The Best Flooring for Basements of 2019, Ranked

Flooring for Basements: The Best of 2019

When deciding what kind of flooring to use for different rooms in a house, it can be difficult to decide on the best flooring for basements. Basements tend to have a lot of conditions that could deteriorate and negatively impact not only the state of the flooring but also the condition of the household itself. Basements tend to be an easy place for different types of mold and mildew to form — and moisture’s ability to build up and form mold/mildew can be directly affected by the type of flooring you choose.

Additionally, because there are so many different types of flooring, it’s hard to choose the right flooring for your personal preference and scenario. When deciding on the best flooring for basements, it’s important to take into consideration the purpose of your basement, the budget you’re willing to spend on flooring, and the susceptibility of your basement to moisture.

Rubber flooring is a great selection for someone looking for a water-resistant type of flooring that can be quickly applied and easily maintained without the assistance of a contractor.

Rubber flooring is, most importantly, a safe choice for flooring that makes the basement a comfortable environment for people of all ages (particularly children). It’s an extremely durable material, meaning it will be resistant to most types of stains, rips, and tears. The rubber material also ensures that the tiles will be almost completely resistant to water damage — whether the water comes from beneath the tiles, or from above or next to the tiles via condensation. Rubber tiles are also easy to install and connect together, with the weight of the tiles and the interlocking sides allowing homeowners to implement rubber flooring without any sort of adhesive or applicant.

However, there are a few issues with rubber flooring as well. The flooring tends to initially have a strong odor that, even though it’s not harmful, can be deterring to homeowners and visitors. There are also certain substances that would be able to stain or damage the flooring, such as oil or grease. But this issue can be easily resolved by swapping out the particular tile that’s been damaged and replacing it with a new one. Lastly, even though installing rubber flooring is relatively simple, rubber tiles are one of the more expensive flooring materials. This depends on whether rubber flooring is going to be used for the entire basement or a single room, and as a result is important to consider when choosing rubber flooring.

Rubber tiles are a good choice for those who want a quick and DIY-friendly installation process for a safe-for-children material with relatively low maintenance, but who are willing to deal with a potentially high cost depending on how much rubber flooring you plan to use.

Key Features
  • Made from rubber, making for a soft floor
  • Easy to install alone
  • Can be easily replaced and removed
  • Material: Recycled SBR rubber and colored EPDM virgin rubber flecks.
  • Installation Method: Interlock
  • Pattern: Rubber
  • Brand: IncStores
  • Soft and safe material
  • Waterproof
  • Mostly stain-resistant
  • Easy to install/replace
  • Lack of customisability for different styles of basements
  • Initial strong odor

The majority of wood floorings can’t be used in basements, largely due to the ability of mold and mildew to flourish and develop more quickly with access to natural materials (i.e., wood helps mold spread and grow). Engineered wood flooring, however, is more properly fitted for a moisture-prone environment.

Instead of being made solely of hardwood, engineered wood flooring involves hardwood sat on top of a lower layer made of plywood. The plywood intercepts some of the moisture, and is better able to maintain its form around moisture than hardwood is. It’s the perfect purchase for someone who wants the beautiful appearance of hardwood floors without the inevitable hassle. A barrier can also be fitted between the engineered wood and the concrete floor to further water-proof the flooring.

The main downside of engineered wood flooring is still the potential for water damage, however. Even if it’s less likely to sustain damage from water, there’s still more potential for damage than ceramic, rubber, or vinyl tile floorings.

All in all, engineered wood flooring is an aesthetic over utility purchase that can bring the perfect level of comfort to an otherwise cold-feeling basement. With a mid-level cost and high levels of maintenance, it’s a purchase that will be worth its beauty, but that may need occasional replacing or altering depending on the conditions of the basement.

