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The Best Flooring to Install on Concrete Slab Foundations

Concrete slabs provide a sturdy and durable foundation for sheds, garages, cottages, and buildings of all kinds. But they can also be quite cold and uninviting if left unfinished. Luckily, when it comes to flooring options for a concrete slab, there are many different types to choose from. How you decide to finish your concrete slab will depend on your vision for how you will use your space. Here are a few flooring options to consider for your concrete slab.

This Equipment Shed has been built on a concrete slab, which can be finished in a variety of ways.

Before you install your floor

Sealing a concrete floor is an important step in maintaining the durability and longevity of your concrete slab flooring. Concrete is a porous material, which means that it can absorb water, dirt, and other substances that can cause damage over time. Sealing the concrete floor helps to create a protective barrier that prevents these substances from penetrating the surface, making it easier to clean and maintain. Sealing also helps to enhance the color and texture of the concrete, making it more attractive and appealing.

There are several types of sealers available for concrete floors, including acrylic, epoxy, and penetrating sealers. Acrylic sealers are easy to apply and provide a glossy finish, but they may need to be reapplied more frequently than other types of sealers. Epoxy sealers are more durable and resistant to chemicals, making them ideal for use in garages and other high-traffic areas. Penetrating sealers work by entering the surface of the concrete, creating a chemical reaction that seals the pores and creates a protective barrier. They are ideal for use in areas where moisture is a concern, such as basements and bathrooms.

You can purchase concrete sealers that also contain a stain. This is ideal for places where you want to enhance the look of the concrete, but want to retain its low-maintenance properties. Finishing with a stain and sealer combo is popular for garage floors, workshops, and other mess prone, high-traffic areas.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl tile floors are durable and easy to clean. Photo by Linoleum123 / CC

Vinyl Flooring is a budget-friendly option that is easy to install and maintain. It comes in a variety of styles, including wood and tile looks, and it is resistant to moisture and stains. One of the advantages of vinyl is its durability. It can withstand heavy foot traffic and is resistant to scratches and dents. It is also easy to clean, as it only requires regular sweeping and is safe to use a wet mop on. However, vinyl can be susceptible to fading and discoloration over time, especially in areas with direct sunlight. It can also be affected by changes in temperature and humidity, which can cause it to shrink or expand. Additionally, while vinyl flooring is durable, it is not as long-lasting as other flooring options, such as hardwood or tile.

Because it is low-maintenance and easy to clean, we recommend vinyl flooring for workshops and art studios. Vinyl flooring can be installed directly over concrete. First you should repair any cracks in the concrete, sand down any high spots, and fill in low spots with a self-leveling compound.

Once the concrete surface is properly prepared, you can begin installing the laminate flooring. Start by laying down a foam underlayment, which helps to reduce noise and provide cushioning. Trim the underlayment to fit the room, leaving a small gap around the edges to allow for expansion. Next, begin laying the laminate planks along one wall, with the tongue side facing the wall. Leave a small gap, typically around 1/4 inch, between the planks and the wall to allow for expansion that occurs due to temperature changes. Use spacers to maintain this gap as you work your way across the room. Connect the planks by angling them and fitting the tongue of one plank into the groove of the previous plank. Use a tapping block and a mallet to gently tap the planks together, ensuring a snug fit. Continue this process, row by row, until the entire floor is covered. Finally, install the appropriate molding or transition pieces to cover the expansion gap around the edges, and trim the excess underlayment. Here’s a handy guide for how to install vinyl on concrete.

Carpet

You can put carpet over a concrete floor to make a comfortable home gym. Photo by Giorgio Trovato via Unsplash

Carpet is a comfortable and cozy flooring option that is suitable for concrete slabs. If you are turning your shed or garage into an art studio, she-shed, man-cave, or even a home gym, you’ll appreciate the added comfort that carpet offers. One of the biggest advantages of carpet is its insulating properties. It can help to reduce noise and retain heat, making it ideal for colder climates. This also makes it a good choice for music studios and band practice rooms. Carpet can be difficult to keep clean, so we don’t recommend this option for places where you might need to make messes.

When installing carpet over concrete, you’ll first want to make sure the surface is clear and level. Sealing the concrete floor is highly recommended. Then you’ll want to install tack strips around the perimeter of your floor, which will hold the carpet in place. Then you can lay down your carpet pad on the concrete, and finally install the carpet over it. Make sure that you leave a generous amount of extra edge as you install the carpet, so you can perfectly trim it at the very end.

