I believe I may have solved our flooring dilemma and saved us some $ in the process. After much research and very serious consideration, I am leaning towards painting the floor. Go budget or go home, right?
From what I have read, Behr makes some decent products that sound like a good match for our project. Once the concrete has been properly prepared (cleaned & patched) we will apply Behr Concrete Bonding Primer. The primer claims to "promote optimal paint and stain adhesion" for porous concrete "with excellent resistance to water" ($18/gallon with an estimated coverage of 400 square feet per gallon).
After applying the primer, we will apply Behr Porch & Floor Paint ($24/gallon with coverage of 400 square feet per gallon). With a little elbow grease, we may be able to achieve a nice clean look with this paint.
I like two colors for the floor paint. My first choice is a bright clean white. I like the idea of lightening the basement space as much as possible. Here is a great project photo I found today that showcases a beautiful white painted basement floor:
And NO, I did not forget about the previously mentioned asbestos tile. The idea is to paint the floor right up to the edge of the asbestos tile. Where the paint ends, I am thinking of using vinyl tiles OR vinyl planks over top of the asbestos. There are a few very nicely priced options available.
I like this 12" x 12" vinyl tile from Lowes because it mimics the warm tones of more expensive cork flooring. This tile is priced at 88 cents per square foot, but is currently unavailable online or in stores. Probably because it is so awesome.
I'm still on the fence about this next tile. It's kind of blah. I prefer a richer shade of "wood". The more I look at it the less I like it. This 12" x 12" vinyl tile is available from Home Depot (same price as above).
The following product is a vinyl plank flooring available from Lowes. Each plank measures 4" x 36" for 99 cents each. The installed results "resemble" a hardwood floor. It is available in several finishes that are more attractive than the photo.
Once the concrete has been painted and the asbestos has been vinyl-ed, we will add four area rugs. By using these rugs in a specific layout we will attempt to imitate the look of wall-to-wall carpeting. So far, I am partial to the Mohawk Home shag rug from Home Depot. It is available in several sizes, has excellent online reviews and is reasonably priced. The 8' x 10' rug will be $147 with free shipping.
If all goes as planned (which it hardly ever does) we should be able to complete the flooring in 2 days (of prep) + 2 days (of painting) + 1 day (of vinyl) + 15 minutes (unwrapping area rugs) = less than a week. I estimate the overall expense will come in roughly around $700 or $2 per square foot factoring in all materials. This ends up costing half as much as the flooring options we were considering yesterday (dricore panels with cork or carpet tiles). Besides being more cost-effective, I also really like the flexibility of having area rugs. We will be able to remove the rugs for cleaning, re-arranging or in case of flooding.
The bulk of the flooring cost estimate comes from the area rugs. If I can find less expensive rugs I will certainly go with them. I will keep you posted.