lowers the temperature even more. If the basement humidity is high
enough, the temperature of the floor under a carpet may, in certain areas, fall
below the dew point of the air. Under this condition, a small amount of
moisture will accumulate under the carpet, making conditions right for mold
growth. The moisture formation may be so slight that you won’t see it from the
top of the carpet. If the basement floor is already insulated or has
under-floor heat, then carpeting or area rugs may work.
Myth #2: Cracks in concrete are
inevitable and it’s better to cover them up than to live with them
Unless the cracks
are serious and due to structural issues, many people like the rustic,
fractured look that can be achieved by staining the floor and leaving minor
random cracks exposed.
If the cracks are
perceived as an eyesore, an overlay is an easy solution for hiding them and can
accept a wide array of decorative treatments, including staining, stamping, and
stenciling (see Myth #6).
Myth #3: Carpeting or hardwood looks
warmer and much more inviting than concrete
Concrete stained a
rich, earthy tone instantly warms up a room and can stand out as one of the
basements most attractive features.
concrete, there’s also no risk of chemical emissions, like there are from new
carpeting. These emissions can be especially hazardous in basement spaces that
aren’t well ventilated. Carpets also are a breeding ground for dust mites and
isn’t a practical covering for most basement slabs because of the potential
exposure to moisture and humidity. The solution: Simply apply an overlay to the
concrete floor and stamp it with a wood-grain pattern.
Myth #4: Decorative concrete floors are
In most cases, a
decorative concrete floor is no more slippery than vinyl or ceramic tile.
Application of a high-gloss sealer to protect and enhance decorative concrete
may reduce traction somewhat, but that’s easily remedied by mixing a nonslip
additive into the stain or sealer before application.
Myth #5: Floor coverings are cheaper to
install than decorative concrete
The initial outlay
for decorative concrete may exceed the cost of a low-to-mid priced floor
covering, such as carpeting, vinyl tile, and wood laminates, but the life
expectancy of a concrete floor will far surpass that of most floor covering
materials. Decorative concrete can also endure water exposure from occasional
seepage into the basement after heavy rains, unlike water-sensitive floor
coverings that can peel up, warp, or mildew. That means in the long run
homeowners save money because they never need to rip out and replace worn or
When compared with
high-end floor coverings, such as ceramic tile, slate, and marble, decorative
concrete is often an economical alternative. Plus, skilled concrete artisans
can duplicate the look of these pricier materials.
If time is money, then homeowners can also cash in
on the low maintenance needs of decorative concrete. Typically just occasional
sweeping and damp mopping will keep the floor looking like new for many years.
When protected with a good sealer,
concrete floors also resist staining, chemicals, and abrasion.
Myth #6: Carpet, vinyl tile, and wood
laminate flooring offer more color and design options
This is possibly the biggest myth of all. No
flooring material offers more decorative versatility than concrete. A few of
the options particularly well-suited for basement floors include stampable and self-leveling overlays, chemical stains, epoxy coatings, paints and dyes. What’s more,
these treatments can be combined to create one-of-a-kind decorative finishes to
suit unique basement design schemes. Consider these possibilities:
Install a stamped overlay. It’s
possible to resurface most existing basement floors and stamp them to look like
slate, stone, and even a hardwood floor.
Stain the floor to achieve rich,
variegated layers of translucent color. Henson says that using three or four
different stain colors will add drama and produce three-dimensional effects.
Apply an epoxy coating.
High-performance epoxies recommended for basement or garage floors are
excellent solutions for spaces where durability is important, such as recreation
areas, utility rooms, and workshops. The coatings come in a variety of hues and
can be accented with decorative color flakes or chips.
Source of information: concretenetwork.com (‘Seven Reasons Why You
Should Enhance Rather Than Cover Up Concrete Basement Floors’ By Anne Balogh
and ‘Basement Floor Myths Busted’)