What is the Best Flooring for an Uneven Floor?

An uneven floor can cause lots of problems. It can trip you up as you walk and capture dirt particles that abrade the material. Moreover, uneven surfaces can make it difficult to install a new floor. 

What Causes Uneven Floors?

Before replacing your flooring or covering up your floor with new material, you should make sure that the source of the unevenness is not problematic. For example, one cause of uneven floors is water damage. If that’s a concern, you need to remove any affected materials and treat the moisture problem before installing new floors. 

Another cause of uneven floors is a compromised foundation. If you have cracks in your foundation or moisture around it, you might want to have it inspected for damage.

However, sometimes floors are old. Houses shift, and the surfaces move as they settle. You may have already replaced the flooring in some areas but not others, causing variations in the levels of your floors. 

If you’re ready to create a uniform, even surface underfoot, you can install new floors. Continue reading to learn more about the best flooring for uneven floors.

Qualities of the Worst Best Flooring for Uneven Floors

The best flooring for uneven floors is flexible. If you don’t alter the subflooring or underlayment to create an even layer, you need a floor that’s going to adjust to the varying heights of the surface below it. Although you might notice the transition when walking in bare feet, flexible flooring often provides a gradual transition between the different levels of flooring, which is virtually unnoticeable to the naked eye. Furthermore, flexible flooring will eliminate sharp changes in the level of the floors, reducing tripping hazards.

The material that you use to hide uneven floors should also be strong. If it’s too thin or fragile, it could cave into depressions and break when exposed to variable pressure.

Conversely, the worst flooring for uneven floors is rigid tile or stone. These materials have no give. Therefore, they won’t adjust to your uneven floors. Instead, they’ll crack. The larger the tile is, the more likely it is to break. You might be able to get away with smaller tiles on uneven floors. However, they might be difficult to install if there are sharp edges and extreme disparity.

Exploring the Best Flooring for Uneven Floors

There are a few materials that you should consider when looking for the best flooring for uneven floors. Before we go any further, we should note that bamboo and hardwood flooring are not ideal options for uneven floors. Here are some descriptions of the best flooring for uneven floors, including their benefits and disadvantages. 

Carpet

Carpet is the most flexible flooring material. It’s relatively affordable and easy to install. 

This is a comfortable and convenient choice for areas that are not exposed to moisture. Therefore, it’s perfect for bedrooms, living spaces, offices, playrooms and hallways. 

You can strategically cut and install carpet padding to fill in some of the gaps in your uneven floors before installing the carpet. By doing this, you’ll establish a uniform surface beneath the carpet, and installing the final layer will be a breeze.

Another option is to lay area rugs to hide low spots in your flooring. A plush carpet with a thick pad can make you feel like you’re walking on level ground.

Pros:

  • Affordable and easy to install
  • Disguises imperfections and unevenness
  • Comfortable and warm underfoot

Cons:

  • Hard edges might feel uncomfortable under your feet
  • Not ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or mudrooms
  • Carpet may bunch up in the hollow areas
  • Wear and tear will develop unevenly 

Epoxy

Self-leveling epoxy creates a seamless surface that covers imperfections. As the epoxy settles into cracks and irregularities on the floor beneath it, the top layer remains flawless. Thicker applications typically deliver better results. If the epoxy layer is too thin, it may reveal some of the blemishes in the underfloor.

Epoxy must be applied to a relatively rigid surface. You shouldn’t use it over soft, porous materials, such as cork. It will cause the cork to become brittle and crack over time. In addition, it won’t adhere uniformly to the surface, creating a patchy finish.

This type of flooring is best when the unevenness ranges from 3 to 5 millimeters. If the disparity is greater than that, epoxy is not your best bet. 

