Hurricane Sandy is No Match For Place N’ Go Flooring!

When Hurricane Sandy dumped 5 feet of water in Loretta F.’s basement, she knew it would be the absolute verification of Place N’ Go’s durability.  After pulling up the tiles and drying them and the floor underneath off, Loretta tells us that Place N’ Go “…passed the ultimate test with Hurricane Sandy.  Five feet of water sat on the tiles and were later caked with sheetrock.  We power washed them and they are ready to be put down again.  On top of that, their customer service is wonderful.”  We are so happy to hear it!!

Set in Concrete

The Coliseum

The Coliseum.  Ancient Roman aqueducts.  The Baths of Caracalla.  Your basement.  What do they have in common?  They would be impossible without concrete.

Concrete is a “composite construction material”; it is composed of aggregate, water and cement.  Through hydration, a chemical process in which the water reacts with the cement, the various materials are bonded together, producing a building material that can last thousands of years.

And yet, while concrete has insured that even today we can visit ancient sites such as the Pantheon, it is not impervious.  The substance that makes concrete strong can also weaken it: water.

The Pantheon

When constructed perfectly and under perfect conditions, the concrete slab in your basement will perform, well, perfectly.  But most of the time, we end up with moisture in our basements, either from broken or leaking pipes under the concrete, condensation or moisture coming through the concrete from the earth underneath it.  When these things happen your basement can be host to many problems:

 Health Issues – Moist areas are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, fungus, mold and mildew.  As I have posted about before, these can lead to many problems such as headaches and nausea and they can irritate allergies.

 Rotting – All that mold and mildew will eat away at papers, fabrics, wood and anything else organic.  And then there’s the smell that will be accompanying your new funky fungi.

Wet Insulation

 Insect Infestation

 Cracking – this tends to happen when the concrete slab was not cured properly.  If there was too much moisture during the curing process, small cracks could form, quite possibly even inside the concrete where they will remain hidden until they grow enough to make their way to the surface leading to…

 Spalling – When a piece of concrete breaks off from a crack, you’ve got spalling.

Darkening – Moisture should be able to evaporate out of the concrete freely, but when carpeting is installed, it can’t escape as easily and will cause the concrete to darken.

Roman Aqueduct
Photo Courtesy of freddie boy

While moisture is the worst problem most basement floors will face, age must also be contended with.  Cracking, breaking and flaking can occur as a concrete slab ages and it can be especially common in cold climates because the concrete endures many severe temperature fluctuations.  If you are careful and diligent, you can catch most of these problems before they get out of control.  For flaking and chips, you can use a patch compound.  For holes or cracks, it’s best to use expansive cement so the open space gets entirely filled, then use a patching compound to cover the area.

Another common problem with concrete slab is the surface is often not flat.  That can create issues when flooring materials are installed over it.

So if you are looking for flooring to put over the concrete in your basement, what are some of the best choices?  Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few:

– Vinyl Floor Tiles – These are very unsuitable for a basement because the vinyl does not allow the slab to dry.  And while the vinyl itself may remain unaffected, the adhesive used will fail and your tiles will peel up.

– Hardwood – Generally discouraged for basement floors because any moisture will cause the hardwood to buckle or twist and possibly rot; again, if adhesive is used, it will probably fail.  And if the slab is uneven, you will have difficulty installing the hardwood.  If you are absolutely dead set on hardwood floors in your basement and your slab is above grade, you will want to hire someone for the installation as the floor will need to be leveled, a moisture barrier must be laid over the slab and a subfloor made from exterior grade plywood will have to be installed.  Furring strips will have to be used to raise the floor by at least 2”; this can be an issue since many basements have low ceilings already and you will be losing more headspace.  I also suggest using engineered wood flooring as it has higher tolerance to moisture.

– Ceramic Tiles –If your slab is flat, ceramic can be a good option; it’s low maintenance and unaffected by moisture.  If the floor is not flat, however, the tiles will crack and break.  Installation can be difficult and you may want to hire a professional.  Another downside for some people is the discomfort of such a hard material, as well as the coldness of ceramic.

– Carpeting – Definitely a no-go.  Carpeting uses adhesive and as we know, the adhesive can fail if there is moisture in the slab.  In addition, carpeting can get moldy and rot when exposed to moisture.

– Laminate Tiles – Easy to install, low maintenance, durable and available in many different finishes.  You’ll want to use a floating type of laminate in order to avoid using adhesive.  Again, you need to make sure your slab is flat and use a moisture barrier because most laminates are not water-proof.

– Water-proof Interlocking Vinyl Tiles – Probably the best choice as these tiles are unaffected by moisture, there is no adhesive to fail, and they are flexible enough to be forgiving on an uneven floor.  They are durable and available in several attractive finishes.  Installation is easy enough that most homeowners do it themselves.