Key Features
  • Hardwood flooring with plywood base, retains form when damp
  • Provides a warm floor for a basement
  • Easy to maintain in good condition
  • Material: Wood
  • Installation Method: Staple down
  • Pattern: French oak
  • Not water-proof, but more resistant than most hardwood flooring
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Can be easily installed (after preparation)
  • Still susceptible to water damage
  • Additional measures may need to be taken (e.g., moisture barrier)
  • Pricey relative to replacing and upkeep

In scenarios where vinyl plank cannot be used, vinyl tiles that can be glued down are a good alternative. Vinyl tiles work especially well in cases where the floor or subfloor is uneven.

Adhesive-based vinyl tiles are reliable, durable, and most importantly, water-resistant. In terms of price, vinyl tiles vary based on their quality, allowing buyers to shop for what they feel is appropriate and necessary for their basement. However, buying a more expensive vinyl tile means having longer lasting tiles, which will almost always be worth it. Vinyl tiles are also extremely customizable, coming in a multitude of colors, shades, and patterns. Plus they’re warm and comfortable to walk on when applied correctly. In terms of maintenance, they’re easy to swap in and out in cases of dirt build up or subfloor water damage.

One of the main drawbacks of adhesive-based vinyl tiles is that they do not mask the appearance of an uneven floor — meaning the floor must be smoothed and levelled prior to installation. This also means that professional help may be necessary for properly applying vinyl tiles in an aesthetically appealing way. It’s also important to note that cheaper vinyl tiles will not be as water-resistant as the more expensive ones, which means the pricing may end up leading you to prefer purchasing luxury vinyl plank flooring.

Adhesive Vinyl Tile flooring is a useful alternative to luxury vinyl plank flooring that are affordable, durable, and water-resistant — but this is relative to the price of the tiles. High quality tiles are reliable but higher priced, while lower quality tiles have none of the main benefits of high quality ones. Preparation prior to installation is necessary for a clean and uniform look for the tiles, but depending on the circumstances, the purchase is worth it for a buyer looking for customisable flooring that can be easily maintained.

Key Features
  • Easy to remove and replace
  • Nice patterns to choose from and a very customizable appearance
  • Made from vinyl
  • Material: Vinyl
  • Installation Method: Peel and stick
  • Pattern: Marble granite
  • Water-resistant and durable (when high quality)
  • Easy to maintain
  • Warm
  • Labor-intensive installation and preparation process
  • Lower quality tiles aren’t water-resistant
  • Not long-lasting (when low quality)

Sheet Vinyl is an affordable option for flooring that is frequently selected for its durability and low-cost. The strong and sealed surface of sheet vinyl ensures that buyers don’t have to use an epoxy seal to prevent water damage.

With sheet vinyl being thick and water-resistant, assuring that it will maintain its form regardless of moisture, it’s a great flooring material that requires some preparation prior to installation. It’s a warm flooring, ensuring the basement will have a comfortable feel, and is relatively low maintenance once its been properly installed.

On the other hand, sheet vinyl tends to have a used look, and there’s not really any means for customizing the appearance — which may be a large drawback for those looking for affordable, new-looking wooden floors. The floor must also be smoothed before installing sheet vinyl to ensure that the subfloor doesn’t begin to displace the sheet vinyl. Sheet vinyl will also require contractors to install, and more than one roll will need to be purchased to put flooring in an entire basement.

Sheet vinyl is a great option if you’re looking for something low maintenance that will prevent water damage, surface damage, and keep the basement feeling warm. But its old-fashioned feel is aesthetically lacking for those looking to style their floor according to the ambiance of the basement, and requires preparation prior to installation and should be installed by a professional to ensure it’s properly implemented.

Key Features
  • Made from vinyl, wood, and plastic
  • Resembles wood flooring
  • Effective in protecting basement floors from surface water damage
  • Material: Fabric, plastic, vinyl, paper, wood
  • Installation Method: Self-adhesive
  • Pattern: N/A
  • Warm
  • Water-resistant
  • High-maintenance in terms of installation/setup
  • Not always visibly pleasing

Epoxy sealed concrete flooring is an ideal purchase for someone looking for a relatively easy solution for flooring a basement.

