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I need to choose type of flooring for large basement area, totally of 625 SF, with poured concrete. I'm considering laminate or vinyl. Although it is a country side house, the basement is quite dry, sump pump works well and discharges away ground waters, so there is no water seepage through concrete, so I'm assuming that I won't need the waterproof feature of vinyl planks. Besides vinyl seems to be slightly more expensive.

  1. However, I'm not sure if I'll need an underlayment for vinyl flooring. Vinyl planks are quite thin, so is placing them directly on the concrete not a good idea?

  2. How does vinyl (comparing to laminate) behave on an uneven concrete base?

The basement consists of two rooms, and the concrete slab, for some reason, is not a single solid slab spanning across both rooms, but two slabs with a wooden joist in between. So this makes a transition from one room to another uneven, having a hump. I wonder how would laminate/vinyl handle this?

concrete slab hump

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    To make sure your concrete floor is really dry, tape down (sealing the edges) a piece of clear plastic about 1 foot square for a couple days. If there isn't any condensation on the inside of the plastic, you do have a nice dry basement. If you do get any condensation, then you'll need to make sure any flooring you put down either has a moisture sealing barrier, or is compatible with a bit of dampness. For me, any basement means the chance of water, so laminate or anything that could be damaged by water from either underneath or on top is off limits to my use.
    – Milwrdfan
    Commented Mar 18 at 3:51
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    I would never put wood down. One accident, heavy rain, sump pump failure...a few hours of water soaking...will ruin it. Commented Mar 18 at 5:07
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    If you don't have a backup pump expect floods once every 10 years. All it takes is a freak storm that knocks out the power and makes lots of water.
    – Jasen
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:48
  • Sumps don't prevent moisture--they prevent flooding. You need to know whether your slab is damp.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 18 at 13:14
  • IMO LVP and laminate are equally not-applicable to an uneven concrete substrate. Make your substrate flat (doesn't have to be level). I suspect they may be able to tolerate a small amount of curvature, as long as the curvature is all one direction and the planks are laid along the "straight" direction.
    – Huesmann
    Commented Mar 18 at 13:16

3 Answers 3

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Vinyl is better for your situation, generally speaking. It's not apparent that the concrete will stay dry, and laminate often contains a fiber core that's subject to swelling if it gets damp. Vinyl is plastic all the way through and can handle moisture better.

Also, consider the difference between Luxury Vinyl (LVT, LVP) and Rigid Vinyl when you select a product. Rigid vinyl will tend to span imperfections in the subfloor, which is sometimes desirable, but could leave you with a bouncy floor in areas of severely uneven levels.

Luxury (flexible) vinyl, on the other hand, tends to settle into the shape of the subfloor, which makes it more solid, but also leaves you with a lumpy or ridged floor.

Your best strategy is to prepare the subfloor by skimming with a suitable product where needed to meet the flatness requirements of the manufacturer of whatever product you select.

In any case, follow the manufacturer's literature carefully. Don't add underlayment if it's not allowed. Don't use a product that can't handle a bit of moisture. Follow guidelines for expansion joints, if applicable.

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  • I have installed over 30,000 square feet of what manufacturers call LVP or LVT. None resulted in a lumpy floor. This will only happen if you choose a cheap vinyl product without a solid core. Still the concrete pictured would need to be made smoother.
    – RMDman
    Commented Mar 18 at 17:46
  • @RMDman, So it does say LVP or LVT on a package?
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 21 at 12:54
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    I can't answer that, but it has more to do with joint location than direction. Obviously there are more joints closer together on the crosswise axis. Joints can be pulled open by curved or humped surfaces.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 21 at 12:59
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    @Mark, Different manufacturers label their packages differently. When looking for a good product (lvp/lvt) look for the overall thickness. 5.5 mm should be the minimum. Some manufacturers may have a LVP with less than 5.5mm thickness, however those are the lesser performing products. These are the products that will have subflooring imperfections show through.
    – RMDman
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:08
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    @Mark, look for products that have a "Solid Core" My general rule when judging the quality of an LVP product is to hold a plank flat, as it would be on the floor. Grasp it with 2 fingers in about the middle. (Most planks are about 4 feet long.) Look at how much the product slacks at the ends. If the ends droop more than about an inch from the middle, the product has a soft core , or the core is not thick enough and the performance will be less than desired. This goes to the comment that the floor will be lumpy. That is not incorrect, but it is much more likely with a thinner product.
    – RMDman
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:35
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The key is that it needs to be "flat" as much as the manufacturer recommends. Underlayment can take care of some imperfections. Underlayment fairs much better under laminate wood. If it were me I would not install vinyl in the basement because it will trap in any moisture. Laminate wood will still allow it to dry one way.

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    If there's moisture present wood will warp and possibly fail completely.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 18 at 13:14
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I have installed both laminate and LVP/LVT on concrete and wood floor surfaces. Hands down the LVP/LVT is a better choice.

Laminate: Needs to acclimate before being installed. Will swell if moisture/ humidity increases. Is ruined and need replacing if it gets wet. Can be damaged from spills or pet accidents.

LVP/LVT: None of the above.

There are approved underlayments for LVP/LVT to insulate and cushion it a little. However remember if the sump pump fails,and you get water in the basement the floor will need to be pulled up and the underlayment replaced. If you have laminate all the flooring is trash and needs replacing.

With your updated info and pic, I would say the area has to be surfaced with leveling compound if you choose any flooring other than carpeting.

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    Counterpoint: I've never heard the terms LVP or LVT; a definition would be heplful
    – bertieb
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:36
  • Google is your friend. Google LVP and all your questions will be answered.
    – RMDman
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:58
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    I have heard of Google. Including definitions of terms in a post is helpful to people who might read it :)
    – bertieb
    Commented Mar 18 at 19:17
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    That's is an unkind aspersion and unbecoming of a senior member of the community. I was not asking for myself, I was asking for the other people who read your post; I will instead propose an edit to save you the hassle of typing the words out :)
    – bertieb
    Commented Mar 18 at 22:28
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    For context: I proposed an edit which was approved by another community member but rejected by author. That is their right, of course. Since they have suggested I am lazy and declined my suggestion to improve their post I don't know if their objection is to people knowing what acronyms mean, or me personally -- either way, I am going to leave this is the hands of them or other community members
    – bertieb
    Commented Mar 19 at 11:37

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