Basement Flooring Ideas - Floor Options and Subfloor

Got Questions About Basement Flooring??

So you've got a basement and have decided that it's time to turn that space into some kind of livable arrangement. Whatever it was that brought you to that decision is certainly going to drive you into what type of room you are trying to create. Whether it's a workout room, a bedroom or possibly a new entertaining space that you want to use, you're going to have to at some point think about the flooring that your going to lay down to make that space useable.

Luckily, these days there is such a wide range of basement flooring ideas that you could consider. Most don't even realize the amount of options they actually have and an absolute plethora of places where they could find ideas. Looking thru trade and decorating magazines as an example. You could even get out of the house and check out some of the choices at your local home improvement and flooring stores. I bet you'd be surprised at simply the different variations, styles and colors that there are on the market today.

So, follow me and let's take a little journey that'll hopefully put you on the fast track to getting that specific floor that will make your basement dreams come true.

Painting is a horrible basement flooring idea
Painting is a horrible basement flooring idea

One Specifc Basement Flooring Don't

Ok, I'm only going to say this one once as I'm not really one that likes to squash ideas for the simple reason is that ideas are what dreams are made of, but I just can't believe that people are really telling others that it is ok to do this. The one specific flooring don't that I have simply because I don't think it's very useful but seems to be a fairly prominent opinion spreading throughout the net waves for some reason is to paint your basement floor. This is just a ridiculous thing to say to someone looking to redecorate a basement. If you're going to spend the time and money to make a room a livable/viable alternative for your home, why on earth would you paint the floor. It's not like this is some cabin out in the woods, people are going to see this. Painting a basement floor that is going to be an active area spells trouble. There will be continuous maintenance and touch-ups that you will have to do to keep the paint job in shape. It'll scratch, peel, and will just be plain unsightly after a while. Not only that, the basements underground and the painted slab will be cold to the touch. Save the paint for the walls, paint on floors is just ugly.

However, I do want to qualify this with one stipulation. If, and that's a big IF, you are not going to use the basement as a livable space and more of a storage area that you don't really plan to do any form of entertaining or playing in, then you could save yourself a few bucks and paint the floor. Other than that, there are way to many nicer options out there for you.

ThermalDry Basement Subfloor

First Things First

One thing to keep in mind, before you start any flooring project in the basement, it's a good idea to see that your basement is suitable first. By this, I mean that's it's waterproofed and not leaking or seeping in through any cracks in the concrete floor. There are plenty of ways to check this out, so instead of rehashing that whole concept here it's easier to just have a look around and search for "waterproof concrete test". But just make sure you test it and fix any problems before you start.

Will You Use A Subfloor?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting

OSB Floating Subfloor

Basement Subfloor Options

The other issue you'll have to deal with for some flooring is to make sure that the concrete floor is semi-level. One of the best ways to do this is to install a subfloor. There are a multitude of benefits to a basement subfloor, some of which being that it'll let the concrete breath and you won't get that musty-mildewy smell that's so familiar in most basements. Yes, concretes a pourous material so water will condense at times and it's nice to know that that condensation won't ruin all your hardwork.

There's plenty of products and ways for you to install as a subfloor in your basement. I'm more partial to the tongue in groove, click in place subfloors than actually building a wooden one on shims that sit above the concrete. The complete system ones like ThermalDry and DriCORE are quite formidable. I really like these. The ThermalDry model is a little bit more plasticy and clicks together in place. While the DriCORE alternative is installed similarly but has a more rigid bottom under an OSB top. They both do the job of lifting your flooring off the concrete and have built-in vapor barriors that allow water flow and condensation under the flooring to keep it dry. These are very good subfloor alternatives to building your own wooden subfloor as these are "floating" subfloors while a wooden one would have to be nailed or screwed to the concrete for stabilization.

Sample Carpet Colors/Patterns

Can You Use Carpet In A Basement?