In terms of the benefits of epoxy sealed flooring, the flooring can be easily installed by applying a simple epoxy sealant over the concrete. The flooring serves as a barrier for any potential damage that could be done to the concrete floor, and is resistant to both germs and water! Epoxy can also be customised in terms of appearance and color, allowing the buyer to find a pattern that fits their basement. Epoxy flooring is also easy to change, as another type of flooring can simply be applied on top of it.

In terms of the downsides, epoxy sealed flooring requires a somewhat elaborate preparation process, and initially carries a strong smell due to the ammonia involved in applying the epoxy sealant. Epoxy sealing also prevents buyers from being able to warm their floor, meaning the basement will remain cold while epoxy sealing is in use.

Ultimately, Epoxy sealed concrete flooring is effective for preventing water damage and bacteria build up, is easy to apply, and is affordable — making sure buyers don’t need to purchase an additional water-resistant barrier or sealant. It’s a useful and immediate solution for most basements requiring flooring, and is just as easy to maintain as it is to apply.

Key Features
  • Easy to use and apply
  • Prevents water damage, mold, and mildew
  • Material: Epoxy (Includes resin and hardener)
  • Installation Method: Apply to Concrete
  • Pattern: Clear
  • Easy to install
  • Customizable in appearance
  • Water and Bacteria resistant
  • Easy to change
  • Cold floors
  • Elaborate process for preparing before installation
  • Initial strong scent after application

Floor tiles with installed vapor barriers are well-equipped to handle a number of the potential hazards of basement conditions. These tiles have plastic between them, along with a vapour barrier and the basement’s concrete floor, making it harder for dampness to build up beneath the flooring. This is because the space between the flooring and concrete creates an air flow, mitigating dampness in the process. Their plastic bases also allow you to even out an otherwise slanted floor.

However, it is important to outline the biggest drawback of vapor barrier flooring, which is the potential for cultivation of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have been found by the EPA to cause irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes, and also cause nausea, headaches, and damage to important organs (including the kidney and liver) and our central nervous system. Though many companies have made proactive efforts in response to this downside, it’s still important to take into consideration this serious downside. Aside from this downside, however, vapor barrier floor tiles are some of the most efficient and effective flooring types for counteracting and preventing the standard hazards of basement flooring.

In comparison to other flooring, floor tiles with a vapor barrier are priced affordably, customizable in texture and appearance, and are quite easy to install in your basement. Tiles can be selected to resemble a number of stones (e.g., marble, limestone, slate), and can also be carpet material. The modular nature of the tiles allows them to be easily cut and customized to fit in dimensions that may be difficult to accommodate. Using these tiles also allows you to remove and replace individual tiles — in cases of dampness or dirt build-up — without having to upend the entire flooring. In summary, vapor barrier floor tiles are an affordable and meaningful purchase with a number of benefits — but it’s important as a buyer to be aware of the serious potential downside.

Key Features
  • Product to be used with ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile (also linked)
  • Extremely effective at preventing water-damage
  • Modular tiles allow for easy maintenance
  • Material: Fleece
  • Installation Method: Apply
  • Pattern: Ditra
  • Resistant to dampness and moisture
  • Evens out appearance of slanted floor
  • Opportunity for customization of appearance
  • Easy to clean, replace, and maintain
  • Potential for development of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • Maintenance must be closely monitored
  • Cold floors

Though there are a number of downsides to using carpet flooring, it is almost always the cheapest option for basement flooring.

Carpet flooring helps to keep the floor of a basement feeling warm, while also giving a more comfortable feel to the space. For subfloors or concrete slabs that are uneven or slanted, carpets can create a more uniform appearance for the floor. Carpets are also some of the safest flooring materials, ensuring that a basement is child-friendly.