Pros:

  • Creates a smooth, glassy surface that can mimic many types of flooring
  • Very customizable
  • Protects the surface beneath it
  • Highly resilient and resistant to damage
  • Long lifespan

Cons:

  • Thicker applications can get expensive
  • Requires adequate preparation of the substrate
  • Needs controlled humidity and temperature levels to set properly
  • Vulnerable to blistering and peeling
  • May be sensitive to UV exposure
  • Can be slippery when wet or oily

Floating Floors

Flooring that snaps together and doesn’t need to be fastened to the subfloor is often a good option for uneven surfaces. This type of flooring creates visual uniformity on the top surface and won’t reveal the irregularities beneath it.

Floating floors come in three different materials: luxury vinyl, laminate and engineered wood. Engineered wood is generally the most durable option for installing over uneven floors. 

This type of floating floor contains a veneer of solid hardwood at the top surface. The layers that make up the core and base of the planks contain synthetic materials. Look for a high-quality engineered hardwood. A flexible or soft core material will absorb some of the imperfections in your uneven floors.

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Requires little preparation of the substrate
  • Doesn’t require adhesives or fasteners
  • Stable and long-lasting

Cons: 

  • Can move and squeak in areas where the subfloor dips
  • Increased risk of planks moving or splitting

Vinyl Sheets or Tiles

Vinyl sheets and tiles are flexible and easy to install because they stick directly to the subflooring. To get the best results with this material, look for a thick, high-quality option. Thinner materials will reveal bumps beneath them. 

Pros:

  • Best for small spaces
  • Affordable and easy to install
  • Come in many designs
  • Intricately patterned vinyl camouflages imperfections

Cons:

  • Not ideal for large expanses of uneven floor
  • Quickly develops wear when installed over sharp edges
  • Reveals pits and bumps faster than other flooring options

Concerns With Installing Flooring Over Uneven Floors

Gradual changes in elevation are easier to deal with than sharp corners. If you install a flexible material over sharp edges, those areas are exposed to more load. Over time, you’ll see signs of wear and tear in those spots, whereas the rest of your flooring should hold up nicely. 

The best way to install flooring over uneven floors is to prepare the subflooring with an underlayment that minimizes some of the variation. One option for doing this is to use luan, which is a thin plywood substrate. 

Luan is not sturdy enough to support weight on its own. Therefore, you must install it over a structurally adequate subfloor.

You can also use self-leveling compounds beneath the top layer of flooring to create a better underlayment. These are ideal for large dips.

Different flooring materials require distinct preparations. Therefore, you might want to check with the manufacturer to determine the best way to prepare your subfloor. Working with a professional installer will likely produce the best results if you’re installing flooring on an uneven floor. You’ll get the ideal outcome when you do the prep work that’s necessary for leveling out the subfloor first.

Beveled vs Non-Beveled Vinyl Plank Flooring

Luxury vinyl tile is an affordable, versatile flooring option. It can mimic hardwood and other popular materials and is extremely water resistant. Selecting the design and choosing the finish of your vinyl planks aren’t the only decisions that you have to make, however. You also have options for the structure of the plank. 

When you’re deciding between beveled vs non-beveled vinyl plank flooring, you should weigh the pros and cons of each. Of course, aesthetics are also important. Learn more about the different types of beveled vs non-beveled vinyl plank flooring so that you can choose the type that offers you the most benefits.

Square Edge Planks

Square edge planks are non-beveled. Their edges are cut at a 90-degree angle. This means that they sit flush against each other when they’re installed. There won’t be an obvious seam between the planks. 

Depending on the grain pattern, non-beveled vinyl plank flooring can create an uninterrupted, expansive look. If there is minimal variation in the pattern on each plank, you may not be able to identify where each plan starts and stops. 

Many homeowners appreciate this style because it’s clean, modern and seamless. It can also make a small room look bigger.

One of the primary reasons that consumers install vinyl plank flooring is so that they can achieve similar aesthetic results as tile or wood boards. However, some people don’t like the look of non-beveled vinyl because it has a similar appearance as sheet vinyl. If you wanted to install sheet vinyl, which is less expensive than planks, you could. Still, planks are often easier to cut and install than large, unwieldy sheets of vinyl.

