Can I install hardwood below grade?
Q: I just bought a below-grade condo on the garden level of a renovated school house. The school house was renovated ten years ago and the basement floor is dry as a bone. I’d like to put a hardwood floor down but I have heard mixed reviews about installing solid hardwood below grade. My plan was to put down a moisture barrier, lay down 2×4 (flat) framing, add insulation between framing, and put down 3/4-inch plywood, then install the hardwood. Is this a bad idea?
A: It’s not recommended to install solid hardwood below grade. The expansion and contraction measures of a floor in those conditions might be too extreme for you to control. I would recommend an engineered floor, a high quality product. A well engineered floor may be refinished several times. The plywood center core helps control the expansion and contraction.
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For a high quality floor, look for one that has the same wood on the backside as the top. I think you would receive the best results with a floating, engineered floor. One that comes to mind is Harris-Tarkett Longstrip. This product sits upon foam and a moisture barrier, permitting the subfloor to “breathe.”
Another option would be to consider laminate flooring products that are designed to look like hardwood flooring. These flooring options are very realistic.
Answered by John Fuchs, Carpet Warehouse, Rancho Cordova, CA
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