I am looking for low-VOC flooring to finish a basement. I am debating between carpet or engineered wood planks. What do you recommend?
I have already installed DRIcore subfloor on the concrete floor. I need to install a finished floor. I was first interested in carpet to help keep the basement warmer, but there is very little ventilation and I am concerned about the VOC fumes. I know there is wool carpeting, but it is susceptible to mold and mildew. I have a pretty dry basement, but I don't want to push my luck. I have looked at Puresque Carpet at Home Depot, but to get a decent carpet (with their special underpadding), material cost is around $4-$5 per sq ft. That started me looking at engineered wood, which is in the same material price range. However, I am not sure if engineered wood is low or high in VOCs. Ultimately I would like to spend no more than $3/sq ft on the carpet or engineered wood with underlayment.
Stephen, we would highly recommend cork flooring for basements.
- Bugs, mold, mites and even termites are repelled by cork due to a naturally occurring substance in cork called suberin. This waxy substance also prevents cork from rotting even when completely submerged in water for long periods of time.
- Cork is a natural insulator and naturally maintains a comfortable median temperature, never getting very hot or very cool.
- Cork reduces the transmission of sound and vibration, making it an ideal basement flooring.
- It is super easy to install and maintain, and will last the life of your home.
The best thing about cork, of course, is that it is actually made from the waste of the cork wine-stopper manufacturing process so cork flooring is a recycled product. All pigments, varnishes and adhesives used in producing cork tiles are water-based, solvent-free and have no VOCs.
It may run a bit more than $3/sq ft, but the time saved in installation, maintenance and life-cycle costs will save you in the long run.
For more information:
Read more about cork flooring pros and cons in GreenHomeGuide's Flooring Know-How.
Also, read Mari Strain's Q&A "Is cork a good flooring choice for a basement? Will my cats damage the floor?"
And there's also great advice in Mary Cordaro's Q&A "I just finished my basement. Can you help me choose mold-resistant flooring?"