If you are a DIY homemaker, a professional construction worker, or a realtor, then you know basements can prove to be a great space to transform into another living space or recreational space. Basements are becoming more popular as a selling feature of houses with their ability to be turned into an area the resident desires. One of the most critical considerations when transforming this space is the basement flooring as it can influence the overall ambiance and temperature of the area.
There are many considerations to keep in mind when choosing basement flooring. Because of this, we have compiled a list of the top 12 basement flooring materials and answered a few commonly asked questions to help you see the characteristics of each and decide which would be best for your basement transformation.
Basement Flooring Materials Comparison Board
1. What Is Basement Flooring?
Basement flooring includes the various materials that can cover the ground of a basement. Most basements are below grade, which means they are partially below or entirely below ground level and are usually built on a concrete slab. The ground is also typically uneven. This limits the number of materials that can be used for flooring.
2. What Materials Can Be Used as Basement Flooring?
As mentioned above, the number of materials you can use as basement flooring is limited. You can use engineered, or luxury vinyl planks or tiles, ceramic or porcelain tile, cork, engineered wood, concrete, plank tile, laminate, wall-to-wall carpeting, rubber, interlocking raised modular vinyl or carpet tiles, or sheet vinyl for your flooring. You should not use solid hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, or bamboo flooring.
3. What Should Be Considered When Choosing Basement Flooring?
Various factors play into which type of flooring you will choose. You should consider such things as how vital softness to your feet is, how warm your basement is, how level your sub-floor is, and how smooth or even your sub-floor is. You should also consider the amount of moisture that you get into your basement, how prone your basement is to water intrusion or flooding, what type of sub-floor you have, and what your budget is. If you are planning to design your basement into different sections, you can choose different materials for different areas.
After all these considerations, you will decide what the best basement flooring is for you.
How We Reviewed
We reviewed the following basement flooring options based on their features and their pros and cons. After doing extensive research and reading many customer reviews, we compiled this list of the top ten best basement flooring options with full confidence that we are providing the best materials possible to make your search easier.
Overall Price Range
When shopping for basement flooring, you should be prepared to pay more per square foot than you would for interior flooring because of floor prep and the limited options available on a concrete floor. Higher-priced basement flooring will provide options such as better durability, more waterproof or water-resilient, and more warmth or softness. Because of the limited choices, you will find flooring that works for you from this list of best basement flooring.
Review of the Best Basement Flooring Materials
Engineered Vinyl Planks or Tiles
Engineered vinyl planks or tiles, also known as, EVP, are a relatively new type of floating flooring that is waterproof and has a cork underlayment for cushioning, sound absorption, and insulation. It is available in both wood plank and tile looks and looks and feels more true to its imitation, especially when compared to laminate. The best thing about this flooring is that it is waterproof, making it great for basements that collect a lot of moisture or houses are in flood-prone areas. It was invented by Coretec and can be installed without a professional if you are a DIY homemaker.
To be noted is that it does not work well if your sub-floor is uneven and bumpy because it is a floating floor. Even though it is waterproof, sometimes hydrostatic pressure from the ground can push water up from the foundation, causing that water to be trapped between the vinyl and the foundation and forming mold as it eats on the cork underlayment. This may happen after massive rainstorms, hurricanes, snow melts in early spring or hurricanes. However, this issue can be prevented by adding a thin vapor barrier.
Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile
Luxury vinyl plank or tile, also known as LVP, is joined piece-to-piece in floating floor fashion and comes in planks around 6 inches by 48 inches. It can look very similar to the material it is replicating and is relatively thick. Because it is thicker, it can be deeply embossed. Which means a texture that closely resembles real wood grain can be achieved. Stone-look luxury vinyl comes in square shapes that are sized 16″ x 16″ or smaller and aim to replicate the appearance of travertine, slate, marble, and other favorite stones.
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Flooring
Ceramic or porcelain tiles represents that best of many worlds for flooring. They are waterproof, which is great for basements that gather moisture or that are in flood-prone areas. They are highly durable, making them last longer, and are relatively easy to clean with a variety of styles, including tile to resemble wood flooring. They qualify as a finished surface and needs no additional treatment as other flooring such as concrete does. It can be installed directly on your concrete slab.
Some things to consider for ceramic or porcelain are that they are hard on your feet. They can also be cold on your feet if you live in a cooler climate though this problem can be solved by sandwiching radiant heating between the tile and the concrete to warm the tile’s surface. It is often more expensive because of the prep and labor involved and should not be installed on top of the plywood or any other wood. If it is, it will crack as the wood expands and contracts in reaction to changes in humidity and temperature.
Engineered Wood Flooring
Because solid hardwood floors can’t be installed in basements, engineered hardwood floors are a good alternative. It has a cross-hatched plywood base below a real wood veneer and is designed in perpendicular layers so that there is less expansion and contraction when it is exposed to limited amounts of moisture. They can be either floated or glued on concrete sub-floors, though it is essential for the sub-floor to be level. If it isn’t, the planks will pop up as humidity levels fluctuate or the adhesive wears down if they are glued. If they are floating floors, they can bounce.
Though these floors are a better choice than solid hardwood floors, they still are affected by moisture over time, so it is recommended not to use this flooring in basements with a lot of moisture.