Moist is Such an Ugly Word

Photo Courtesy of John RH4

Did you know “moist” is one of the most hated words in the English language? Just take a look!  And it’s really no wonder people dislike it so much, the only time we want something to be moist is when that something is cake.  We certainly don’t want moist clothes or linens or…basements!

Photo Courtesy of Thoth

One of the things we’ve talked about before is using a dehumidifier to keep your basement dry.  A dehumidifier can prevent mold and mildew growth while making your basement more comfortable by eliminating that sticky, damp feeling.  As an added bonus in the summer, a dry room is a cooler room, so you’ll use less energy on temperature control.  

Dehumidifiers work to remove moisture by drawing in warm, moist air and cooling it by pushing it over cold coils.  The moisture condenses and then collects in a drip pan.  The now dry air is then pushed over warmer coils to bring it to room temperature before being pushed back out.

Choosing a dehumidifier can be tricky; there are a lot of options and sizes to choose from.  In this post, I’ve gathered some tips and guidelines to help you choose one more easily.

Size Counts

Dehumidifiers are usually rated according to how much water they can take out of the air every 24 hours and how many square feet they can keep dry.  Most people don’t know how much water they need removed from the air, so choose a dehumidifier based on the size of the area it needs to keep dry.  It’s usually a good idea to go a little bigger because the larger the dehumidifier is, the more efficient it is at taking water out of the air.  In addition, it can run at a lower fan speed than a smaller model and that means it will be quieter, too.  Don’t try to save money by buying a smaller unit than recommended; a small unit will need to run constantly and still may not remove enough moisture.


Photo Courtesy of JAGwired

Frost Control

 The coils in a dehumidifier can freeze if it’s in a cool place, so make sure you choose a model with frost control to prevent this.  If the coils freeze, your dehumidifier will run without actually dehumidifying.


Some models have simple controls that let you choose a humidity level (normal, dry, etc.) while digital controls let you choose a more specific humidity level.

Easy to Clean Air Filter

The air filter needs to be cleaned regularly because bacteria can build up in it.  Make sure your model has one that is easy to remove and easy to clean.


A timer is a nice feature allowing you to program when you want the dehumidifier on or off.

Auto Restart

In case of power outages, a model with auto restart will turn back on by itself, an important feature if you spend a lot of time out of the house and might not be there to restart it.

Automatic Shutoff

When the drip pan is full, the unit automatically shuts off.

Energy Star

Dehumidifiers that qualify for Energy Star ratings use 10% to 23% less energy than other comparably sized units.

Hopefully these guidelines will make shopping for a dehumidifier a lot easier.  Do you have  a dehumidifier you’re particularly happy with or maybe you’ve had one you hated?  Let us know in the comments!


Boys! Grow Giant Mushrooms in Your Basement!

Like an invading alien force, fungus, mold and mildew can invade your home, destroy structures and wreak havoc on your health.

Mold, mildew and fungus thrive in moist environments and for that reason can often be found in basements.  They grow on organic or porous material (paper, cloth, carpet, wood, insulation, etc.) and can usually be found in white, black, or blue colors.  They can look like streaks or clumps and they can be flat or raised.

This axis of basement evil can eat through the material they grow on, causing structural damage to your home.  To top it all off, they can also damage your health, giving you headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory loss and many other problems.  To find out more about how mold, mildew and fungus can affect your health, go the CDC’s website.

Fortunately, it’s possible to push back the invaders and prevent their return.

Photo courtesy of Nojhan

To remove existing mold:

  1. It is very important to wear protective gear when removing mold, mildew or fungus.  Becuase of the possible health problems you must wear a mask or respirator as well as gloves and eye protection.
  2. Open windows and doors to improve ventilation.
  3. To minimize the amount of airborne spores, dampen the affected areas.
  4. Clean affected areas:

-The best solution we’ve found is a product called Concrobium.  It does not contain bleach or any other irritating chemicals.  “Unlike traditional “wet kill” products, Concrobium works as it dries – hardening over the moldy surface to form an invisible film that physically crushes the mold micro-organism underneath.”  It also makes the surface mold-resistant.  You can also use it in a fogger making very large or inaccessible places easy to clean.  We’ve had a lot of success with this product.

-The traditional cleaning method usually involves bleach and water.  Porous materials are the hardest to clean.  The University of Georgia has instructions on how to clean the different items potentially affected.  It is best, though, to simply discard any porous materials that have been colonized.  Non-porous materials (metals, glass, hard plastic, etc) can be scrubbed clean with detergent, non-ammonia soap or a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.  (Remember to never mix ammonia and bleach as doing so can result in toxic fumes.)  After cleaning, dry all surfaces and run a dehumidifier.

       5.  Make sure the area is DRY before repainting and refurnishing.

To prevent future invaders:

  1. Control dampness; use your dehumidifier frequently and make sure you clean up any spills promptly.  Repair any leaky pipes, wall cracks or faulty window seals.
  2. Circulate the air.  Open windows when the air outside is drier then the air inside.  During humid weather, use electric fans.  Closets can trap moisture, so you may want to leave closet doors open and install fans.  It may also be necessary to install a ventilation fan for the whole area.  If you already have one, make sure the outside vent hasn’t become blocked.
  3. Keep the area as clean as possible.  Dirt and grease are nutritious for fungus, mold and mildew.

