Should I use a Subfloor for a Finished Basement Floor?

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Key Takeaway

In most cases, you should use a subfloor when creating a finished basement floor. A subfloor is a sort of pre-flooring cover for your basement and it creates a strong and sturdy shield that prevents water/moisture from seeping through. The finished flooring material is placed on top of the subfloor. This will also help improve the insulation and warmth of the room.

One of the biggest considerations when installing the flooring for your basement is moisture.

Condensation and water vapor are moisture-related hazards that are unique to basements. Conditions in the basement are usually different than they are upstairs. These differences not only affect the flooring choices but also how your flooring is installed.

For most people, making the decision on the type of flooring that is appropriate for a finished basement floor can be a headache. So the question is, should you use a subfloor for a finished basement floor?

Think of a subfloor as an impenetrable barrier that keeps the floor of your basement dry. The definition of a subfloor is “the foundation for a floor in a building”. When you install a basement subfloor successfully, you ensure that your basement remains bone-dry.

In this article, we are going to discuss in detail whether you should use a subfloor for a finished basement floor and the best basement subfloor options.

Should you use a Subfloor for a Finished Basement Floor?

In most cases, yes, you should. A subfloor is a floor cover for your basement. It provides a sturdy and strong shield that prevents moisture from seeping through.

Subfloors are a welcome addition to basement spaces because they help to improve the warmth of the basement. They can be made from both synthetic and natural materials and are usually highly resistant to moisture.

When finishing your basement, keeping a dry floor is essential. Because they are below grade, basements can have water coming in from several directions. Groundwater can seep through the floor or the foundation walls. It can also gush or drip from pipes.

Therefore, before installing the finished basement floor covering, you should install a subfloor. This subfloor will elevate the floor cover and act as a barrier that prevents moisture from seeping upward.

Basements require a special subflooring that will not get moldy or deteriorate when it’s exposed to moisture.

You can achieve a subfloor in either one of two ways:

  • By installing a basement subfloor system. This uses pre-made materials that already provide a barrier between the floor and the water.
  • Building your own subfloor. This can be done using different subfloor materials that are built in the shape of tiles so that they are easily installed. They can also come in the form of rolls and sheets.

Basement subflooring has a lot of jobs:

  • It also provides a stable and level surface.
  • It keeps moisture at bay thus preventing mold.
  • It provides a thermal break (insulation).

Basement Subfloor Options

Believe it or not, but a basement subfloor will most likely increase the value of your property. With the basement becoming a usable space, and not just for storage.

There are several subfloor options available for your basement. It should be noted that choosing the wrong subfloor material can have direct consequences in the basement.

We have our picks for the best subfloor option you can use for your basement. Every basement is a little different, so make do your research on what will fit your situation the best.

Plywood Subfloor

Plywood Subfloor

If you are looking for a cheap but durable subflooring option, then plywood is a viable one. Plywood subflooring is considered one of the more traditional methods of subflooring. It allows you to create your own subfloor using cheap wood materials.

Plywood is the material that is most commonly used for subflooring. It is manufactured from thin sheets of wood that are glued together with the grain of each layer perpendicular to the previous one. It provides strong support with a smooth surface and at a reasonable cost.

It is also referred to as scratch-built subflooring. It is extremely cheap, efficient, and easy to assemble. With the right materials, you can do it yourself.

Plywood is one of the most affordable subflooring options available. Since you can gather the materials and install them yourself, it can heavily cut down on costs.

Typically, it can cost anywhere from around $700 to $1000. Depending on the state and nature of your basement, however, these prices can change drastically. It’s still more affordable than DRIcore subflooring.

Plywood subfloor is superior to other prefab or premade subflooring options. Some people will prefer plywood for some of the following benefits:

  • Plywood subflooring is cheap.
  • The flooring system can be made using common and affordable materials.
  • It is convenient. It’s easy to lay down your own panels and cover a large amount of ground with this option.
  • It looks great. Plywood looks just as good as real wood.
  • It’s durable.

DRIcore Subfloor

DRIcore subfloor systems are one of the newer systems in the industry having been invented in the 1990s. They typically come in panel shapes than the available plywood sheets.  DRIcore is amazing for subflooring a basement that has low to mid-range moisture problems. It’s a lot like insulating a floor, the only difference being the added protection of a water barrier.

DRIcore Website

DRIcore subfloor systems will typically cost about $6.43 per panel or tile. Each tile measures 2′ × 2′. So this means that each square foot of DRIcore costs about $1.61. With an average-sized basement, you can expect to spend about a few hundred dollars more than you would plywood. Despite this, there are several reasons why some people still prefer DRIcore over plywood subflooring.

DRIcore is one of the best-engineered subfloor solutions that is specifically designed for basements. It creates an air gap above damp and cold concrete to protect, cushion, and insulate your finished floors.

DRIcore has a simple to use calculator on their site to give you an accurate estimate as to how many panels you need.

Once you know how many panels you need, the cheapest route to go is to buy them through Amazon.

DRIcore is popular among people with low hanging ceilings in their basements and for people looking for the most durable subflooring option. Some of the benefits that DRIcore subfloor has to offer include:

  • The DRIcore subfloor does not raise the floor as high as plywood does. This makes it a good choice for people who have a low-ceiling basement.
  • DRIcore makes the application of the premade subfloor more easy and efficient. With this option, you need not deal with a scratch or build-it-yourself subflooring.
  • DRIcore has air gap technology that helps protect against moisture, mold, mildew, and small water leaks.
  • DRIcore is easy to install. It has a tongue and groove design that makes installation fast and easy. You could complete a 500sq. ft. room in the afternoon.
  • It protects finished floors. It’s compatible with all types of the finished flooring.
  • It is strong enough to support heavy objects including furniture and equipment that may be in the basement.
  • DRIcore uses OSB (oriented strand board) panels. OSB is generally not great for a floor covering itself, but due to its appearance and moisture swelling, it is a great option for subflooring.

Wood panels such as plywood and OSB are often installed on mini-joists known as sleepers that allow it to sit above a concrete pad. This is done because wood is naturally a porous substance that will absorb moisture when used as a basement subfloor.

Coating the panels with waterproof sealant for extra protection is also recommended by some experts.

Making a Choice

At the end of the day, it’s your choice. You can decide whether you want affordability or ease of convenience on your side. Both of the options we suggested are equally durable, functional, and long-lasting.

It’s a good idea to visit your local hardware store and ask about any new or existing products that are available for subfloors in basements. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll want to know that it’s doable and something that others DIYers are doing too.

All in all, installing a subfloor in your finished basement floor is a good idea. It will seal and protect your basement against intruding moisture for years to come.