8 Flooring Options for Your Basement
Been looking at your unfinished basement for the last year and wondering what to do with it?
You’ve imagined everything that you could do with all that extra space: A home gym so you’d have no excuse to avoid exercise. A place for the kids to play without making a mess in your main living area. Mother-in-law quarters. The ideas are endless!
But the question is: What kind of flooring should you put in?
Or maybe you’re a flooring professional who wants to help your customers know their options.
Picking flooring for a basement is a little different. Since basements are below grade, hardwood floors are out of the question. And even with more durable options, they can still be ruined by leaks, seepage, or flooding. How can you minimize these challenges and choose flooring that’ll hold up?
Let’s find out as we cover:
- Making sure your concrete floor is ready
- The best flooring for basements
- 8 basement flooring options over concrete
- The importance of moisture testing
The first step in putting down any flooring in your basement is making sure your concrete floor meets certain conditions. We’ll start there.
Making sure your concrete floor is ready
Because moisture is one of the biggest causes of basement flooring failures, check the moisture conditions of the concrete before putting down any flooring.
Basements are susceptible to various sources of moisture, whether groundwater that hasn’t drained properly, leaks, or weather fluctuations. These sources can leave the concrete at higher-than-acceptable moisture levels.
If you install a floor on top of the concrete, that moisture can creep up into the floor and wreak havoc.
So what to do?
A pinless concrete moisture meter can give you quick readings to know the relative wetness of the slab you’re working with. Any areas of concern can be further tested using reliable methods like the ASTM F2170 relative humidity (RH) test—and yes, you really do need RH testing before you proceed with your installation.
Once you have verified that your concrete slab is sufficiently dry, then the fun begins—flooring time!
What is the best flooring for basements?
Some popular options include paint, epoxy, tile, and vinyl. But ultimately, the best flooring is the one that fits the moisture conditions and purpose of your basement.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
First, how much does moisture affect your basement? Does the house have good drainage and grading that prevents flooding? Or do you have certain times of the year when flooding is possible due to high rains?
If moisture might be an issue, choose a type of flooring—such as paint, epoxy, tile, or rubber—that can handle a little water. Even engineered wood flooring can handle minor moisture issues.
Then, consider the purpose of your basement: Will it be a home gym? A place for guests to stay? A playroom for your kids?
Keep your purpose in mind as we look at 8 basement flooring options.
Paint is one of the easiest types of flooring. It’s inexpensive and makes for an easy DIY project. It’s also virtually unaffected by water damage. Be sure to choose paint for concrete floors.
The downside to using paint is that the floor will tend to feel cold—not ideal for a playroom or cozy TV room!
Epoxy flooring provides a smooth surface that is thicker than paint (and also thicker than an epoxy coating). Like paint, it’s simple and inexpensive to put on, adding some color. But it tends to last longer.
Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t help much with the warmth factor of a floor—an important consideration in the decision-making process.
3. Rubber flooring
Rubber flooring is not the most popular option, but it does work great for workshops or workout rooms (you may have seen it at your local gym).
If you can get over the initial rubber-tire smell, rubber flooring has many benefits. It’s easy to install because it doesn’t need any adhesive. The tiles (or sheets) interlock together. And it’s a very soft option to walk on.
Rubber flooring also handles moisture quite well, though it’s not completely waterproof.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are popular options for basements. If you don’t mind the cold feeling and keeping the grout lines clean, tile has many pros, including
- Easy to install over concrete flooring
- Can handle high traffic and moisture
- Doesn’t stain easily
Some people even opt for plank tile flooring that looks like real wood. And one option to make the floor feel warmer is to put a subfloor in between.
5. Vinyl planks or tiles
Vinyl planks or tiles are thicker than tile and sheet vinyl, making them a warmer flooring option.
Compared to sheet vinyl, they’re a bit more spendy, but the price may be worth it for the ease of installation.
The vinyl can come as tiles or as long, narrow planks about 6 by 48 inches. They click right into place the way a floating floor would, making it simple to replace individual tiles if they get damaged.
Unfortunately, vinyl planks and tiles do have a couple of cons. For one, furniture can easily puncture or dent them.
And second, moisture seeping up from a concrete subfloor could potentially affect the adhesives.
Thankfully, if a moisture issue were to occur, you can replace individual tiles or planks more easily than sheets.
6. Engineered wood flooring
This type of flooring is the closest you’ll get to hardwood floors without actually having hardwood floors. It doesn’t cost as much as hardwood, but it is one of the higher-priced options on this list.
Since basements tend to have more moisture issues, engineered flooring is a better option there than true hardwood.
Hardwood floors are particularly sensitive to moisture, expanding when they absorb moisture. This expansion can result in issues like buckling or cupping. Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, is more dimensionally stable, meaning it won’t experience the same degree of moisture shifts as hardwood.
For warmth and extra protection, install engineered flooring over a subfloor rather than right over the concrete.
7. Laminate flooring
Laminate has been gaining popularity because of how it can be a look-alike—of wood, stone, marble, or another type of flooring—while still being budget-friendly.
Laminate consists of four layers, starting from the bottom:
- A backing
- A substrate layer, usually made of high- or medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
- A design/pattern layer
- A clear, outer layer that protects it from damage and cleans up easily
Unfortunately, laminate doesn’t handle water well. If the MDF and backing get wet, they will swell and need to be replaced (since they can’t be sanded or refinished like solid wood, or some engineered types). It may not be the best option if you know water could be an issue in your basement.
Carpet may not be ideal for a basement since it doesn’t do well with any moisture issues or flooding.
But many people choose this option because of how warm and cozy it is. Again, the key is to know the moisture conditions of your basement and concrete slab.
Don’t be fooled—still do moisture testing
As a homeowner, you probably already have your favorite pick in mind for your basement floor. But make a decision you won’t regret. Consult with a flooring professional and make sure you choose an option that will hold up well to traffic and some moisture.
Regardless of what option you choose, moisture testing beforehand is crucial.
The last thing you want is to have to replace a floor because you failed to check for moisture in the concrete slab!
Use a concrete moisture meter and RH testing to make sure the slab is dry. That way, you can minimize any concerns about your basement floor and enjoy it with peace of mind.
For your concrete moisture testing needs, Wagner Meters offers a duo—the C555 concrete moisture meter and the Rapid RH L6 system. Get yours today!
Jason has 20+ years’ experience in sales and sales management in a spectrum of industries and has successfully launched a variety of products to the market, including the original Rapid RH® concrete moisture tests. He currently works with Wagner Meters as our Rapid RH® product sales manager.
Last updated on July 20th, 2023