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I have a split ranch house in NY and the downstairs hallway and half bath / laundry room currently has vinyl tile on a concrete slab. I would like to cover the vinyl tile with a new floor.

What is the best flooring material to use in this environment?

I was originally thinking ceramic tile because the the garage enters into the hallway (dirty, wet shoes). However, I'm concerned that the tile will be too cold during the winter, so I was thinking about some type of wood flooring. However, the potential for a water problem in the bath / laundry room makes me want to avoid wood.

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    So you don't want vinyl, wood, or tile and I am thinking in that area that carpet is a no go... Rubber or foam tiles? – DMoore Jun 22 '13 at 18:20
  • @DMoore I didn't say that I didn't want wood or tile, but I just had some concerns about them. Is there a type of wood (or wood like material) that is suitable for use in a bath / laundry area? – DCNYAM Jun 24 '13 at 12:37
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    Are you asking "What can be used on concrete", "What can be used over vinyl" or "What can be used in a wet enviornment"? These are all valid, but very different questions. – DA01 Jul 22 '13 at 19:43
  • If worried about cold tile you can heat the floor with electric or water systems, I think in an existing structure electric is the best method because it is thinner and easy to install. – Ed Beal Jul 14 '18 at 10:20
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Tile floors can be installed with a radiant floor heating system such as this one

enter image description here

It is imbedded in the floor below the tiles and is controllable with a wall mounted thermostat. Unless there is significant structural damage to the floor, there is no risk based on dampness. These are routinely used in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.

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    All currently produced thermostatic controllers for tile either have GFCI protection built in or require the circuit be protected by one. – HerrBag Jun 24 '13 at 0:22
  • Fully agree with @bib on this approach, I put them in at the last house (slab) in the downstairs master bath suite, it is so nice to walk barefoot on a warm tile floor. – Ed Beal Jul 14 '18 at 10:26
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I recently installed hardwood flooring in my condominium, which has a concrete floor. The two options I was presented with was to glue any hardwood product to the floor, or use an engineered "click" hardwood that sits on top of an underlayment/pad.

I chose the latter, known as a floating installation, as it is modular and has the option to be disassembled if needed (for replacing boards). However, the disadvantage to using an engineered hardwood is that the finished material is generally very thin and unlikely possible to be refinished.

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If you do tile with a tile underlayment product, the slight insulative benefits from the wood and foam/rubber beneath the tile could help make it not so cold. They make tile in all sorts of designs nowadays, so you could even get tile that looks like wood, if that's a design you like.

But if you have a cold slab under the floor, that's a problem all its own that you can solve to provide numerous other benefits to your whole house. Are the edges insulated? If not, that's something you can do that will help quite a bit. It's too late to insulate under the slab but the sides are doable.

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Fix the heat transfer issue, then think about floor finishing

What I would do in this situation is insulate the slab-on-grade on top using rigid insulation boards (XPS or polyiso, whatever floats your boat, with a 6" tall stub of rockwool in the interior wall cavities), and then use a layer of liquid gypsum floor leveler (Gypcrete) atop that to create the subfloor. After that? Put down whatever floor finish you wish -- you've now put yourself firmly into the interior space with the insulation/WRB, so you don't have to worry about water from the slab breaking things. See the illustration below, from BSI-059, for details on the stackup -- it depicts an elevated podium slab in a multi-family building, but the strategy is the same for a slab-on-grade.

BSI-059 Figure 7

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In my opinion only carpet makes any sense. You can purchase carpet that is tough as nails and will withstand water sand etc without wearing for much longer than anything else. It is softer usually and more insulating than almost any other product, needs minimal underlayment (in fact I prefer the thinnest that I can get).

It does not discolor, is easily cleaned and you can use varying grades throughout your house. When it begins to wear and you cannot get it clean, replace it for only a few dollars yourself.

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  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. We're looking for focused answers here, so I've edited out a lot of the commentary you included. – Daniel Griscom Jul 15 '18 at 2:39

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