This is probably one of the most asked about questions there is when it comes to flooring for a basement. Can I use carpet in a basement? The simple answer is yes, provided you have a properly waterproofed basement. Not only that, you might also want to ensure that you are using one of the subfloor methods from above due to the problem that carpet will soak up water vapor if applied directly to the concrete floor in a below-grade room. This can actually cause a ton of mold and mildew problems which makes the carpet smell funky. Not only that, it'll discolor it and will not last nearly as long as it should. Although the whole dirty mold scare is not as fierce as it used to be, it could really wreak havoc on people that suffer from asthma and allergies. Plus one train of thought here as well. If you just think that you can lay a floor deck down made of wood to "level-it-out" on top of the concrete, that wood is likely to get damp and moldy itself and will just suck right up into the carpet anyway. That's why the better choice if your going to use carpet is to use the raised subfloor system mentioned above.

As far as basement flooring ideas go for carpeting, let yourself go wild if you've ensured the proper protection. I'm more of a throwback type of person and say go with the shag carpeting. Lush and plush, that's my style. But you could use basically anything from Shaw carpeting to Mowhak, and how could you go wrong with Stainmaster. You know the saying, stays 30% cleaner with Stainmaster. Not only that, your color options are far superior with carpets. Plus with some of there pattern cut pile or textured carpeting, you could really create a dynamic space.

Easy Laminate Installation

Laminate Basement Flooring Idea

When you like the look of wood but need some durability, laminates make a choice alternative as a basement flooring idea due to several reasons. But again, just like carpets, you're going to want to make sure that you have done the prep work and installed some sort of subfloor to begin with before installing laminate flooring in a basement.

First let's start off with what is a laminate floor. Basically, laminate flooring is not wood. In fact, it doesn't even really have any wood pieces, more like several layers of a plastic resin. Then using some very high pressure, these resin layers are compressed to form a high fiberboard. Then, they apply a melamine backing and place a printed pattern on the surface and, walla, you have laminate flooring. These printed patterns come in many more designs other than wood, they can come in flagstone, marble, tile, basically anything picturesque. But the woods are definitely predominate.

They are easy to install with the tongue and groove method and are definitely much cheaper than hardwoods. Dependent on what brand and style you choose, there are quite a few that are below-grade warrantied.

Laminates are what most describe as a floating floor. But because of this, one key measure that you'll need to account floor is the installation surface must be fairly level.

Floating Floor Installation for engineered hardwood flooring

Engineered Basement Flooring

It's easy and sometimes a very common practice to get engineered wood flooring confused with laminate flooring. They look very similar in that they both resemble a natural hardwood. There made very similarly. They both are produced by sealing and compressing multiple layers of a plastic resin or veneer together. However, there is one big difference though between the two. While laminate flooring contains a picture of the woodlike structure, engineered wood flooring contains actual wood slices to form the look of the surface and not a picture.

There are a ton of advantages to using an engineered wood floor, especially in your basement. For one, you get the actual look of real wood flooring without the expense. They can be manufactured by relative inexpensive means thus driving down the cost of the flooring. They can be installed in two different fashions, either tongue and groove or glue down. Plus it's a semi-green alternative as it doesn't use as much wood to cover a flooring project as traditional hardwoods would. Now I know that doesn't make it completely "green", but it is "greener". And you can get engineered flooring in "green" alternative forms like bamboo and cork which truly are "green". More on that a bit later.

Tiling Is Hard

Labor intensive, best left to the pro's
Labor intensive, best left to the pro's

Tile As A Basement Floor

Tile is certainly a valid basement flooring idea. However, just make sure that you are using some form of glazed floor tiles, you do not want to use the ceramic tiles that are used most commonly on bathroom walls and such. Those ceramic tiles are not typically used in a flooring application. Glazed flooring tiles are coated which makes them virtually impossible to penetrate due to the longer firing times spent in the kiln. Because they are typically fired much longer than ceramic tiles, that glaze gives the tiles some serious hardness and helps it withstand much more to the wear and tear of basically any flooring application, especially in the basement.

