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Wood Sub Floors are a Rotten Choice

Jacques Bouchard

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For many homeowners, the idea of a basement finishing is to remodel the area the same what the rest of the house has been designed. This means they'll want their ceiling to be made of drywall to look like the rest of their house. The furniture should be the same decor, and their floors- the wood sub floors and beautiful, thick carpet laid on top- should be placed downstairs as well.

Unfortunately, this is not going to work. A drywall ceiling is going to give little or no access to pipes running along your basement ceiling, and a single plumbing leak will cause enormous damage to it. The basement walls have fewer windows than the rest of the house, and if you lay wood on a concrete basement floor, it's going to lead to a home improvement disaster.

The problem is this: concrete is porous like a sponge. If you have moisture in the earth around your basement floor, the concrete floor will soak that moisture up from the ground and release it into the basement air in the form of water vapor. The dirt around your foundation was backfilled in when the foundation was built. Because of this, it will always be looser and more porous than the virgin earth around it, and water will always collect against your home's foundation more than anywhere else.

As this moisture soaks through to the basement and is released, it will collect on anything lying on your basement floor. If you've laid a wood sub floor and carpet on the floor, then you can count on that to soak up this moisture and grow mold, mildew, and rot. Your basement will fill with mold spores, dust mite feces, and unpleasant odors as your wood sub floors and beautiful carpet decays. In a few years, the damage will be more than you can stand, and the whole finished basement floor will need to be ripped up and replaced. The solution to this comes in two easy rules:

Rule 1: Never install wood floors in a basement.
Whether it's in the form of moisture coming through the concrete, a foundation leak, or a plumbing leak from within the house itself, water will reach the basement floor sooner or later. It only takes about 48 hours for mold to start growing, and there's no easy way to dry wood sub floors out. Installing wood sub floors in a basement is a risk at best and a disaster at worst.

Rule 2: Add a reliable plastic vapor barrier to your floor, then lay your carpeting on top.
A thick pile carpet will add warmth to the room and will absorb sounds, making the finished basement quieter than ever. It'll be softer under foot and will make the room as comfortable as possible for children to play in.

Once you've done a basement waterproofing , Basement Systems recommends and installs ThermalDry floor matting on your concrete basement floors. It creates a waterproof vapor barrier on your floor that will protect your carpet from basement moisture while insulating the floor to make the surface as much as ten degrees warmer than the concrete floor beneath. Our floor matting last twice as long and take only 3/8" of head room from the basement floor as opposed to the 4" that wood sub floors can use. Our sub floors outlast several generations of carpet, come with a written warranty, and will not support the growth of mold and rot. What more could you want?

Jacques Bouchard
Basement Systems
Total Basement Finishing
60 Silvermine Road
Seymour, CT 06483
800-541-0487 x9335


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