Basement Flooring Ideas: How to Choose the Right Surface
Everyone wants to make the most of their home's square footage, and enhancing your basement's potential as viable living space is an excellent way to do just that. To make your basement the space of your dreams, you'll need to start at the bottom.
Choosing the right flooring has different rules in a basement than it does in other rooms; if you make the wrong selection, it could be potentially disastrous. That's why we've laid the groundwork to give you the best basement flooring ideas for your home.
There are many more options available for suitable flooring in your below-ground space than in years past. Note: When you begin shopping around, you'll notice the term "below grade." Don't let this concern you; it simply means that the material is meant for underground or basement installation.
Keep an eye out for this term as you weigh your flooring options. Manufacturers are well aware that consumers want products that are stylish and durable, innovative and eco-friendly, and the basement flooring market is no exception.
How Do You Plan to Use Your Basement?
This is the initial question to ask yourself. If you want to use your basement for a work area or a game room, you'll want flooring that's durable and easy to clean, such as stained concrete, vinyl or linoleum. Plan to make your basement a more cozy living space? Look to laminate, carpet or cork.
This is also the time to do a little soul-searching about how much maintenance you're willing to do on your flooring. If you want the quickest, most inexpensive surface, simply paint your concrete floor. Keep in mind, though, that it will wear in high-traffic areas and may need to be redone every few years.
Perhaps you want basement flooring that could outlast your house. If so, ceramic tile may be the way to go. It's simply a matter of preference and budget. It's your house, your money and your workload — so do what feels right to you.
Basement Flooring Ideas
The choices that you will encounter are far more sophisticated and stylish than you might expect. There are practically as many options for your basement as there are for any other level of your house. The one flooring to stay away from is solid wood, because of its susceptibility to changes in temperature and humidity.
Solid wood flooring is expensive, and the risk of it warping and cracking in a basement install makes it a big risk that is probably not worth taking. If your heart is set on a wood look, don't despair; many of the options listed below will satisfy your woodgrain desires.
Browse through our flooring gallery and read on to learn more about preparing your basement for new flooring. Installation costs listed below are general guidelines for professional work; consult service providers in your area for specific quotes.
Engineered wood is a thin veneer of solid wood that is attached to a plywood core. Style choices in this department are vast, and the long-lasting, easy-to-clean, easy-to-install options have many opting for this fabricated flooring. The cost is $2-$20 per square foot, depending on the style selected, with installation costs adding $4-$5 per square foot.
Similar to engineered wood, laminate flooring consists of a plastic resin veneer attached to a plywood core. Laminate can be deceiving, as many samples resemble real wood, ceramic tile or stone, making it desirable for those on a tighter budget who still want the upscale look of natural materials.
As a bonus, many varieties offer moisture and mold resistance, making it a perfect choice for damp basements. The cost is $3-$5 per square foot, and installation is an additional $4-$5 per square foot.
Tile remains a popular basement flooring choice thanks to its durability and vast style options. In addition to the broad range of natural patterns available, ceramic tile is touted for its water-repellent nature, but it can get slippery if condensation occurs, so consider an anti-slip finish.
The cost for ceramic tile is $1-$15 per square foot, depending on the style selected; installation is an additional $5-$10 per square foot.
For the DIYer or those on a budget, vinyl tile is a great choice. The tiles come in numerous patterns and colors to fit every decor, and self-stick options allow for easy installation and replacement. The cost is $1-$5 per square foot, with installation an additional $1-$2 per square foot.
Popularity of this soft, breathable, eco-friendly material is on the rise. Cork is naturally resistant to bacteria and water, making it an ideal choice for damp basements.
Cork may show scratches and heavy wear and tear, so be sure to consider lifestyle beforehand. However, it is relatively inexpensive to replace. The cost is $2-$12 per square foot, and installation is an additional $3-$5 per square foot.