One bad thing about putting tile in a basement is that since the basement is below-grade and you're installing the tile directly on the concrete slab, the tile is going to be just as cold as the concrete slab was. This typically is not a very handy solution to have. So you need to keep this in mind that along with tiling a basement floor you might need to also install some form of radiant floor heating as well to warm the tiles to the touch some making it a bit more comfortable to walk around on with your bare feet. It'll add a bit more expense to the project but could really be worth it in the long run. If you don't put in the radiant floor heating, you could end up with cold, sticky tiling all throughout your basement.

Installing basement tiles is not the hardest thing in the world to do, in fact you can find a lot of information on this subject by clicking here, but you will need some specialized tools to help you along the way. Tools to cut the tiles for those odd pieces around corners and along the walls. Tools to spread the cement and grout. It is a bit more labor intensive than installing laminate or engineered flooring and will take a little bit more time as you work to get the tiles in their squared-off patterns, but if done right makes an excellent basement flooring idea.

Natural Bamboo

Bamboo flooring, definite green alternative
Bamboo flooring, definite green alternative

Green Flooring Alternatives

With all the "eco-friendly" talk these days this just wouldn't be complete if I didn't add in some "green" basement flooring ideas. Really, these are no different than any other flooring project in that the same alternatives exist. The first ones that pop to mind is bamboo flooring or cork flooring due to their natural resiliency and eco-friendliness. Bamboo especially simply because of just how fast it renews itself and cork as their seems to be no detrimental effect stripping the bark, as it simply regenerates itself. So to all you environmentally friendly fanatics out there, there are definite alternatives to using these in a basement application.

Let's talk a little about the mega-weed, bamboo. We all know that bamboo is a renewable resource, but thanks mostly to it's qualities of eco-friendliness, it's making a tremendous comeback. One of the greatest qualities of bamboo is that it never needs to be replanted and can be harvested every 5 years. So, in comparison, as humans we can only grow a few inches every year and if your male only till your age 14 and most of us don't reach maturity until our mid-twenties, I know, not too impressive. But there are some strands of bamboo that can grow so fast, you can literally see them grow overnight. Plus, typical bamboo reaches maturity at around 4 - 5 years old and can then live and be harvested anywhere from 30 to 120 years thereafter. Very impressive. Don't get me started on bamboo as I am fascinated.

Hardwoods In A Basement?

Save hardwoods for above-grade jobs
Save hardwoods for above-grade jobs

Hardwood Floors In The Basement

I saved this one for last as it's certainly a flooring option, just one that might not be suitable for a basement. I'm very partial to hardwoods as they have a beauty to them all there own. There's a lot that could go wrong using hardwoods in a below-grade room. First, hardwoods are expensive and damage easily due to moisture and condensation. Although beautiful, you have to be extremely careful. Could it be done? Sure, nothings impossible. Will it last and be beautiful all the time? Who's to say, but it's possible given proper precautions and subfloors and sump-pumps and an absolutely dry basement. I just wouldn't consider this as an option for most homes as there's just so much that could go wrong, and with the cost and look and feel of alternative hardwood flooring like laminates and engineered, why take that chance with hardwoods in a basement. I'd just save them for above-grade applications.

So What's Your Thoughts

Which Basement Flooring Ideas Do You Like Best

  • Painting
  • Carpeting
  • Laminate Flooring
  • Engineered Flooring
  • Tile
  • Hardwood Flooring
  • Bamboo Flooring
  • Cork Flooring
See results without voting

Have Some More Basement Flooring Ideas? 3 comments

Install Flagstone profile image

Install Flagstone 6 years ago

Very informative Hub! I enjoy how in-depth you go with your content, and the quality of it... You can use various types of flagstone such as bluestone and sandstone for basement floors.


janellelk 5 years ago

What about an apoxy garage floor coating in the basement? My friend just got that done and loves it!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

Fantastic overview of all the options out there. My brother opted for cork, which he likes for its resiliency, although he said the edges are very susceptible to damage from water. (A friend's dog peed on one corner, warping 4 squares around a corner for good)

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    More by this Author


    Click to Rate This Article
    working