Pros and Cons of Non-Beveled Planks

Pros:

  • Seamless design
  • Easy to clean
  • Reduces concerns about a floor design looking too busy
  • Works well with many types of designs
  • Creates a neutral canvas for your home decor
  • Better for wheelchairs or rolling furniture

Cons

  • Edges are more prone to cracking and peeling
  • Often costs more than beveled planks
  • Shows misalignment more than beveled edge boards

Beveled-Edge Planks

Some vinyl planks have beveled edges, which are also known as enhanced bevels in the industry. These are cut at an angle so that when you install the boards adjacent to one another, there is a valley between them. This groove delineates the boards and creates visual separation between them. 

Some consumers prefer beveled vinyl planks. This is a newer technology, which makes some homeowners and designers assume that it provides a more modern and updated look. 

But beveled vinyl actually makes your floors look more rustic. It can give the impression that the boards are made of thick planks, like the ones that you would find on a cabin floor. 

The bevel can look dark or light, depending on the material in the plank’s core. The bevels may also be painted to produce a specific effect. Sometimes, the beveled edge is distressed. This can make vinyl flooring look more like authentic hardwood.

When the flooring is in place, the beveled edges on each plank attract the eye. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your preferences and goals. 

If you want to minimize the boldness of your floor and create a simple canvas for the rest of your home decor, you might not like the look of beveled vinyl planks. On the other hand, if you want a distinguished, sophisticated floor that serves as a conversation piece without being too overpowering, you might enjoy the way that the bevels look.

One option that offers a beveled edge without such severity is pillow-edge vinyl plank flooring. This has a deep groove, but it’s rounded and has the same coloring as the plank. Therefore, it helps your eye read the planks separately without generating harsh lines.

Pros and Cons of Beveled-Edge Planks

Pros:

  • Easier to install without noticeable misalignment
  • Gives a subtle geometric look to the floor
  • Mimics the appearance of natural materials better than non-beveled flooring
  • More durable than square-edge flooring

Cons:

  • Grooves capture dirt and debris
  • Harder to clean than non-beveled vinyl
  • Not ideal for wheelchairs or rolling furniture

Micro-Beveled Vinyl Planks

Whereas standard beveled vinyl flooring has a sharp 45-degree angle at the edges, planks with a micro-bevel have a less severe shape. They still have more dimension than sharp-edge vinyl tiles. However, the edge is often rounded and only dips slightly. 

This may be the best option for mimicking hardwood floors. It showcases the variation of the planks without creating sharp lines between them. 

Micro-beveled planks are also easier to clean than other styles. The valley that forms between the planks isn’t very deep. Therefore, you can easily sweep or wipe away dust and other particles.

Pros and Cons of Micro-Beveled Vinyl Planks

Pros:

  • Shallower edge traps less debris
  • Provides subtle delineation between planks
  • Looks natural
  • More seamless design than enhanced bevel flooring
  • Often more affordable than the other types
  • Doesn’t chip as easily as other kinds of vinyl planks

Cons:

  • Collects dirt more easily than straight-cut edges
  • Doesn’t provide the sharp contrast of enhanced bevel planks

Installing Beveled vs Non-Beveled Vinyl Plank Flooring

It’s essential to make sure that the subfloor and underlayment are even and smooth when you install non-beveled vinyl flooring. Any changes in elevation will result in an uneven floor surface. You might have a sharp edge where two planks sit at different heights. Beveled-edge flooring is more forgiving because the top surfaces of adjacent planks don’t touch each other.

No matter which type of flooring you choose, you might have the best luck with tongue-and-groove planks. These lock into each other, creating the ideal gap between boards. 

Beveled vs Non-Beveled Vinyl Plank Flooring Maintenance

While the maintenance requirements for beveled vs non-beveled vinyl plank flooring are generally the same, there are some significant differences.

You should sweep and dust vinyl flooring regularly to rid it of abrasive debris. Sand and dirt can grind into the material as people and pets walk on it, dulling and scratching the surface. This is the case regardless of the type of bevel.

