Despite the risks — and the reality that nothing stands up to flooding as well as concrete — carpeting is still the first choice for many homeowners.
Heavy rainfall has forced some homeowners to peel up soggy basement carpeting and contemplate what to do next.
Despite the risks — and the reality that nothing stands up to flooding as well as concrete — carpeting is still the first choice for many homeowners. Whether you already have carpeting or are considering it, here are things to keep in mind:
When to replace: If a carpet gets completely submerged in water — a half inch or more — replacing it is best. If that isn’t an option, pull the carpet up and take it outside to dry, elevating both sides rather than laying it flat on the ground. Do not leave it down on the floor, folding it back to dry half at a time.
“Anytime a carpet is lying on itself, the moisture isn’t getting out,” says Alan Beal, a home inspector for Mid-Atlantic Inspection Services. (If only a corner of a carpet gets wet, it’s OK to pull it up, dry it out and put it back down.)
Although sections of damp padding can be cut out and replaced, if it is all saturated, replace it. And don’t rely on a surface touch test to determine whether you have a moisture problem underneath. The carpet can feel dry when the padding is soaked.
Mold: There is no such thing as a totally mold-free basement. The trouble starts when it begins to grow.
“Anytime you have moisture in your basement, mold is growing,” says Beal. Mold cells can be trapped underneath carpeting for years and not cause problems until the carpet comes up and the mold is exposed to the air. He adds a sobering fact: “You know that wet carpet smell that some basements have? That’s mold.”
Extra help: For perennially damp basements, Beal recommends a subflooring system such as DRIcore, water-resistant panels installed slightly above the existing floor, leaving a gap of air between finished floor and damp concrete (www.dricore.com).
Carpet squares: Carpet tiles once found primarily in commercial settings are increasingly used in homes. The tiles, from companies such as Flor (www.florcatalog.com), are easy to install and can be pulled up individually when stained or damaged — or before flooding occurs. If they get wet, they can be sun-dried and reinstalled. Some are treated with antimicrobial agents.
Vinyl: Holds up well against water and can be covered with area rugs for warmth.
Ceramic tile: Stands up to water, but is cold and slippery when wet.
Laminate woods: Not a good choice. They can buckle from exposure to humidity and cannot be repaired.