basement sub floor

Install a Basement Subfloor System

How To Install An Insulated Floating Subfloor System

Before you can start installing an insulated floating subfloor in your basement, the first thing that you are going to have to do is clean it out if you’ve got a bunch of junk down there. There could be a ton of different reasons to put down a subfloor, but one of the best reasons for this type is to help keep your space warmer when you happen to be below-grade and to protect your finished basement floor.

If you’ve got a concrete slab or even a finished floor that tends to get really cold, this could be an excellent solution. But to take full advantage of it and make the space warmer, you really need to make sure that you have already insulated the walls and ceiling as well if needed.

Of course, if you already have a finished floor and want to do this project, you are going to need to remove that first. If it’s reusable, great. If not, you may need to keep in mind that you’ll need another type of material to go on top of this one once it’s finished before you decide to tackle this project.

Once you’ve gotten all the “stuff” out, just make sure that you have cleaned and swept the floors as well. Then you are ready to start putting down the subfloor.

The subfloor system that we are going to talk about using down in your basement today is from DRICore. Although it’s a bit on the pricey side, I’m really impressed with this product. For one, this subfloor has a patented moisture barrier built right into it and will protect floors, furniture and electronics from potential water seepage in a wet basement. Plus, they are dead simple to install making for a perfect DIY insulating and waterproofing solution as well.

The product itself is actually made like engineered wood floors with a whole lot of pressure compressing a bunch of wood chips together. Afterwards, it’s all sealed up tight with a waterproof glue. For an extra layer of protection, there is a raised polyethylene moisture barrier that allows for any condensation or moisture that’s captured underneath to dry adequately and without harm to those items on top of it.

One thing to keep in mind though, just like any other flooring material, you need to let the panels acclimate in the room for at least 24 hours before you start working with it. Oh, that’s right, forgot to tell you that they come in panels that are easy to work with and approximately 2-foot square. The panels actually lock together like regular tongue and groove floors to make for easy installation with no additional steps like glue required. So you won’t even need a hardwood flooring contractor, you can do it all yourself.

This particular system is called a floating subfloor system because it doesn’t actually get attached to the concrete with glue or nails. It just sort of “floats” on top of the concrete. This is actually really good in this type of environment because it allows for the entire floor to contract and expand with temperature/moisture changes.

Another thing to keep in mind is you will need to use spacers around the walls like you would with laminate basement flooring. A quarter inch gap is really all you need. That gap is what gives the subfloor some of it’s durability allowing it to expand as needed. Plus, if your concrete floor isn’t as level as it should be, these panels come with shims designed to fit right over a portion of the moisture barrier panel to help level it all out. You’ll be able to tell where you need them by simply sliding one panel up to the next and see if there is a gap where they are supposed to come together.

Simply start in the furthest corner with the longest wall and begin piecing together the first row. Use a wood block and a hammer on the end of the second pieces to tap the boards together to fit in the grooves. When you get to the end of the first row, you’ll likely need to make a cut to a full panel for it to fit correctly. Just measure and mark the appropriate distance.

A table saw works great when needing to cut a DRICore panel. But if you don’t have a table saw, a hand held circular saw will work just as good. I personally don’t like to use jigsaws or dremels for this cut but if that’s all you got, it’ll work too. I save the jigsaws for more intricate corner/pole notch cutting when doing our basement renovation work, not when I’m cutting the piece basically in half.

pull barOnce you have your cut piece, it should just drop right in place. However, now you got a bit of problem getting the two pieces to fit together snuggly in the tongue and groove. Now’s the time for your first flooring trick. When you do a job like this, you’ll find that a tool called a pull bar quickly becomes one of your best friend. This particular one shown is a Sinclair pull bar that has a wide tail block and welded hammering area that will let you adjust and compress the panels in the groove quite easily. Whatever you do, don’t try to use pliers or some other tool that isn’t designed for the job!

All you have to do once the piece is in place is slip the tail block into the space between the wall and the panel with the hammer block laying across the piece you want to secure. Take your hammer and give it a few taps until the joints come together cleanly and then simply remove the pull bar.

But what about that other piece that was cut? Do you throw it away? Absolutely not, that’s the piece you can start with on the second row. No need to waste it here. Plus it gives you a bit of strength and security to your subfloor as well because using this piece allows you to stagger (or overlap) the panels so the seams aren’t at the same place. Ideally, you’d like the second row of seam’s to fall in the middle of the panels from the first row.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, just continue building and cutting row after row until you have a finished floating basement subfloor. This system is perfect for finishing any basement but even better if you have concerns due to a low ceiling. It is a raised system, but it’s about half the height of a conventional subfloor coming in at about 7/8ths of an inch in thickness.

Here’s what I like about this insulated floating subfloor:

  • You get a built in vapor barrier for protection.
  • You get a finished surface that’s ideal for basement carpet, laminate, vinyl plank flooring, engineered hardwood and even tile.
  • You get some insulating value as the floor is raised off the cold concrete slab.
  • You get a professionally quality subfloor that’s do-it-yourself friendly and goes in quickly.

Here’s what I don’t like about this subfloor: cost. Period. That’s it. It’s simply the cost of the system. You’ll end up likely paying as much, if not more depending on what you use for the finished floor as you would for the subfloor. The panels cost about $6 each. So if you have about a 1000 square foot to cover, you are going to need an estimated 303 panels and at that price you are looking at around $1818. However, if you can swing it, this floating subfloor system is definitely worth it for a basement.

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