Some basement floor coverings such as vinyl or ceramic tile can be installed straight on concrete. These are meant for utilitarian basements devoted to storage or for a quick game of ping-pong or pool. But no one really wants to spend much time down there.
To make your basement livable and welcoming--a place to hang out in--you need a properly sub-floored floor covering.
From Scratch-Built to Pre-Made
For years, the classic route was to build your own subfloor from scratch, layer by... layer, out of plywood, plastic, and wood sleepers. Then, someone had the brilliant idea to pre-package this home-grown subfloor system, adhere the layers, and chop the assembly into manageable 24" x 24" squares. And so the subfloor tile was born.
These tiles are a sandwich consisting of a moisture barrier at the bottom, an elevating surface in the middle (usually no more than 1"), and wood top, usually OSB board. Other subfloor panels eliminate the OSB top altogether and are composed entirely of polymers.
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Subfloor Tile Basics
- Defined: Subfloor tiles are pre-built and made in the form of easy-to-manage 2 square foot tiles.
- Vital For Basements: Because of moisture, elevated subfloors in basements are vitally important. These tiles ensure moisture protection and do not require you to figure out proper construction techniques.
- Get Them Shipped: Your local home improvement store will always stock one of the brands below, but usually not more than that. Plus, quantities are usually limited. To obtain enough for a... full-scale project, you usually need to special order from the store or purchase online.
- Cost: About $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot.
- Bottom Line: Subfloor tiles are an excellent way to create an underlayment for your floor covering. The only obstacle may be the steep cost.
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DRICore was developed by a former home contractor who had frustrating experiences with the classic basement subflooring system of 2x4s and poly plastic vapor barriers.
DRICore is "a raised high density polyethylene moisture barrier base bonded to an engineered core designed to allow air to flow underneath the subfloor system keeping floors warm and dry."
DRICore panels are 7/8" thick. Each are 2'x2' and are a tongue-and-groove attachment system. The top of DRICore is OSB. ... The bottom is a cleated, raised design to allow for air- and water-flow.
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Barricade™ is similar to DRICore in that it also has an OSB wood top and the outer dimensions are 2'x2'.
However, Barricade™ Subfloor Tiles are a bit thicker (at 1.25" vs. DRICore's 7/8"). The chief difference, though, is the bottom. Barricade™ Subfloor Tiles have a grooved x-pattern, as opposed to DRICore's higher cleat design.
DRICore and Barricade are the two tiles that are most popular with DIYers.
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Delta FL is more like a souped-up vapor barrier than an actual subfloor tile system.
It is a roll-out polymer that is 5/16" high with a dimpled pattern to promote airflow. Because each roll is 5' by 65.5', installation is fast. If your finish flooring is a hard surface, such as laminate, you can install directly on top of Delta FL. If it will be carpeting, an intervening plywood layer is required.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Another all-in-one, roll-out basement subfloor product like Delta-FL, Superseal comes in rolls as wide as 6'7" and as long as long as 51'. Superseal is a dimpled moisture barrier that is 1/8" high.
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ThermalDry is a proprietary product of Basement Systems, Inc. and requires installation by one of their certified, franchised installers. Homeowners cannot purchase ThermalDry on a retail basis.
ThermalDry is a sharp departure from other subfloor tile products. For one, it has no organic material that can potentially rot away. For another, ThermalDry interlocks via a snap-together design, rather than the tongue-and-groove system of the OSB-topped products.
At 1/2" thick, ThermalDry is one... of the thinnest subfloor tile systems on the market--though this is due to the absence of the OSB top found on other products.