If your floors are deeply beveled, you’ll need to take extra care when cleaning them. Don’t use too much water, which can settle into the valleys and cause damage. However, you should sweep or vacuum to remove debris from the valleys. A dry dust mop might not cut it on vinyl floors with a beveled edge.

Which Type of Flooring Should You Choose?

Consider the pros and cons of each type of flooring against your personal preference. One type may be better for a particular room or lifestyle. For example, if you’re installing the vinyl in a mudroom or another area that is exposed to debris regularly, you might opt for non-beveled vinyl planks. If you have children who spill sticky substances on the floor frequently, you might not want to scrape out the residue from deeply beveled planks in your kitchen.

On the other hand, if you have no special requirements for the functionality of the flooring, you can choose beveled edge vinyl. In a bathroom, beveled-edge vinyl tiles look like they have grout between them. 

There aren’t too many disadvantages to micro-beveled flooring. Therefore, this might be a great choice if you’re on the fence.

Is Cork Flooring Waterproof?

When you think of cork, you probably picture the soft stopper that comes in wine bottles. Many people assume that cork flooring isn’t a good match for water because of its flexibility. But that cork protects and preserves liquids in wine bottles, and it also has water-resistant properties when it’s used on floors.

Understanding Cork

Cork is a type of wood that comes from cork oak trees. These plants are native to the Mediterranean region and have special adaptations for using water efficiently. In areas where this tree grows naturally, winters are wet and summers are dry. The plant’s outermost layer of bark grows as a grayish, nubbly surface. It develops over time and keeps the tree hydrated during the dry season.

This is the portion of the tree that is harvested for cork flooring. Its sponge-like structure contains air pockets that create a bouncy, pliable feel. But although cork has a spongy texture, it doesn’t soak up water. This flooring material contains suberin, a waxy substance that resists moisture.

Water Absorption of Cork vs Hardwood

Hardwoods seem like they would be relatively impenetrable by water. Those that fall at the high end of the Janka hardness scale are more water resistant than softer woods. However, wood is largely porous. The open cells in hardwood soak up moisture. You can prevent this by sealing the wood appropriately. But in its natural form, hardwood is not the best flooring option for extremely damp areas, such as basements and bathrooms.

Although more than 50% of cork is air, the material doesn’t absorb water like hardwood does. The suberin that coats the honeycomb-like walls prevents liquids from entering the open areas. This substance makes the cork hydrophobic, which means that it repels water.

In contrast, hardwood is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture from the air. The more humidity that there is in the environment, the more the hardwood soaks it in.

If you soaked a cork block in water for 48 hours, its mass would increase by 3%. That’s because it’s not completely waterproof. It does have hygroscopic properties, but those are moderated by the hydrophobic qualities.

If you soaked a block of hardwood in water for 48 hours, its mass and weight would increase by much more than that. Some types of wood can absorb more than their weight in water.

Is Cork Flooring Good for Bathrooms and Kitchens?

Cork is an excellent material for kitchen and bathroom floors. It can be used as a surface layer or as an underlayment.

Cork’s limited water absorbency makes it a deterrent to mold and mildew. It isn’t susceptible to rot, making it ideal for areas that are prone to pest infestations and flooding. Another reason that cork flooring is practical in kitchens and bathrooms is that it has a naturally non-slip surface. It’s an ideal option for indoor/outdoor rooms and sunrooms.

You should avoid using flooring in rooms that are always damp, such as saunas and pool rooms. Prolonged contact with moisture will eventually cause the cork to swell.

The type of cork flooring that you use influences its susceptibility to moisture damage, though. Cork tiles, planks, rolls and sheets are made by grinding the wood into small particles. Then, the manufacturer binds those granules together with an adhesive. Some manufacturers create pure agglomerated cork, which involves pressing pieces of the material into a mold and activating the natural resins under high heat.

