best flooring for basements

Best Flooring for Basements

Finished or unfinished, the basement is a bonus space with endless possibilities. Now that you’ve decided to put it to good use, what are the best flooring options for your basement?

Basements are a little trickier than other parts of the house when it comes to reno work. While every room has its own set of challenges, you’re probably going to find the biggest roadblocks here.

Why?

Reason #1: putting in the wrong flooring in the basement can affect your health. Especially if you spend a lot of time down there.

Mold and mildew love a place to grow and spread. And they thrive on natural materials.

So, floors like hardwoods are definitely out when it comes to basements.

Reason #2: Not only does dampness create the ideal environment for mold to grow, it can also rot or decay your floors. And anything else that you might have on top of them.

That is why it’s important to get it right when you install a basement floor.

The good news: there are plenty of options. And you really, truly can find the best flooring for your basement.

Let’s look at some of the choices and how they would work to protect your floors from collecting too much moisture. Here are some of the best flooring options we have found for your basement.

Floor Tiles with a Vapor Barrier

The best flooring for a basement is one that addresses most, if not all of the issues surrounding basements are typically fraught with. And floor tiles with built-in vapor barriers may do just that.

These tiles come in many different varieties. You can choose either carpet tiles or ones that mimic different natural stones.

They have molded plastic bases that raise the tiles slightly off of the concrete slab. This allows the concrete floor beneath them to breathe.

By using this type of flooring, you can help prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria in your basement.

Floor tiles with built-in vapor barriers are also very easy to install. They are modular and interlocking.

So, you just snap them together to build your floor. And, because they snap together so easily, you can also take them apart easily whenever you may need.

If a modular tile gets a bit too dirty or wet, just pull it out, clean it, and snap it back into place. And, since they’re raised, they also work well on floors that are slightly uneven.

These tiles are easy to cut for areas of the basement where a full tile just won’t fit. A jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade will get the job done.

Another benefit of floor tiles that come with a vapor barrier is that they are quite affordable. So, you won’t break the bank if you make this your basement flooring choice.

Some of the more popular manufacturers of modular tile include ModuTile, ThermalDry, and Place N’ Go. Each of these manufacturers offers a warranty on their product.

So, you can give them a try with minimal risk.

Despite all the advantages of floor tiles, there is a downside.

Because these products are not natural, you do run into the issue of VOCs and other chemical compounds. Fortunately, many manufacturers are conscientious of this, and you can find floor tile companies that have made efforts be more eco-conscious.

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Floating Floors

Floating floors are any type of floor that is not nailed or glued down to the subfloor. They rest on top, which means you can install a moisture barrier between your basement’s slab and the floating floor.

Simply put: it’s a good idea to have this kind of protection if you choose floating floors because basements often attract moisture.

The good news: this opens up the opportunity to install certain types of flooring in your basement that you may not have considered before.

Not all floating floors are suitable for a basement. However, some interesting options abound, such as:

If you choose one of these types of floating floors, look for materials that are waterproof or highly water-resistant. And, for the cork, engineered hardwood, and vinyl, it is extremely important that these products are sealed correctly.

Cork is a soft material, and can retain moisture. You’ll want to harden & protect your cork by sealing your floors after install.

A good polyurethane seal will protect your engineered hardwoods, laminate, and luxury vinyl flooring. And many of these flooring options come pre-sealed.

If you plan to turn part of your basement into a playroom or bedroom, you may want a softer surface. Carpet tiles are another floating floor option that works for basements.

The carpet tiles that work best for basements are low-pile and constructed of man-made, water resistant materials such as nylon or polyester.

To summarize: various types of floating floors work well in basements as long as 1) they are properly sealed, and 2) they are installed over a moisture barrier underlayment.

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Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is a highly durable, water-resistant flooring that works very well in basements.

Why? Because as long as it is glazed, water cannot penetrate your tile floor.

Plus, ceramic tiles come in so many varieties and colors, even some that look like wood. So, you have a lot of options to choose from.

And the tiles are not susceptible to mold or mildew growth. However, your grout can be vulnerable to mold.

This can be avoided if you routinely treat your grout with a water barrier sealant. Once a year should be fine for this.

The best way to install ceramic tile in a basement is directly over a concrete slab. If you use a plywood subfloor, you risk the plywood warping if water does end up reaching it.

For added protection, even though ceramic holds ups well against water, you can install a water barrier layer between the subfloor and your tiles.

Keep in mind, however, that ceramic tile can be hard and cold. If you plan to use your basement often, you might want to accommodate for this.

Put down rugs in areas of the basement you plan to use frequently. You can also have a radiant heating system installed underneath the ceramic tiles.

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Epoxy Sealed Concrete Flooring

Are you in the market for something low maintenance, inexpensive, and easy to install? If so, you might want to consider an epoxy sealant over your concrete floors.

But, just note: there is a trade-off. The floors will remain hard & cold. Forever (well, at least in terms of the life of the concrete).

However, epoxy is not affected by water damage. Water sits on top of it and, if there isn’t an extensive amount, it is easily removed with a shop vac.

Epoxy is also highly resistant to germs and bacteria. With regular sweeping and the occasional wet mop, your floors stay clean.

Epoxy also protects your concrete flooring from cracks or stains. And if you eventually decide to install another type of flooring, it can easily go over the epoxy.

