The best flooring options for your basement, include floor tiles with vapor barriers, engineered hardwood, and basement floor carpeting. Cost and ease of installation are discussed. This is a highly detailed article where we set out basement-specific flooring options.
If you’re looking to improve your home by installing new flooring in your basement, you will need to find out more information about the best options available to you. It’s important to remember that reflooring your basement is a trickier challenge than reflooring the rest of your home, because of the fact that mold and mildew are more likely to be growing down in your basement than in other parts of your house.
That means you’ll need to avoid things like installing hardwood floors in your basement because these will be a natural attractor of mildew and mold. Also, keep in mind that many basements are uneven, and may need additional prep work before the flooring is installed. This could lead to additional costs, which may play a factor in which flooring option you end up choosing. First, let’s examine the best option for your basement flooring, and then also look at the other options available to consumers.
Table of Contents
Vapor Barrier Floor Tiles
Floor tiles that have a vapor barrier tend to be the best option because they handle so many of the problems that come with installing basement flooring. These are essentially tiles like you would see on a regular home floor, except they are essentially “floating” between the concrete and the tile, so that there’s room for the tile to breath, reducing the chance of build-up of mold and mildew. Also, because the flooring is tiled, you won’t have to worry about things like if one part of your flooring gets damaged and then you have to replace the entire flooring.
The main downside to this option is mainly cost because you have to pay extra for the vapor barriers. It also means you will be going through a pretty involved installation process, which includes sealing your concrete subflooring with an adhesive.
Putting carpeting in your basement is a comfy choice because it then can resemble and feel like some of the other more livable spaces in your home. Nobody wants to be in their basement when it’s a cold winter with no shoes on, so having carpeting in the basement can be a great way to convert your basement into a den or game room. One big plus is that you won’t need to spend so much on your energy bill in order to keep your basement warm. There’s also a general safety consideration because children and elderly people can be prone to falling, so carpeting gives them an extra layer of protection from the concrete. It also is very comfortable to sit and relax on, which could make your basement one of the centerpiece rooms in your home when it comes to entertaining guests.
Another reason to greatly consider carpeting is because it offers a whole plethora of textures, colors, and other varieties that aren’t available to you in other types of basement flooring. Brieze, cut, loop, cut and loop, these are just some of the awesome varieties of basement floor carpeting available to you.
Carpeted basement flooring is also aesthetically pleasing. It looks as good as it feels and is good at hiding dirt and grime, so if you’re in a hurry to entertain guests you won’t necessarily have to give the floor a good scrub down. It’s cheap too, as having a pro install it for you will only cost you between one to three dollars per square foot.
Some downsides of carpeted basement flooring include that they need to be cleaned precisely because they are so good at hiding dirt and grime. You’ll probably need to sweep or vacuum your carpeted basement flooring on a regular basis. And every once in awhile it’s recommended that you have your carpeted basement flooring steam cleaned. It can also stain easily, especially from pets urinating on it or things like red wine. A final drawback is that it tends to collect allergens like dust mites and pollen, and gives off the most VOCs of any kind of flooring, which may be an issue to someone with health concerns.
Should there be some kind of flooding or other reason the carpeting gets very wet, there is the possibility that the water will seep into the carpeting and need to be removed altogether. Also, it doesn’t last as long as other flooring options.
Cork flooring is one kind of flooring that is available as a “floating floor,” aka a type of flooring that has space between the concrete slab and the flooring itself to prevent moisture from being trapped. Because it’s hypoallergenic, it can be a great choice if you’re suffering from asthma or allergies. Another benefit is that even though cork flooring is not completely free from the need for maintenance, it is considered low maintenance compared to other options. You can vacuum it or use a broom to get it clean on a regular basis. Remember to only use water-based cleaning products on your cork flooring, because otherwise, it could damage your floor. There is a product made especially for cork flooring available. And while it’s susceptible to dents, overall it is more durable than both carpet and hardwood flooring options. Also, it is soft to walk on, kind of like carpet, and therefore is a great choice for those looking for a comfier flooring option.
Acoustics also comes into play, as you don’t want your basement sounding like a blaring rock concert as you spend time in it. Thankfully, cork is a great absorber of sound, keeping the decibel levels in your home to a manageable level.
Even if something does happen to your flooring, unlike with carpet cork flooring can be sanded, after which it can be restained. This makes for a sustainable and long-lasting option for your flooring.
Downsides of cork flooring for your basement include that the cork can change as the temperature changes, kind of like the problems you would have with hardwood or engineered hardwood floorings. This poses a problem with installation, as you will need to acclimate the flooring to the climate of your basement at least five days before you begin the installation. One downside that may not be such a problem is that cork tends to fade when it’s placed in direct sunlight, but this probably won’t be an issue if you are installing it in your basement. Compression damage to the cork flooring can also be issue overtime if the furniture is left in the same place for longs periods, but moving the layout of your furniture every few months is a great way to mitigate this issue. And cork is still susceptible to water damage, which is something to keep in mind depending on how you plan to use your basement, or if there’s a risk of your basement flooding.
Engineered Tiles or Vinyl Planks
These are a great option for your basement flooring because they are waterproof, meaning one of the biggest problems we’ve been seeing with some of the other options isn’t one here. So in case, your basement does get flooded, you won’t have to worry about replacing sections of or maybe even the entire floor. Ease of installation is also something that is important this is one option where you can install the flooring yourself. These also have a robust wear layer, so these tiles keep on going long after other options have worn out. Also, you don’t need any kind of adhesive during installation to keep it in place.
