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I would like to put some sort of flooring over part of my basement. Something with the look and simple installation of an interlocking garage tile (example) would fit the bill -- this isn't a living space, but a cleaner, smoother floor would be nicer than dusty uneven concrete.

However, I'm concerned that this might cause problems with mold growth or moisture buildup. The floor in my basement is about 100 years old, and if there ever was a drainage system, it probably isn't functional anymore. If you tape a sheet of plastic down on the floor for a day or two, moisture does accumulate underneath it, and we run a dehumidifier during the humid/wet seasons. The basement has never flooded but it can get a little humid/musty if the dehumidifier isn't running.

So, can I install some flooring without causing bigger problems? I could imagine that any of these applies:

  • It's just a bad idea, and I should stick with small area mats
  • It's an OK idea as long as the floor is properly designed with vents
  • It's fine, doesn't matter if the concrete floor is a little moist under the tiles
  • It's fine, but I should apply some sort of sealer to the floor first
  • It's actually good, the vinyl tile layer will reduce how much moisture gets into the air and take a load off of the dehumidifier

So... Which of these is right? Is there a particular type of flooring or installation process that's designed to handle not-100%-dry basement floors?

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I agree with Steven about Dricore. I have used it and it is terrific for

  • creating a moisture barrier
  • giving a slightly softer feel underfoot than concrete
  • serving as a great subfloor for almost any type of surface

However, I would seal the floor first (which I did) with a wateproofing product like Drylok.

One caution - do not seal the floor under a water pressure tank or filter system that sweats in the summer. Condensation from these systems often drip down and dissipate through raw concrete, but will pool if you seal it.

Keep the dehumidifier going. The moisture is still in the soil surrounding the foundation and will probably still percolate through the walls.

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You can buy (or get a sheet metal shop to build) a drip pan to catch condensation from filter equipment, with a drain on the side that goes to a sump pit or floor drain. –  gregmac Oct 26 '12 at 13:50
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One product I know of that is meant for this type of scenario is Dricore. It provides a moisture barrier from the floor.

DRIcore has an integrate high density polyethylene membrane bonded to the underside of the panel which provides an excellent moisture barrier

I've never used it personally though it seems pretty popular in my neck of the woods.

I'd still recommend trying to rectify the root moisture problem before putting anything down.

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When I looked into it a while ago, it seemed like there were many complaints about mold growth on Dricore. Something to look into if you are considering it. –  James Van Huis Oct 26 '12 at 17:41
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