In terms of downsides, carpets are not water-resistant, and can be subject to frequent replacement and repair depending on the conditions of the basement and its frequency of use. Carpets are also easy to get dirty, but difficult to clean. As a result, carpets can be an easy place for bacteria, mold, and mildew to develop. A moisture barrier can be used to reduce the potential for water damage, but carpets also degrade easily and will have to be replaced more frequently than most other types of floorings.

Carpet flooring is a great purchase for a basement that will have a lot of usage by children or friends and family in general, offering a warm and comfortable atmosphere via an affordable route. However, carpets are subject to a variety of types of damage and degradation, and resultantly have to be replaced frequently. It’s an affordable purchase that comes with the understanding that its maintenance will be much higher than floorings such as vinyl plank and ceramic tile.

Key Features
  • Warms a basement and makes it more comfortable
  • Made from polyester
  • Protects subfloor and concrete from dirt build-up
  • Material: Carpet; polyester
  • Installation Method: Staple-in
  • Pattern: Gray
  • Warm and comfortable floor
  • Visually evens out uneven floors
  • Safe for children
  • Easy to damage (water, dirt)
  • Costly to replace constantly
  • Not water-resistant

Carpet tiles serve as a great alternative to full carpet flooring. This is because carpet tiles actually have a few benefits that carpet flooring does not.

Carpet tiles are able to be easily removed and replaced, unlike carpet flooring which requires upending when stained or damaged. This means that it’s much easier to maintain carpet tiles on a regular basis, ensuring you’ll only ever have to replace a few individual tiles. These tiles are also more resistant to moisture than carpet flooring! One of the biggest and most fun benefits of using carpet tiles is that you can choose from a wide range of colors and textures, which is perfect for those who want to add some color and variety to their floor and basement. Along with carpet tiles being warm flooring, their color and comfort create a lighthearted atmosphere, which is ideal for a basement that will be used frequently.

However, the adhesive used for carpet tiles is not very high quality, and as a result, can deteriorate over time depending on the conditions of the basement. Because it’s still carpet material, it’ll have to be replaced consistently if it’s placed in a moisture-prone basement. Additionally, carpet tiles are priced higher than carpet flooring, which may make the average buyer consider going with a similarly priced hard-floor alternative instead.

Overall, carpet tiles are great choice for flooring for a buyer who wants a colorful, comfortable, easily maintained purchase. But it’s important to take into consideration their low level of water resistance and durability.

Key Features
  • Made from a soft polyester
  • Creates comfortable floor for a basement
  • Has an adhesive making it easy to install alone
  • Material: 10090 Solution Dyed BCF Polyester
  • Installation Method: Self-adhesive
  • Pattern: Saddle
  • Warm floors
  • More water-resistant than carpet flooring
  • Customizable (in terms of color)
  • Susceptible to water damage
  • Not very durable

Ceramic tile is a viable type of flooring that is good for water-prone basements. Glazing ceramic tiles will ensure that moisture is unable to reach the floor or subfloor. Ceramic tile floors have a number of other benefits. Their modularity, similarly to vapor barrier tile flooring, allows for evening out of slanted concrete floors and easy removal and replacing of individually dirty tiles. There are also a variety of forms and colors that tiles can come in, allowing for a wide range of customization. Additionally, since tiles are effective at preventing moisture from reaching the subfloor or concrete, moisture barriers are more of an option than with flooring like floating floors.

The downside of ceramic tiles (and tiles in general) is that the paste between tiles is particularly susceptible to mildew and mold. However, using a polyurethane seal will easily counter and prevent this. Ceramic tiles can also become extremely cold, meaning they may not be the best flooring for basement areas where people will frequently spend time. But this problem is easily handleable as well, since a heating system can be installed beneath the tiles.

Ultimately, Ceramic tiles are a good and affordable preventative measure for moisture and dampness in a basement, and allow buyers to decide on a variety of customization and optimization.