Click on Energy Star’s page for more information on how to prevent mold, mildew and fungus.

So, while fungus, mold and mildew may seem like formidable opponents, if you follow these guidelines, you won’t need to be Will Smith to fight these aliens.

Place N’ Go to the Rescue!

Place N' Go Travertine Beige

When the ceramic tile in my basement kitchen started cracking due to an imperfect sub floor, I always knew I was going to replace it with Place N’ Go interlocking, free-floating floor tiles.  Due to their flexible nature, they are a great solution for problematic basement floors.  I did keep putting it off but when our plumbing recently sprung a leak and water seeped under the tiles, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.  I got my hands on Selectech’s new Place N’ Go flooring – now available online at the Home Depot – and dedicated the weekend to my new floor.

Of course, it didn’t actually take the whole weekend, just one Saturday.  The tiles were much easier to install than ceramic, they look fantastic and we could walk on them as soon as they were down because there’s no waiting for grout or adhesive to dry.  In fact, the kids were scampering all over the floor before the installation was even complete!

The floor looks beautiful and we’ve gotten many compliments on it already.  And while we hope we won’t have any more leaky pipes, even if we do, we can just pull up the tiles, dry the area and the tiles, and then put them back down.  Place N’ Go tiles also added a bit of warmth to the floor; while the rest of the basement has icy cold floors, the kitchen is quite comfortable to walk on barefoot, and here in New England that’s wicked awesome.

Water, water everywhere!! And now my basement is wrecked…

Mass Department of Environmental Protection   

It certainly seems like this has been quite a year for flooding.  The Northeast was pummeled last spring and the Midwest was hit hard this autumn.  I’ve been told again and again by homeowners that had never had a drop of water in their basements that this year that all changed.

So what can you do if your basement is flooded?  First of all, act quickly: you don’t want to let that water linger in your basement because the longer it sits, the more damage it will do.

Cut Off Power to Your Basement

There is always the chance that there is electricity coursing through the water.  If your breakers are not in the basement, just switch them off.  If they are in the basement, you will have to get the power to your entire house shut off so you can reach the breakers without getting zapped.  You will probably have to call the electric company for that or you may have to call an electrician.

Get Rid of the Water

There are so many ways to do this, ranging from the time-consuming method of using a bucket, using a shop vac or sump pump or hiring a Disaster Restoration Company.   Some basement water-proofing companies have emergency services and can also be hired to remove the water.  If you do decide to do it yourself, one important thing to remember is that it must be done slowly; done too quickly and you may cause the soil and foundation to shift, resulting in collapsed basement walls, floors or foundation.   You must never pump more than three feet of water every 24 hours.

FEMA  recommends the following steps:

  • Begin pumping when floodwaters are no longer covering the ground outside.
  • Pump out one foot of water. Mark the water level and wait overnight.
  • Check the water level the next day. If the level went back up (covered your mark) it is still too early to drain your basement.
  • Wait 24 hours, and then pump the water down one foot again. Check the level the next day.
  • When the water in the basement stops returning to your mark, pump out two to three feet and wait overnight.
  • Repeat daily until all the water is out of the basement.

Mass Department of Environmental Protection   

Dry It Out

Open all the windows and doors, set up fans and get as much air circulation into your basement as possible.  The more air movement you have, the faster the basement will dry.

Sort Through the Wreckage

Now you can start deciding what you can keep and what you must throw away.  Handy Homeowners suggests the following steps:

1.  First move out the furniture and carpets/rugs and clean and dry what you can save.  Remember, if there was any sewage in the water, you must get rid of everything.  Then, sort through all the smaller items.

2.  After everything has been removed, clean the basement floors and walls using bleach and water.  All that ventilation you set up earlier will help here to keep you from getting sick due to fumes from chemical cleaners.  You can also use bleach to wash any clothes or rugs.

Now that you’ve cleaned and sanitized, give it time to fully dry.  When it’s dry you can start moving furniture and other items back in.

Protect Your Home From the Next Great Flood

You don’t want to go through that again, so what can you do to prevent it?  The easiest thing to do is to get a sump pump system with a battery operated backup pump.  If you want to go even further, there are basement waterproofing companies that will install sub-floor drainage systems.

Even if you water-proof your basement, you may still get seepage through the concrete or water from a plumbing leak.  That’s why you should also think about using flooring that is water-proof.  Carpet will get ruined and most hard flooring surfaces that use adhesives will fail because of moisture.

Having a basement full of water can be downright heartbreaking.  Knowing what to do when it happens and how to prevent it from happening again can help you deal with whatever deluge Mother Nature may throw at you!