Hardwood

Hardwood floors make a space warm, livable and inviting

Wood is a timeless and elegant flooring choice, and it can be installed on top of a concrete slab. It is an excellent option for interiors where aesthetics are a priority. A she-shed, rec room, yoga or Pilates studio, or even a tiny home can benefit from the beauty and durability of a hardwood floor. When choosing the proper wood flooring to install over concrete, consider engineered hardwood, as it is designed to withstand changes in humidity and temperature that can occur with concrete slabs. Before installation, you will want to make sure your concrete slab floor is level. If you have not added a moisture barrier finish, you will want to check that the moisture of your concrete is within an acceptable range.

Once the concrete surface is prepared, you can proceed with the wood flooring installation. Start by laying down a vapor barrier to block moisture and add cushioning. Next, measure and mark the starting point for your flooring, typically along a wall. Apply an adhesive recommended by the flooring manufacturer directly onto the concrete. Then, carefully place the wood flooring planks onto the adhesive, ensuring a tight fit between each piece. Use a tapping block and a mallet to gently tap the planks together, locking them in place. Repeat this process, row by row, until the entire floor is covered. Finally, allow the adhesive to cure as per the manufacturer’s instructions before placing any furniture or heavy objects on the newly installed wood floor.

Tile

If you want an easy to clean and attractive floor, consider installing tile over your concrete slab. A main benefit of tile is its versatility. It comes in a wide range of colors, patterns and sizes, so you can create a custom look that suits your style. One downside to tile is that it can be a bit chilly on the feet, so it might be best suited for areas where you expect to either keep your shoes on, or add a rug or carpet.

Prepare your concrete slab by leveling it, sealing any cracks, and thoroughly cleaning it. Again, checking the moisture level of your concrete is also a good idea. We recommend applying a concrete sealer before laying down your tile to protect your floor and building from water damage.

When you’re ready to begin installing the tile over your concrete slab floor, start by applying a layer of mortar using a notched trowel. Only cover a small area at a time: you don’t want the mortar to dry out. Place your tiles into the mortar, pressing firmly and using tile spacers to maintain uniform distance between your tiles. Continue this process, working in small sections, until the entire floor is covered with your tiles. The edges of your floor may require you to cut your tiles to the right shape: you can find a number of tools and methods for how to cut tile on the internet.

Once all the tiles are in place and the mortar has cured, remove the tile spacers and apply grout with a grout float. Take your time making sure the grout fills the spaces between tiles, and clean any excess grout with a damp sponge. Once the grout is dry, use a sealant to protect it from stains and to ensure the longevity of your new tile floor.

Laminate

Installing laminate flooring by connecting the tongue and groove planks. Photo by Wasrts / CC

Laminate flooring is a popular choice for concrete slabs, as it is designed to look like hardwood or tile at a fraction of the cost. It is durable and easy to clean, making it a great option for high-traffic areas. It is comfortable to walk on, as well as attractive, and can be a great way to finish spaces that are more living oriented. One downside to laminate is that due to the wooden core of this flooring, wet-mopping is discouraged as a method of cleaning. Therefore, avoid using this flooring in places where you expect a lot of mess.

Preparation for installing laminate flooring over concrete is similar to the other flooring types mentioned earlier. Make sure the concrete is level, crack-free, and that the moisture levels are in an acceptable range for laminate flooring. Once the concrete surface is properly prepared, you can begin installing the laminate flooring. Start by laying down a foam underlayment, which helps to reduce noise and provide cushioning. Trim the underlayment to fit the room, leaving a small gap around the edges to allow for expansion.

Next, begin laying the laminate planks along one wall, with the tongue side facing the wall. Leave a small gap, typically around 1/4 inch, between the planks and the wall to allow for expansion. Use spacers to maintain this gap as you work your way across the room. Connect the planks by angling them and fitting the tongue of one plank into the groove of the previous plank. Use a tapping block and a mallet to gently tap the planks together, ensuring a snug fit. Continue this process, row by row, until the entire floor is covered. Finally, install the appropriate molding or transition pieces to cover the expansion gap around the edges, and trim the excess underlayment.

Final Notes

You’ve got lots of options when it comes to adding flooring over your concrete slab. Once you have a clear vision for how you will use your space, you can pick the flooring option that will best suit your needs. We strongly encourage those of you who want to install your flooring yourself to do a lot of research beforehand. There are many resources online that can help beginners learn how to DIY their own flooring. If you’re a bit hesitant about installing flooring yourself, reach out to professionals. We hope our brief guide to choosing flooring for your concrete slab has made this project more approachable for you. Good luck, and happy home improvement!

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