There are many different styles and brands of subfloors to choose from, but for our purposes today we will boil it down to tile systems such as Dricore or Barricade and rollout systems such as Super Seal.
Sub-floor tile systems such as Dricore are very popular for basement developments. These systems generally have a plywood layer and a channeled plastic membrane layer.
The plastic membrane has channels in it that allow air between the sub-floor and concrete to act as an insulator. The plywood layer creates further separation from the concrete and also works to create a more level and solid substrate that can allow for the installation of a wider range of products.
In general, these tile systems will perform slightly better for insulation and moisture protection. The standard Dricore product claims to increase the flooring by up to 3.5 degrees celcius.
Another area where the Dricore really out performs roll-out products is in creating a level and solid surface. The plywood layer really helps to create a more level floor. However, this comes with a major disadvantage as well.
This disadvantage is the added height of the sub-floor. The Dricore product is 3/4″ thick and other competitive products are even closer to two inches. This creates some problems in that you will now need to raise the bathroom foundation with a sub-floor or by adding more concrete. Also, unfinished areas such as your mechanical room end up having a fairly extreme dip or toe cruncher.
One thing clients can find a bit annoying is that by adding that inch, they can feel that the bottom stair is shorter than the others which can be a bit jarring when entering a basement.
The other disadvantage is the price of the tile systems vs the roll out ones. When professionally installed, the Dricore systems come to between $3.50-$5.00/sf whereas the roll-out systems are closer to $1.25-1.50/sf. So it is a fairly big difference especially when you consider that you can get a decent laminate installed for less than the cost of the tile systems.
The Roll-Out systems such as the Super Seal remove the plywood layer and are basically dimpled plastic membranes that roll out over the concrete. These dimples work much the same way as the air channels on the tile systems, allowing air to work as an insulator between the concrete and the sub-floor, and also letting any latent moisture or ground water evaporate underneath the product.
These roll-out systems perform comparably to the tile systems when it comes to moisture protection and insulation.
They also work to help provide a more level surface, however not to the degree of the tile systems.
On the flip-side, the Superseal product is only a little more than 1/8th of an inch reducing the problems listed above with the other product. Also, as mentioned, they are significantly less money.
So to summarize:
The tile system out performs on levelling the surface and insulation, but the roll-out system is much more affordable and significantly thinner.
Our advice for most clients is that if they plan to be in their home long-term and don’t mind spending the extra money, then the tile systems are a good way to go.
However, if you just want your floors to be a bit warmer and protect against some water, but want to keep your budget down, the roll-out floors are a great option for your basement renovation.