One downside is that there’s a possibility the floor could rise and bounce because of an uneven basement floor. Also, the upfront purchase of vinyl floor planks or tiles will cost you more upfront, but if you install it yourself, you’ll probably end up saving money overall. But do keep in mind the materials are more costly, which can run anywhere from one dollar to up to twenty dollars per square foot.
Rubber Gym Flooring
Lots of people are considering putting a gym in their basement these days, and you are too you can’t go wrong with exercise flooring. It’s both durable and waterproof, which are two of the main things you will need to consider when installing whatever kind of flooring you choose. Even if the concrete subflooring is uneven, thick rubber tiles can hide this well.
These thick tiles can be expensive to ship because of how heavy they are, so keep that in mind when ordering. Also keep the color you’re picking in mind because even though darker tiles can hide wear, tear, dirt, and grime better, they can also make your basement look darker than it already it.
We’ve already discussed regular wall carpet, so let’s look at carpet tiles, similar options that come with its own set of upsides and downsides.
These can be a stylish alternative to carpet and are more of a hard surface. They look colorful and can come in a variety of colors. Should anything happen to one part of the carpet, you can always just the specific tile instead of having to worry about the entire floor.
One big downside is that if you are comparing this against the wall-to-wall carpet, you’ll find that this is the more expensive option. However, keep in mind as previously mentioned that in case you need to replace any part of your carpet tiles, you will only have to worry about a single section of tile, as opposed to facing the possibility of replacing the whole carpet. While a little pricier than traditional floor carpeting, it’s still a pretty affordable option, only running you about two to four dollars for professional installation per square foot.
Acid Stained Concrete Flooring
Let’s say you just want to forgo the process of installing new flooring altogether, and instead, want to use what you already have. This is a cool, stylish look that will give your basement a timeless quality. A one-gallon can of stainer or paint only run you about $30 total, so this is definitely a more affordable option.
However, many people go into this kind of a project without being aware of the prep costs associated with acid staining your basement floor. These costs can end up making the project cost far more than what you originally expected or possibly more than installing some other option you could have installed.
As known as “resilient flooring,” sheet vinyl is a popular option because it is cheap compared to most of the other hardwood flooring options available. It really doesn’t have any problems with dampness in terms of moisture in the basement. It is also generally a warmer surface than concrete or other flooring options. This option can also be quite affordable, with your average sheet vinyl running you between one to five dollars per square foot. Once you have the materials, a pro will most likely charge you between one to two dollars per square foot for installation.
Some downsides include the fact that fashion-wise, this kind of flooring just isn’t where it’s at. Most people consider this to be the ‘50s dated retro look, not something you want to have if you are considering installing a sleek, cutting edge looking gym or entertainment center in your basement.
Vinyl Tiles or Planks – Glue Down version
Heavy or uneven surfaces can lead to bumps in your flooring that would create problems if you were to just install vinyl tiles or planks without gluing them down first. With the glue down versions of vinyl planks and tiles, you can stop the bouncing ahead of time by gluing the planks directly to the concrete subflooring. There are luxury vinyl planks available, which are known for their durability against wear and dampness. If you choose to go with pricier options, then it will probably be waterproof, which is a huge plus. They also tend to have a warmer surface than just leaving your floor concrete.
While you might be thinking that the plus side of gluing down vinyl flooring is that you won’t have to prep it at all, think again. While leveling out the floor perfectly is not required, it is important that you at least get some of the bumps out, because otherwise, they will still show through when you glue down the vinyl. If you get the cheaper kind, then chances are they won’t be waterproof, which is a bummer. Also, you will need to hire a professional to do the installation, as this kind of flooring is known to be difficult to get incorrectly. You may also be giving up some aesthetic value because cheaper tiles do tend to look that way.
Engineered Hardwood Floors
While these are a pricier option, they definitely have some benefits. They look super slick and professional, and like some of the other options discussed, they can be floated to reduce moisture buildup.
Just remember that if your basement has a habit of getting moisture into it, then these kinds of floors should definitely be avoided. That means before choosing to install engineered hardwood floors in your basement, test the level of moisture in the basement with a moisture meter.
Now that we’ve discussed all your options for basement flooring, let’s look at another great innovation in the world of floor heating: Radiant Floor Heating.
Radiant Floor Heating
Perhaps you’ve heard of radiant floor heating, which is a great option for people who live in cold areas. This kind of heating comes from either pipe on the floor or can be electricity based, using wires installed on the floor to conduct heat. You may be asking, “I have a radiator installed in my basement already, why can’t I just keep on using that?” You can, but keep in mind that heat conducted from a radiator has a tendency to only dissipate in the area closest to where the radiator is, as opposed to throughout the entire room. Having a radiant floor heating installed means that you will be able to have your heat dispersed evenly throughout the room every time it needs heating!
What kind of materials are best for basement flooring?
You’re probably better off with harder materials when it comes to flooring your basement because these kinds of materials have a tendency to withstand moisture and wear better than soft materials. This is especially true if your basement is prone to flooding.
What are the most comfortable options for my basement flooring?
Carpeting provides the most comfort and is a great option if you do not have a basement that is prone to flooding or has a lot of moisture.
What can I do to prep my basement for installing flooring?
Making sure that your basement doesn’t have a bump or uneven surfaces can be a great way to get your subfloor ready for installation!