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Flooring Options for Use on Concrete Sub Floors

Updated on April 20, 2011

Concrete sub floors are common in houses built on a slab foundation. The concrete sub floors provide a solid foundation for flooring options. Before adding any flooring to a concrete sub floor, check to ensure it is level, and is crack and divot free. Make any necessary repairs before adding the flooring.

Wood Flooring
Wood flooring includes solid hardwood planks and engineered wood planks. Both types of flooring may be installed over a concrete sub floor, but do require preparation.

Moisture is one of the primary concerns with installing this type of flooring. Because the slab foundation sits directly on the ground, the sub floor may retain some moisture. To install hardwood floors, first lay down a plastic moisture barrier, followed by a layer of 3/4 in. plywood. Because planks cannot be nailed or glued down directly onto concrete or the moisture barrier, the plywood provides a kind of "fake" sub floor that allows the planks to be secured.

Floating floors, those with a click-together tongue and groove construction, may be installed over the moisture barrier, without the plywood, provided the concrete is level.

Tongue and Groove Construction
Tongue and Groove Construction | Source

Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is available in planks, but is made up of resin-saturated paper, a wood core and a melamine finish. Between the core and the finish is the decorative element. This is a high resolution photograph depicting a wood grain or stone.

Laminate flooring is a tongue and groove construction that allows the flooring to "float" on the subfloor. The flooring is installed without having to nail or glue the planks to the sub floor.

Carpeting | Source

Carpet and padding may be installed over a concrete slab using tack strips to secure the carpet to the sub floor. Tack strips are strips of wood with metal teeth along the edge for "grabbing" the carpet edge. Concrete nails are partially inserted in the tack strip for securing the strip to the concrete.

Adhesive is necessary for installing padding over concrete. The padding is cut into manageable strips and adhesive applied to the underside of the padding to secure it to the sub floor. Carpeting is then installed over the padding.

Add Tile to Sub Floor
Add Tile to Sub Floor | Source

 Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles may be installed directly onto concrete. The concrete, though, must be level and free of cracks. Any crack may continue to expand and result in an unstable base for the tiles. The tiles, then, may crack as well. 

An unlevel floor causes air pockets or gaps within the adhesive and between the adhesive and underside of the tile. Both of these issues need be corrected before tile is installed over the concrete.

Installed properly, tile flooring lasts a considerable amount of time. Removing tile from concrete flooring requires the individual tiles be broken up and the adhesive removed with force and chemicals.


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      chris 4 years ago

      Awesome information. Great article. Thanks for posting.