If you desire durability on a budget, linoleum may be the choice for you. Available in many rich colors and patterns, this flooring is long-lasting, naturally antibacterial and easy to maintain. Plus, it's eco-friendly (made from linseed oil) and resistant to mold and moisture. It costs $1-$5 per square foot, and installation is an additional $3-$4 per square foot.
The idea of carpet in a basement may make some people cringe, but its warmth and wide variety of styles and budget options still make it a popular basement flooring option. While some worry about carpets' susceptibility to moisture, moisture-resistant pads are available, and many synthetic below-grade carpets offer mold and mildew resistance.
If you worry about stains and spills, then consider carpet squares or tiles, which allow for easier installation and replacement. The cost is $2-$4 per square foot for the carpet and $1-$4 per square foot for the pad, plus installation for an additional $2-$4 per square foot.
Concrete flooring is trending right now, partly because of its minimalist style but also because of its low price point. Surprisingly, concrete offers a variety of options, from acrylic paint to stain to epoxy coating.
Painting costs about $30 per 80-100 square feet if you DIY, with reapplication needed every two to five years. Staining costs $2-$4 per square foot, while long-lasting epoxy coating is $3-$4 per square foot.
Make Sure Your Basement is Ready
Special considerations must be made when adding flooring to your basement. Moisture is the most obvious one (more on that later), but there are other issues to resolve before your flooring goes in.
If your basement is like most, the air ducts for your upper levels are accommodated in your basement ceiling. You will need to consider the thickness of the flooring that you are adding — even just a couple of inches can take your home out of ceiling height requirements for your city. Low profile options are available if that is your situation.
Most of us don't give a whole lot of thought to the levelness of the concrete slab that is the basement floor, unless it is drastically sloped. When having flooring installed on top of concrete, even slight slopes and flaws can impact the finished project. If the basement floor is level, you can patch minor cracks with an elastomeric sealant for concrete.
A sloped basement — meaning it slants more than a half-inch every 8 feet — will require low spots to be filled with a self-leveling cement. This will require some prep of the old concrete and adherence to the manufacturer's instructions, but if done properly, you will have the level base you need to showcase your new flooring.
As mentioned earlier, the challenge in most basements is moisture. Addressing any dampness in your basement is a prerequisite to installing flooring, no matter the type. Nobody wants to install a beautiful floor only to have it damaged by moisture, mold and mildew.
The moist, humid air in your your home is heavy and naturally sinks to the basement, where it condenses against the concrete slab floor. A dehumidifier can help stave off this kind of moisture issue.
That concrete slab is also porous, allowing external moisture to seep into your basement. There are a number of ways to prevent this from damaging your floor, including sealing your basement, installing a vapor barrier or making a raised subfloor upon which to install your flooring.
Best-Laid Plans (and Flooring)
No matter how well you prep your area, there is always a chance of flooding. If your basement is prone to flooding, make sure the ground slopes around your foundation to help water run away from your structure; install a sump pump (as well as a backup); and choose flooring products that can get wet.
Moisture tests should be done on your concrete slab. Any result above 10 percent should prompt you to investigate and resolve the cause.
Dehumidifiers, sealants, vapor barriers and subfloors are all potential fixes for a damp basement. Keep in mind that a raised subfloor can create its own problems in the case of a flood by allowing a new micro-climate (and mold and bugs) to thrive between the concrete and flooring. If you have a subfloor and your basement floods, the subfloor will most likely have to be removed.
Your best-laid plans (and flooring) can be a gamble in a basement. Pipes break, floods happen, moisture invades. Make sure your new flooring is reflected in your homeowners insurance. By choosing flooring that can withstand some moisture or can be easily removed and replaced, you are giving yourself the best of both worlds: a finished basement floor and peace of mind.
The flooring choices that you have for your basement are almost limitless. By examining what you want your space to be used for, the realities of your basement and our basement flooring ideas, you can create a living or working area that increases the value of your home — from the bottom up.
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