Many cork tiles and planks have several layers. Although the top layer may be made of agglomerated cork, the other layers often contain medium or high-density fiberboard. This material is similar to the substrate on laminate flooring. It’s more absorbent than cork and may be susceptible to water damage.

The process that the cork undergoes affects its water resistance. Check with the manufacturer to determine if a particular product is appropriate for use in a damp environment. The most waterproof kinds of cork flooring are made with non-absorbent materials and techniques.

Can You Waterproof a Cork Floor by Sealing It?

Cork flooring is usually factory finished with a water-resistant coating. Some manufacturers recommend re-sealing the material every so often.

If your floors have a polyurethane sealant, you should reapply it every five to seven years. Cork floors with natural wax sealant should be refinished every 6 to 12 months. Acrylic and oil-based urethane sealants are much more popular than wax nowadays. They last longer and require less upkeep. Therefore, some homeowners strip the wax from existing cork floors and apply a polyurethane top coat.

Applying the top coat over seams in the flooring prevents moisture from seeping into the gaps. It also protects the floor from wear and tear by preventing dirt particles from settling into the spaces. Your flooring will stay waterproof much longer if you avoid grinding abrasive grains, such as sand, into the material.

Protecting the Surface

Even though cork is naturally water resistant, it gets some support from the top coat. Enhance the waterproof nature of your cork floors by treating them gently.

Some tips for reducing wear and tear on cork flooring include the following:

  • Replace casters on furniture with wide, rubber ones.
  • Place breathable rugs or mats at sinks and entryways.
  • Avoid using rubber-based rug pads.
  • Sweep abrasive particles off of the flooring regularly.
  • Inspect the floor for gouges that penetrate the finish or top layer.
  • Clean up liquids immediately.
  • Avoid dragging heavy items, including chairs, across the floor.
  • Wear soft-soled shoes.
  • Keep indoor temperatures and humidity levels steady.

Factoring in the Installation Method

The installation method also makes a difference in the water resistance of a cork floor. If you use adhesive tiles, make sure that you use the right type of adhesives. Solvent-based glues will dissolve water-based binders. Add a moisture barrier beneath cork flooring in moisture-prone areas, such as basements and sunrooms.

In some cases, you can lay down a subfloor that includes adequate moisture protection. Glue cork tiles directly to this material. You can also install a floating floor with a moisture barrier over concrete slabs.

A reputable professional will install your cork flooring using the most effective methods. Let them know if the flooring will be exposed to high humidity. They will help you select the best products and techniques to prioritize the waterproof qualities of your new floors.

Look for a licensed and insured installer, and learn about their guarantees. The manufacturer will also offer guidelines for proper installation and maintenance of cork flooring.

What You Need to Know About Carpet Tiles for Basements

Having a basement as part of your property can mean one of two things. Either it’s a storage area for the junk you’ve accumulated over the years, or it’s an opportunity to take advantage of a potential extra room. Whether you’re building a man cave or making a serviceable utility area, it’s important to make sure you choose the right flooring.   

Carpet tiles for basement flooring are increasingly popular. They’re versatile, cost effective, and have insulating properties. In the current market, there is also a growing range of styles and materials available.

So what do you need to consider when deciding whether carpet tiles are the right choice for your basement project? We’re going to give you an overview of the key areas for focus, along with some practical guidance on their effective use. 

What Are the Different Types of Carpet Tile?

When it comes to aesthetics, your design options can stretch beyond monochromatic or checkerboard patterns that were popular in the past. These modular panels come in triangular, diamond, rhomboid, and even herringbone shapes, among others — allowing you to be more creative in the patterns you can arrange them in.  

One of the key choices you’ll also need to make is about the backing. While this is not the visible part of the carpet tiles that you’ll see every day, it certainly makes a difference to their feel and performance. In most instances, you’ll need to decide between three options:

Hard Backed Tile

In this instance, the carpet fibers are attached directly to a thin base of PVC. One one hand, this can make for a sensation of stability and security underfoot, and tends to be the lower-priced option. However, these are not always the most suitable choice for basements as there is no insulating layer to protect against the cold, or against rising moisture.

