Yes, you can install hardwood in a basement, as long as there is not a water nor moisture issue.
In Westchester NY, many basements are below grade and/or constructed directly on the slab. Because of this, many basements (especially in older homes) often have water issues/leaks or they tend to have excessive moisture. Sometimes the moisture can vary based on the time of year. If you do have either of the issues, I would recommend that stay away from hardwood as well as laminate flooring. Many customers mistakenly believe that laminate is waterproof…it isn’t! Instead, if you have moisture issues, you are better off trying a waterproof or water resilient surface such as tile or vinyl.
If your basement is below grade (i.e. beneath the ground), then you need to use an engineered hardwood (rather than solid hardwood). Some engineered hardwoods can be nailed or glued and others click into place.
The choice among hardwoods depends on what type of sub-floor you have and how even it is.
a) If you have a PLYWOOD sub-floor AND you are on ground level, you are in luck. This means that you have a lot of flexibility in your wood choices. If you are on grade, you can select solid hardwood which can be nailed into the plywood as well as engineered hardwood which can also be nailed into the plywood. This is the best installation method and it tends to cost a bit less. From there, it really just depends on which wood you prefer (and your budget, of course).
b) If you have a PLYWOOD sub-floor AND your basement is below the ground, then you would need to install an engineered hardwood (solid hardwoods are not approved for below grade levels as there are large swings in temperature/humidity which can cause the floor to buckle and split. Engineered hardwood is designed in layers so that it can tolerate this better. You can learn more about engineered hardwood here: Is Engineered hardwood real? In this scenario with a plywood subfloor, you would generally be best off to have a standard engineered hardwood floor that can be nailed into the plywood.
c) If you have a CONCRETE subfloor AND you are below the ground, you will need to use an engineered hardwood (see above). If your floor is smooth, then you could install a regular engineered hardwood by gluing to the the floor. It is critical that your floor is smooth and fairly level…otherwise the adhesive won’t adhere well to the surface and could pop up. If the floor isn’t smooth/level, it is important to level the floor (but this can get expensive). Alternatively, if your floor is fairly level but not smooth, then you could select a clickable hardwood that can be floated on top. You can read more about floating floors here: What is a floating floor? (Please note that if your floor is uneven, your floor can have a lot of movement – just like laminate does..and if it’s very unlevel, you should either level it or select a different type of floor surface that can tolerate the unevenness.
d) If you have a CONCRETE sub-floor AND you are on the ground level, you have some choices pending your budget and how the home is constructed. The less expensive way is to install an engineered hardwood on top of the concrete (you can either glue it or float it (see above – paragraph C ).
You also have the option of installing a plywood sub-floor (and then installing solid hardwood on top). Solid hardwood requires a plywood sub-floor. If there is enough room (i.e. height), then you can install a 3/4″ plywood sub-floor. Altogether, you will be adding 1.5 inches to the height with the combo of the plywood (3/4″) and the solid hardwood (3/4″), so it is important to check door heights and transitions, especially if you have any metal doors (which are very challenging to or replace). You should also look around the room to make sure there won’t be other height issues (e.g. if you have cabinets or appliances there or transitions to other rooms. So, if this will physically will work, then it comes down to a budget question, as you need to pay extra for installing the plywood (and installing plywood over concrete is more expensive vs. adding it to wood flooring joists. With concrete, you need to use special hilties and nail guns to secure the plywood into the sub-floor. The costs can definitely add up.
So, if you add in the plywood to the floor, then you can use either type of hardwood – solid or engineered.
If you do not add a plywood sub-floor, you will need to use an engineered hardwood. See paragraph C for a discussion on types of engineered constructions.
I hope that this makes sense. Basements are often complicated and it’s best to consult a flooring professional on best structure/installation method and whether floor prep is needed (since many basements are uneven) or even whether hardwood is the best choice for your basement.
When you’re looking for flooring for your basement in Westchester County, give The Flooring Girl a call at 914-937-2950.
My name is Debbie Gartner, and I'm known as "The Flooring Girl." I own my own flooring store that serves Westchester NY and Fairfield CT counties.
We install hardwood flooring, carpet, tile flooring, laminate, bamboo and cork flooring. We also refinish hardwood floors. We are a shop at home flooring store. You can call us at 914-937-2950 to schedule a free flooring consultation or email us at FCI.firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us "bring the store to your door."
If you are calling outside of Westchester/Fairfield Counties, please contact us at 914-407-3899.