December 20, 2022
At first thought, flooring may seem to be a cosmetic feature of the home. But your choice of material can have a big impact on upkeep and structural integrity as well. This is especially true in respect to your foundation, which can affect how well your flooring holds up over time.
Below, we go over how to choose the best flooring options for different foundation types and conditions.
Slab foundations create a solid concrete surface to support your home. While they may initially offer great stability, they are susceptible to shifting over time. Austin’s clay soil is particularly prone to swelling and shrinking cycles through the seasons, exacerbating this weakness.
Flooring for slab foundations should therefore be flexible enough to accommodate some movement over time. These include rubber, laminate, carpet, vinyl, cork, or click-in wood materials. If your home lies outside of Austin’s many clay deposits, and is built on a more stable soil mixture, slightly stiffer options like traditional wood, ceramic, or stone can work as well.
Pier and beam foundations offer superior stability because they are engineered to stand strong as soil shifts around them. Their supporting beams are submerged deep, sometimes all the way down to the bedrock, allowing them to remain unaffected by fluctuations in soil volume and pressure.
Consequently, flooring options for pier and beam foundations are diverse. If desired, you have the freedom to choose materials that are more rigid and in need of strong support. These include stone, ceramic, brick, and hardwood.
One important consideration, however, is the fact that a pier and beam foundation creates a crawl space beneath your home. This crawl space is prone to the accumulation of pooling water and/or humidity. Extra care will need to be taken in installing moisture barriers that prevent condensation from traveling up into your floors.
Does your home have an aging foundation that has already shown signs of movement? This is usually evident in the presence of slanted floors, sagging, creaking, and uneven closures of doors or windows.
Installing a new floor on an uneven foundation is risky, but it’s best accomplished by choosing materials that offer flexibility:
Carpet is the most forgiving option for homes with shifting foundations. They are highly flexible and will move with the subfloor if the foundation continues to shift. Loosening may occur over time, but this can be easily fixed since carpet is only tacked down and not glued.
Cork is a soft wood that has a somewhat foamy composition. This gives it great mobility when placed on a surface that may expand or contract. In fact, cork planks can expand as much as 1” in every direction, and can compress up to 40% while retaining the ability to return to their original state.
Laminates and vinyls can adapt to uneveness and movement much more easily than traditional tiles made from stone or ceramic. They come in the form of a flexible sheet that is glued down on the subfloor. The entire surface, or even just sections, can be easily removed in case you need to make repairs.
While much more rigid than the options above, wood flooring can still provide a bit of flexibility. Click-in installations work best, but they have a tendency to show uneveness when it’s too pronounced. This is why wood flooring is only recommended for foundations with mild uneveness and potential for further shifting.
If your need for new flooring isn’t urgent, we highly suggest repairing your foundation before installation. This will allow you to enjoy a number of benefits that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Douglas Foundation Solutions can help you repair or completely upgrade your foundation and ensure stability for years to come. We’ve served countless homeowners throughout Austin, Texas, providing options for both slab and pier foundations. We’ll help you resolve your foundation issues and prescribe the right solution for your property’s soil type and the structure of your home.