Cork flooring is derived from cork, a natural product from the bark of cork trees. To use for flooring products, the cork is ground up, compressed, and formed into sheets that are bonded with resins. It is a “green” renewable resource for those who prefer environment-friendly products. It is soft, comfortable to walk on, and warm. The inside of the piece of cork is composed of millions of small air-filled chambers that act as barriers against the transmission of noise. These chambers also help with regulating temperatures, reducing the transfer of heat out of a room in the winter and into a room in the summer.
Cork has a waxy substance called suberin that allows naturally repels vermin and small insects and also repels hair, dust, and other small particles that often cause different flooring the become dirty. It is easy to install and easy to maintain. Because it is an organic product, it is subject to water damage, so it would need to be installed on a subfloor system instead of directly to the concrete slab. High humidity or moisture can cause it to warp and the boards to pop out, and sunlight can cause it to fade. Also to be noted is that because it is so soft, it is susceptible to damage.
Plank Tile Flooring
Plank-sized tile flooring is made of porcelain and is impervious to moisture. It has sharply rendered graphics that make it closely resemble real wood. It has rectified 90-degree edges, so the tiles are fitted edge-to-edge with no mortared grout lines. This reduces the possibility of extra grout maintenance. It is highly durable, often used in high-traffic areas like restaurants and other commercial spaces. It is still tile, so you may need to install radiant heating mats underneath it for warmth.
Concrete floors are rising in popularity, especially in commercial settings and basements. They can be acidly etched to create many looks, something not possible with other types of flooring. Staining the concrete creates clear tones that vary across the entire expanse of the slab. It can be colorful, neutral, or even patterned with designs. It is highly waterproof and does not require a sub-floor, allowing it to be installed directly on the slab.
To be noted is that concrete is the coldest flooring option and because it is poured directly onto the slab, there is no option to add radiant heating underneath. The floor must be extensively cleaned and scoured before painting, so it requires more labor and floor prep than other flooring options may, and the cost may be more expensive than your initial calculations. It is also tough, which may make it uncomfortable for walking or sitting.
Carpet is usually the least expensive and the softest and warmest option for basement flooring. Carpets are flexible so that they can work over many sub-floor surfaces. They can also work on areas that aren’t smooth or level and can even camouflage any imperfections of the sub-floor. They are the safest option to use on steps.
However, carpets get dirty easier and are harder clean. They are not waterproof, so are not suitable for basements that gather moisture or that are prone to flooding. They dry slowly when they are exposed to a lot of moisture so they can become a breeding ground for mildew, mold, or dust mites. If you only have minor moisture problems, you can upgrade your carpet cushioning to one that has a moisture barrier. Carpets also wear down faster and need to be replaced more often than other flooring options, which can cause them to be more expensive over time compared to the maintenance cost of other more expensive flooring options.
Rubber flooring is becoming more popular as exercise flooring for a home gym. They are great for shock absorption and are relatively thick, which can help camouflage imperfections in your sub-floor. They are waterproof and come in interlocking pieces, making them easy to install. These pieces also make it easy to take them apart and let them dry if they get wet. You can get roll rubber, which is used in commercial gyms and offers the fewest number of seams, or interlocking rubber tiles, which cost about the same.
Laminate flooring has made many advancements in appearance than before due to thicker surfaces for deeper embossing and improved image layer graphics. Conventional laminate flooring can work in a basement with the installation of a sub-floor system. Waterproof laminate can also be used and offers the advantage of not swelling and distending because it has no wood content. However, this type of laminate is difficult to find in North America.
Laminate is susceptible to moisture problems. When the base material comes into prolonged contact with water, it will swell up permanently, and the top image and wear layers will begin to peel off. There is no way to repair it except for replacing it entirely.
Sheet vinyl, also known as resilient flooring, is one of the less expensive choices of the hard surface flooring options and usually costs pennies per square foot. It is waterproof and has a nearly seamless surface. However, it is a bit dated and looks cheaper, and it requires floor prep to smooth the floor to prevent the surface of the sub-floor from telegraphing through. It usually comes in 12-foot rolls, so you have to worry about buying extra vinyl to cover the area if your basement is wider than 12 feet and making sure that there is enough to match the pattern repeat. It usually requires professional installation, which can increase the overall cost of this flooring.
Interlocking Raised Modular Vinyl or Carpet Tiles
These floating, interlocking floor tiles can come in different finishes such as carpet and vinyl. Pegs raise the finished surface from the slab and allow air to circulate underneath, which helps the ground moisture that seeps through the plate to dry and acts as insulation to make the area warmer. They are mold resistant and waterproof, which makes them able to withstand a basement flood. They snap into place and can be removed if needed.
The raised tiles help camouflage minor unevenness and imperfections on the sub-floor, up to a 1/4″ difference. Most of them have proprietary patents and may only be able to be used with certified contractors.
Basement Flooring Materials: The Verdict
After reviewing the different basement flooring options, we feel that engineered vinyl planks or tiles are the best flooring option. They are affordable, waterproof, much resemble the materials they replicate and are warm, thick, and durable compared to other flat-surface options.
With the simple addition of a water vapor barrier, they can avoid trapping moisture and only require that your sub-floor be even. If you are looking for a good basement flooring option, we recommend that you start with engineered vinyl planks or tiles.