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The Best Flooring Options for Basements

Basements are notoriously damp and musty spaces. If your basement floor is made of concrete (and most are), groundwater can seep through tiny cracks in the foundation after a heavy rain. But even when the weather outside is bright and sunny, humid air can condense on surfaces and cause mold and mildew.

All this to say, if you plan on hiring a general contractor to remodel your basement into a guest bedroom or home office, choose your flooring carefully. Materials that work swimmingly in your living room (think: maple hardwood) will swell and buckle when exposed to moisture downstairs.

So, which flooring options are best for a dank and musty basement? Keep reading for a list of materials that can withstand an ounce or two of water.

DISCLAIMER: IDENTIFY & FIX THE LEAK(S) FIRST

Before you even think about vinyl flooring or ceramic tile, your contractor must address what’s contributing to the excess water in your basement. Besides humidity (which can be resolved with a dehumidifier), basement moisture is caused by:

HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE

After a heavy rain, the soil under your home’s concrete foundation can become saturated. This creates water pressure which can push moisture through your basement walls and floor.

The fix? Your general contractor may install underground pipes to carry water away from the foundation. He or she may also patch any cracks in the concrete pad of your basement.

CLOGGED GUTTERS

If your gutters and downspouts are clogged, water will run down the foundation walls and into your basement.

The solution? Clean the gutters. You may also choose to install gutter extensions, which guide the water farther away from your home.

FAULTY PLUMBING

The plumbing from your kitchen, laundry room, or upstairs bathroom can easily spring a leak, dripping water into the basement below.

The remedy? Hire a general contractor to seal or replace existing pipes.

STYLISH FLOORING OPTIONS FOR BASEMENTS

After plugging holes and sealing cracks, now comes the fun part: shopping for flooring.

When you head over to your local hardware store, you’ll be met with a bevy of options. Those designed for basements might be referred to as “below-grade flooring,” which just means they’re suited for spaces below the earth’s surface.

Since everything at or below grade will likely be exposed to moisture, the best flooring for your basement is water-resistant, stylish, and suited to your budget. Here are our top eight picks:

If you intend to make your basement a workshop or at-home gym, a coat of concrete floor paint will do. This option is economical (about $4 per square foot) and functional.

PROS:

  • Affordable
  • Does not require a sub-floor
  • Requires few materials

CONS:

  • Cold to the touch
  • Hairline cracks will be evident

2. EPOXY

Like paint, epoxy adds a stylish touch to your existing concrete pad. However, epoxy tends to be smoother and more durable than paint. Your general contractor can also add plastic flakes or fine sand for visual interest and a non-slip texture.

PROS:

  • Economical ($3 per square foot)
  • Resistant to water damage
  • Easy to customize

CONS:

  • Difficult to apply unless the concrete is completely dry
  • May be slippery

3. GLAZED CERAMIC TILE

For a more sophisticated look than a concrete slab, consider ceramic tiles. This flooring option is incredibly durable, even in the event of flooding. Plus, radiant heating can be installed between the concrete and tile to offer a warmer surface for your tootsies.

PROS:

  • Long-lasting
  • Will never rot or mildew

CONS:

  • Relatively expensive (about $2 to $4 per square foot plus $13.75 to $21.13 per square foot for labor) 
  • Hard underfoot
  • Your concrete slab may need leveling before installation

4. PLANK TILE FLOORING

Installing traditional hardwood floors in a basement is normally a huge no-no. (Scroll to the end for an exception to this rule.) But what if you want the traditional aesthetic that hardwood can provide? Go with plank-sized porcelain tile flooring instead.

This below-grade flooring option looks surprisingly like real wood. Plank tile flooring is also so durable that it’s often installed in restaurants and other commercial spaces.

PROS:

  • Aesthetically appealing, increasing resale value
  • Waterproof
  • Small grout lines

CONS:

  • More expensive than glazed ceramic tile ($6.50 per square foot plus labor costs)
  • Cold to the touch

5. RUBBER FLOORING

You’ve probably seen rubber flooring in gyms and garages, but did you know it can work in basements too?

Rubber flooring is incredibly water-resistant and light on the joints. It can quickly transform a dark and cold basement into an at-home gym, yoga studio, or playroom.

PROS:

  • Wards off cold and heat
  • Resistant to moisture
  • Affordable (about $2 per square foot)

CONS:

  • Water can seep through the seams of rubber tiles
  • Not aesthetically appropriate for certain spaces

6. SHEET VINYL FLOORING

Sheet vinyl flooring is underrated. This material costs pennies per square foot and is so waterproof that it’s often used in boats. What’s even better? There’s no need for a subfloor.

PROS:

  • The most affordable flooring option
  • Lots of colors and designs
  • Impervious to water

CONS:

  • Needs a clean surface for adhesion
  • Can yellow overtime
  • Difficult to repair since it comes in one big sheet

7. ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING

Nothing replaces the look of hardwood flooring, especially if you’re turning your basement into a mother-in-law suite or a private apartment. However, since this flooring option isn’t waterproof (unless it’s heavily lacquered), engineered hardwood is a better choice.

Engineered hardwood is made of five to seven layers of crosshatched plywood. This design helps each plank maintain its structure, even in humid conditions.

PROS:

  • Holds up when exposed to mild amounts of moisture
  • Arguably the most attractive below-grade flooring option

CONS:

  • Best installed on a subfloor
  • Comparatively expensive ($12 per square foot)
  • Difficult to repair since it’s nailed to the subfloor

LET US REIMAGINE YOUR DARK & DAMP BASEMENT

Are clogged gutters and faulty plumbing causing excess moisture in your Charlotte basement? If so, call Team Portico. As a reliable and local general contractor, we can identify and solve your basement water issues before they cause permanent damage.

We also work with homeowners to reimage dark and damp basements into at-home gyms, efficient offices, rental-worthy apartments, and more. As part of this process, we’ll help you select a basement flooring option that’s water-resistant and stylish.

Want to learn more? Contact us today!

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