There are many options of colors and patterns for epoxy. So, whatever look you are going for, you can probably find an epoxy that will compliment it.

On the downside, prepping your floors to install epoxy can be labor intensive. And the smell of it is quite strong.

However, once the epoxy has dried, the ammonia scent will fade away. If you are looking for an easy, inexpensive, and water-resistant way to finish out your basement, epoxy may be a good fit.

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Why Your Basement Flooring Needs Protection Against Moisture

So, why so much fuss over dampness and moisture in the basement? One reason is because many people – surprise, surprise – actually like to use their basements.

Basements can be used to add an extra bedroom. Or maybe you want to build out a laundry room, a children’s playroom, or even a man-cave. And if you plan to spend time in the basement, it needs to be safe to occupy.

If you aren’t mindful of moisture protection when you finish out or remodel your basement, you are putting yourself and anyone else who spends time down there at risk for health issues.

Mold, mildew and other harmful bacteria can grow beneath your flooring.

How does this area attract so much moisture?  It mostly has to do with your basement’s location in the home.

Some of the sources of water that find their way down to the basement include rain or ground water, washers & dryers that aren’t properly vented, or from a basement bathroom. Exterior humid air can also enter the basement and condense with the cool air inside.

Does your basement have a problem with moisture? Check these 5 symptoms:

  1. Damp and humid air.
  2. Visible water on the floors or walls.
  3. Foul, musty odor.
  4. Visible signs of mold or mildew.
  5. Rotted or decaying wood.

While new flooring may not fix all of these issues, installing a proper floor is one of the ways to help protect your basement.

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Ways to Address Moisture in Basement Flooring

There are several ways you can protect your basement floor from moisture. The simplest option is to go with a flooring that’s impervious to water.

Go with an epoxy sealant over your concrete and use a shop vac to clean out any puddles you find on-the-spot. Water can’t penetrate ceramic tile, so it can be cleaned up the same way.

However, that kind of ‘look’ isn’t for everyone. And depending on what you want to use your basement for, concrete may not be the most practical flooring, either.

A moderately easy solution is to choose floor tiles with the built-in vapor barriers that were mentioned earlier in this article. They allow the concrete beneath to breathe, and you can easily remove individual tiles to clean up further if needed.

Another way to combat moisture in basement flooring is by installing a moisture barrier between the concrete and your flooring. This option opens up lots of additional choices in flooring.

A moisture barrier is installed over the slab and come in several varieties, such as:

  • Roll-down plastic sheets
  • Felt sheets.
  • Adhesives that inhibit moisture.
  • Coatings of moisture protective paint.

The best moisture barrier protection is dependent upon the type of flooring you plan to install.

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What to do if Your Basement Floods

While most basement flooring is designed to stand up to the toughest elements, it may not survive a flooded house. There’s just not a lot you can do about that.

So, if you are in an area that is prone to flooding, you should factor this in when choosing your flooring. You’ll almost assuredly want to go with one of the waterproof options.

(If you don’t, then you will probably have to discard your flooring and start over.)

The good news is you can take measures to help prevent your basement from flooding.

Make sure your house is properly graded & install a drainage system. Sump pumps can also get water out quickly and prevent further damage to flooring and furnishings in your basement.

If flooding is a common occurrence in your basement, make sure you not only have the right new flooring – but, also have the right contingency plans in place before you begin your new install.

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In Conclusion

To find the best basement flooring, first: consider what your basement’s ultimate purpose. This will have a big impact on what type of flooring material you choose.

Next, of course, is your budget. If the flooring won’t fit within your budget, then it obviously isn’t an option.

Once you know what you plan to use the area for and how much you can spend, it will be easier to narrow down the field of options to find the flooring type that is best for you.

If you plan to create a second living area, playroom, or bedroom in the basement, there are many stylish options for floating floors and floor tiles.

And if your water issues extend beyond moisture and your basement occasionally floods, epoxy or ceramic tile will save you the time and headache of having to replace the flooring again.

As long as you know your options, and make an informed decision, you will surely find the best basement flooring for your home.

Have questions about what to consider for your basement’s floors? Or, perhaps you just finished an install. What tips might you have for others who are in the middle of their own project? Leave a comment below!

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Jennifer Lester

About Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester is a freelance writer, blogger, and home improvement finatic. She loves to write about things that will transform your house into your dream home. Jennifer is a graduate of Texas A&M University. LinkedIn.

4 thoughts on “Best Flooring for Basements”

  1. Do you have recommendations for basement flooring that can be laid over existing tiles (there may be asbestos in them so we don’t want to disturb them), and is NONTOXIC? Also the floor is not level. Thank you!

  2. kristing Topping

    I just came across your link and was very much impressed to see this lovely basement flooring tips. I liked your ideas. I also deal with flooring company in aliso viejo California that provides fabulous flooring ideas that suits any budget. Great article.

  3. Kourtney Jensen

    I love the option of a concrete floor. I like the fact you pointed out, that it is easily maintained, and is waterproof. Basements tend to flood in wetter climates (like my current residence) so any amount of moisture can ruin my flooring. Something that attracted me to the concrete is that instead of the dull gray of concrete, you can use epoxy to give it a nice finish. How much does it typically cost to pour a concrete flooring? This is definitely something I will be looking further into and finding a reliable company to do the job.

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