Some basement floor coverings such as vinyl or ceramic tile can be installed straight on concrete. When installed in this fashion, they are hard and cold and are meant for utilitarian basements devoted to storage or for a quick game of billiards. But to make your basement comfortable and welcoming for longer-term occupancy, you need a proper subfloor under your floor covering.
The traditional solution is to build your own subfloor from scratch, layer by layer, from plywood, plastic, and wood sleepers. While this is still a perfectly acceptable route, a newer and easier solution is the subfloor system. Subfloor systems translate the basics of the homemade subfloor into smaller tiles that are dry and insulated, faster to lay down, and require less construction know-how.
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The DRIcore subfloor system was developed by a former home contractor who had frustrating experiences with the classic hand-built basement subflooring system of two-by-fours and poly plastic vapor barriers.
Each DRIcore tile is a raised high-density polyethylene moisture barrier base that is bonded to an engineered core. This allows air to flow underneath the subfloor system. The airflow inhibits mold and mildew and helps keep the floor covering warmer and drier. In fact, DRIcore system tiles will help raise the temperature of the floor covering by at least 6 degrees F.
Each DRIcore tile is 7/8-inch thick and measures 2 feet by 2 feet. Tiles attach to each other with a tongue-and-groove system. The top of DRIcore is OSB and the bottom is a cleated, raised design.
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Barricade has two separate subfloor systems. Both systems have OSB tops and outer dimensions of 24 inches by 24 inches. The chief difference lies in the airflow properties of the base.
The first system, the Barricade Insulated Subfloor Panel, has a smooth base, while the other system, the Barricade Subfloor AirPlus, has an elevated, grooved x-pattern base. While this difference may seem inconsequential, it makes a big difference in terms of temperature: the AirPlus has about half of the R-value of the other system. Both work equally well for laminate, solid hardwood, engineered wood, carpeting, ceramic tile, and resilient (or vinyl) flooring.
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Produced by the German company Dorken, Delta-FL is a hybrid subfloor system: a combination of a traditional underlayment (similar to the type used under laminate flooring) and a solid, wood-based subfloor tile.
Delta-FL is a roll-out polymer that is 5/16-inch high with a dimpled pattern to promote airflow. Since each roll is 5 feet wide by 65 1/2 feet long, installation is fast. If your finish flooring is a hard surface, such as laminate, you can install it directly on top of Delta FL.
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SpringStep represents a sharp departure from other subfloor tile products. For one, it is primarily intended for dance studios and stages. For another, it uses a unique base system of foam cubes. Even though it is often used in commercial operations, SpringStep can also be used in general areas of the home.
The main difference is that SpringStep is much higher than other subfloor systems: either 2 3/4 inches or 1 1/2 inches high. It is built out of two layers of up to 100 half-inch foam cubes or blocks. SpringStep is a do-it-yourself product. Even though it is a niche item, its price is competitive with that of other subfloor systems.