Closed Cell Cushion Tile

This option has a similar PVC backing to the hard backed variety, but is separated from the carpet fibers by a layer of compressed foam. This adds some insulating properties to the carpet tile, and the potential for shock-absorption extends the lifespan of the carpet. 

Open Cell Cushion Tile

Like the closed version, this type also has a foam layer sandwiched between the carpet fibers and the PVC backing. The key difference in this case is that the cells in the foam cushioning are not as densely packed. The core’s ability to inflate after being compressed underfoot means that it is a more comfortable, durable, and insulating carpet tile for basement floors. 

How Much do Carpet Tiles Cost? 

The cost of carpet tiles for basement floors generally comes down to these factors:

Cushioning

The more comfortable and insulated the tiles are, the higher the price tends to be. Hardback tiles can cost as low as $0.94 per square foot, while the open cell variety averages at around $3.20 per square foot.    

Locking

For additional stability, there is also the option for tiles that interlock. Some of these have a visible “jigsaw” appearance, others lock beneath the surface. These come in at around $2.80 per square foot

Sealant

When installing carpet tiles for basement refurbishment projects, it’s important to bear in mind that these rooms can be subject to greater degrees of cold and damp than other areas of your home. As such, it’s advisable to seal the floor with an epoxy concrete sealant before laying the tiles. A gallon of this can add around $26 to your budget. 

Adhesive

Many carpet tiles come with peel-and-stick adhesives already applied to the back, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, if your basement is particularly susceptible to damp climate or moisture, it’s important to apply your tiles using a moisture resistant adhesive. A gallon comes in at around $17.

Assuming that you have various accessories such as carpet knives, tape measures, trowels, and paint rollers already to hand, the average cost of carpet tiles for basement projects measuring 100 square feet is around $300. 

How to Install Carpet Tiles 

Basements can be notoriously tricky to remodel, but the good news is that carpet tiles are one of the more simple options when it comes to installation. Depending on the condition and shape of your basement, there can be some preparation involved, and if you have ambitious pattern plans it is essential to plan ahead.

For the most part, though, you’ll find installing carpet tiles for basement floors runs as follows: 

  • Remove Old Flooring — if you previously had full carpets, ceramic tiles, or vinyl you’ll need to remove this first. Use a scraper or pry bar to pull up all pieces of glued down materials. 
  • Make Repairs — assess the state of your basement floor; are there any cracks, holes, or dips? If so this could affect both the finish and safety of your carpet tiles. Use concrete filler or floor leveller to create a smooth, stable surface. 
  • Sweep and Clean — make sure that the area is free of dirt and dust that could interfere with the solid bonding or curing of your sealants and adhesives. Make sure the cleaning surfaces are entirely dry before beginning your installation. 
  • Apply Sealant — follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but this is usually applied by using a paint roller to spread evenly about the surface. Avoid walking on the wet sealant, and make certain the room is well ventilated while you’re occupying the space. 
  • Test Your Placement — if you’re using a complex pattern, it’s helpful to place the tiles as intended before committing to gluing them down. This way you can assess where adjustments need to be made. 
  • Install the Tiles — it’s advisable to start from the center point of the room and work your way out toward the edges. Work patiently, applying adhesive to one tile at a time, and press the tile firmly in place on the floor. Remember that until the adhesive has cured, the tile can still be subject to shifting, so be careful as you place the other tiles that you’re not inadvertently nudging others out of position.

Conclusion – Why Carpet Tiles?

The reason to choose carpet tiles for basement flooring is more than a simple budget-friendly consideration. Today, cushioned cores can help create a cosy underfoot feel, as well as insulate from cold and damp conditions. They’re easy to install, which makes them not only ideal for DIY enthusiasts, but also cuts down on labor costs. The variety of designs available means that you don’t just have to settle for drab squares, you can make your floor a key feature in your creative remodeling plans.