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PRO CONTENT: Why contractors should include a subfloor in their basement projects

Bryan Baeumler discusses why contractors should always make subfloors a priority in basement projects.

Provide a complete basement solution that reduces call backs and provides a better end product for your customers.If these subfloor benefits don’t grab your attention yet, several more will be outlined here and will likely make you question why you ever built without it.

Including a subfloor in a basement project, more than anything, protects the home from moisture damage and damage from minor flooding, thus protecting your customer’s investment (both time and labour) put into finishing a basement. The easy installation and protection a complete subfloor system like DRICORE® provides, will leave your clients comfortable, happy and satisfied with your work. As a contractor, you are educators for homeowners looking to transform their basements, so it’s important to be fully informed on how a good subflooring product benefits you and the homeowner.

Choose the right subfloor

There are many options being offered today for basement subfloors, but it’s crucial to pick a complete subfloor system. DRICORE, for example, incorporates a drainage and airflow membrane fastened to a structural load carrying substrate (OSB). DRICORE panels are 7/8” thick and come in 2’ x 2’ sheets that are easily transportable to a job site and can be installed in less than a day. That cold slab of concrete is constantly wicking moisture into the basement and a subfloor with a raised moisture barrier covers this cold, damp concrete to protect, insulate and cushion finished floors.

Other subfloor options, such as rolled underlayment that use the finished floor as the structural load carrying component, offer no protection against minor flooding. Using a rolled product and attaching plywood or OSB sheets on top requires more labour and is more difficult to transport to the jobsite vs. a complete subfloor system. Rolled underlayment also require fastening the OSB or plywood to the concrete floor with a minimum of 28 screws or nails per sheet resulting in an excessive amount of holes into your concrete slab, which is not recommended.  Considering the rolled underlayment isn’t fastened to the OSB or plywood completely via glue, customers who have used this method report a clicking noise as they walk across their floors. This is a result of the plastic and OSB (or plywood) slapping against each other in areas where the concrete floor dips a bit, so the OSB bridges the dip, the plastic follows the dip, and the resulting space between the two slap together when you walk over that area. Compare this to a DRICORE Subfloor R+ for example, which helps dampen sounds for a quieter floor and also has a much higher r-value of 3.

Cut costs and installation time

Rolled membranes are sometimes preferred as the upfront cost is “cheaper” averaging around $0.64/square foot, however, as it is not a complete subfloor system, there is an additional cost of a structural load-carrying substrate that is required for acceptable compression performance and the costs of additional labour and time to install the rolled plastic with a structural substrate on top. The biggest cost however would come to the homeowner, as a rolled membrane does not protect from even minor flooding –up to a half inch of water. Leaks in the foundation walls, split water lines in appliances like washing machines or hot water heater tank failures can easily cause substantial damage to the basement that rolled membranes just do not protect against. So, while $0.64/square foot sounds better than $5.80/panel or $1.45/square foot, the protection a complete subfloor system provides becomes invaluable. Helping the homeowner protect their basements from common moisture damage results in less call-backs and less labour for the contractor.

Protect investments, impress your customers

A subfloor system works for “behind the scenes” protection in terms of moisture damage, but also sets the stage for design details and visual accessories in the basement. A complete subfloor system provides a much better platform on which to install finished flooring products; whether your clients ask for hardwood, laminate, vinyl or carpet and they also offer a great compression rating so having heavier items such as billiard tables or treadmills in the basement is not a concern. DRICORE subfloors do not require skilled labour to install and require few tools. A typical 500 square foot room can be installed in an afternoon and customers love to see progress, walking down to see an entire subfloor installed in less than a day is a pleasant sight for the homeowner.

Informing homeowners and your clients about a subfloor system is also an easy upsell. Think about it, if you are spending $50,000 to $100,000 to finish your basement, $2,000 or so for a subfloor to protect that investment makes a ton of sense to even to the most cost-conscious of customers.

A basement can be easily ignored as the dark, damp space out of sight from the rest of the house, but for those who want to make the most out of the entire house bottom to top a subfloor is an investment you don’t want to build without.


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