Key Features
  • Prevents build up of mold and mildew
  • Made from durable porcelain
  • Helps to prevent dirt build-up
  • Material: Porcelain
  • Installation Method: Thin-set
  • Pattern: Black
  • Durable; damage resistant
  • Water-resistant
  • Easy to replace and maintain
  • Evens out appearance of slanted floors
  • Potential for mold without polyurethane seal
  • Cold floor

For many, vinyl plank flooring is one of the best options a buyer can select for its aesthetic appeal and overall utility.

Unlike tile installation, which is initially a labor-intensive process, vinyl planks can be easily placed and installed in the basement without an elaborate preparation or clean-up process. Vinyl planks work as a floating floor, meaning there’s no need for adhesives or any other tools for holding flooring in place. This also means that vinyl plank flooring can be just as easily removed as it can be installed. Vinyl planks are also much more durable than the majority of other floorings (e.g., cork, engineered wood, and sheet vinyl), making them the perfect flooring for a basement that will be used frequently. Vinyl planks are also extremely water-resistant, and can be installed without placing a subfloor beneath them.

Vinyl planks have the appearance of hardwood, the water-resistant reliability of rubber or ceramic flooring, and the warmth of carpet flooring. With the price of vinyl plank being relatively low — especially considering the fact no prior installations are necessary (i.e., expenses like a subfloor or moisture barrier) — and the level of maintenance being even lower, vinyl plank is one of the most reliable and accommodating types of flooring available on the market. It’s an all around perfect purchase for a buyer looking for a visually pleasing, damage and water resistant type of flooring that should really only involve maintenance when installing or removing.

Key Features
  • Made from vinyl
  • Extremely effective in preventing water damage, mold, and mildew
  • Can easily be installed and maintained
  • Material: Vinyl flooring
  • Installation Method: Peel and stick
  • Pattern: Mahogany
  • Low cost
  • Long-lasting, durable
  • Looks and feels like real wood
  • Warm floor
  • Water-resistant
  • Easy to install
  • A bit expensive (but will not need further expenses)
  • Can degrade in the long-term

When choosing flooring, it can be difficult to choose the best option once you become aware of how many options there truly are. This is mostly because of the damp conditions in most basements, which need to be accounted for when determining what flooring will last longest and fit your basement best.

There are wood-based types of flooring, which are generally recommended against when choosing flooring for a basement. This is because hardwood flooring, in particular, is susceptible to large amounts of water damage and buildup of mold and mildew. Other types of wood-related floorings are more appropriate for the floor of a basement, many of which will be mentioned in this buyer’s guide!

There are carpet-based floorings, which tend to be affordable but aren’t very effective at preventing water damage or dirt buildup. Both carpet flooring and carpet tiles are susceptible to mold and mildew but may provide a temporary solution that can work perfectly in certain scenarios.

There are many different types of tile flooring, which are efficient for preventing water and bacteria buildup and allow for more customizability of a basement floor. Ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles, for example, are easy to install and usually can ensure a moisture-free floor. Rubber tiles are even more effective for preventing moisture but are less varied in color and style.

There are different types of floating floors, which are floorings that are applied to a floor without using an adhesive. These floorings allow for air to flow between the floor and concrete, preventing moisture from accumulating. In many cases, these are the best types of flooring to employ because of their reliability.

Almost all of these types of floorings can be implemented with moisture barriers underneath as a secondary measure for limiting condensation and accumulation of moisture. Additionally, sealants can be applied both to the concrete and the flooring to ensure that water damage doesn’t occur on the surface level either.

In reality, the biggest issues to face with flooring in a basement are bacteria, water damage, and maintenance. However, after reading this guide, you should be able to choose the perfect flooring for your basement and be aware of the ways you can treat your basement floor before and after installing the new flooring. On top of that, you’ll know which flooring requires the least and most maintenance and know exactly how to maintain them in the long-term.

Resources— DIY Network, HGTV

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