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November 29, 2021
Here’s a question: what’s the best flooring for basements?
This isn’t the start of a joke—we’re seriously asking! After all, basements don’t have to be dark pits of 30-year-old boxes, donations you never seem to get around to donating, and dusty old photo albums!
You can turn your basement into the ultimate lounge, workshop, or something in between. And of course, the best basements need the best flooring, right?
That’s why below, we’re tackling all the basics you’ll need to know about basement flooring—as well as some important things to think about when exploring basement flooring ideas.
Finally, we’ll go in-depth into the 11 best basement flooring options around—including the pros and cons of each—before finishing up with a quick FAQ.
Want to skip straight to our 11 best flooring for basement options?Click here.
When it comes to basement flooring, there are a few things you should keep in mind no matter where you live.
For one, it helps to understand the lingo contractors use. And second, just like cooking a great meal, you’ll want to make sure all the prep work is done properly so you can get the most out of your final product.
Contractors Tend to Call It “Below Grade” Flooring
On the subject of lingo: while it changes from location to location and from contractor to contractor, more experienced teams will often refer to basement flooring as “below grade” (or “below level”) flooring. This doesn’t mean that basement flooring is somehow worse in any way—it just means that the flooring is literally below the first level (or grade) of your home.
Not all types of flooring can be installed below grade—but again, the term has nothing to do with the quality of the floor.
You’ll Need to Fix Your Concrete Subfloor First
Subflooring imperfections can wreak havoc on your floor no matter where it’s installed. But what is subflooring, exactly? It’s just the foundation for your flooring!
With a few exceptions, modern homes are generally made with concrete basement subflooring. Wood is often used above grade, but not oftenfor basement flooring because it warps with moisture (more on this soon!).
If your subflooring is uneven or damaged in some way, you’ll need to address it first. Some types of floors (click-together flooring, in particular) require very smooth subfloors. Others can bear a few imperfections. But in general, you’ll want to make sure your subfloor is as even as possible before beginning.
Basement Flooring Requires an Underlayment for Moisture Protection
Speaking of moisture: basements tend to see a lot of it—regardless of the climate you live in. Excess moisture is deadly for many types of flooring (especially types of wood flooring and most carpet options) but luckily, there’s an easy fix: installing an underlayment.
Important Things to Think About When Exploring Basement Flooring Ideas
In addition to the factors above, there are a few more things to consider when you’re parsing through basement flooring ideas—and they tend to vary by environment and home type.
Think of it this way: even the best flooring for basements can utterly fail if you fail to account for certain details like humidity fluctuations, the possibility of flooding, or even what you use your basement for.
The better you account for these factors, the more likely your basement flooring will last, and last, and last.
Humidity and Moisture Resistance
As we mentioned before, moisture is a pretty common problem for basement flooring.
However, homeowners in the dry deserts of Arizona will probably face an entirely different moisture problem than those in, say, coastal Florida. Homes in areas with relatively low humidity may have less overall moisture to deal with, which can open up your basement flooring options.
Nevertheless, even drier climates still have to contend with some moisture, which naturally collects in lower levels of a home. For this reason, waterproof or water-resistant hardwood floor alternativesare significantly more common than wood basement floors, as even the most durable wood flooring can be ruined by moisture—particularly solid varieties!
Translation: the best flooring for basements will always have to handle moisture well.
While moisture is the biggest issue affecting basement flooring, cold floors are easily second! If you’ve ever stepped on concrete basement flooring in the middle of winter and survived, you’re a hero in our books.
Anyway, contrary to 20th-century thinking, you can install comfy basement flooring! Choosing an option like carpet or laminate over cold hard concrete is totally doable! And we encourage it if you’re planning on using your basement for anything more than a storage space!
Subfloor Stability and Level
Onto the technical side of basement flooring: you want to make sure your foundation can actually support it!
Imperfections in your subflooring can affect how your basement flooring looks and performs. If the subfloor is cracked, uneven, or otherwise damaged, it could:
Show up in the flooring as little bumps or divots.
Prevent underlayments from doing their job.
Encourage floor warping and cracking.
Ruin waterproofing and/or moisture protection.
Now, the best flooring for basements can generally account for small imperfections, but you’ll need to fix your subflooring otherwise.
Here’s an X-factor many forget about! Basements are often built with low ceilings for varying reasons.
So: you want to make sure that your new basement flooring won’t take up too much height from your space or you’ll be bonkingyour head every time your quarterback throws an interception (sigh) or a Kardashian has a new love interest (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Purpose (How Much Wear and Tear?)
Finally, the best flooring for basements heavily depends on what it’s going to be used for. You wouldn’t buy a motorcycle to ferry around 6 kids, right? Basement flooring is no different!
If you’re expecting a lot of wear and tear, maybe because you’re using your basement for a workshop, you’ll probably want durable flooring. But if you’re going to use your basement for watching TV or just hanging out, a nice carpet might be a better choice.
The Best Basement Flooring: 11 Great Options
As it turns out, there are a lot of contenders for the best flooring for basements crown!
Below, we’ve broken down our options based on how well they support different flooring ideas. In other words, don’t worry about the ranking so much as what you want to use your basement for.
Okay, bear with us. Concrete flooring is worth considering, especially if you’re using your basement for more utilitarian purposes.
Yes, there are actually different types of concrete flooring:
Painted concrete might seem a little too easy, but it certainly counts! It’s by far the cheapest option around and it’s a great way to add at least a littleflair to your basement flooring withoutbreaking the bank.
Stained concrete essentially offers the same features as painted concrete, but uses stain instead of paint (obviously). The key difference is that stain can also act as an insulator or extra moisture barrier.
And finally, we have textured concrete. This option requires a bit more work than either of the above options, but the end result can look fantastic when done correctly.
Textured concrete, a do-it-yourself flooring option, can mimic just about anything. It’s really only limited to the skill of the installer.
Pros of Concrete Basement Flooring
The best thing about concrete basement flooring is that you’re basically just sprucing up your subflooring. You don’t necessarily have to add any more layers of concrete (unless you choose the textured option), and even if you do, it’s usually inexpensive compared to the options below: you’re mostly paying for the cost of paint or stain.
Cons of Concrete Basement Flooring
The downside of concrete basement flooring is that it doesn’t offer much comfort or warmth, and it can be murder on your joints. Now, certain paints, stains, and textures can improve these issues, but concrete flooring is probably never going to be as comfortable as something like carpet, or even another hard surface floor like luxury vinyl plank or laminate.
#2. Luxury Vinyl Plank/Tile (LVP/LVT)
And speaking of luxury vinyl plank (LVP), it’s absolutely a contender for the best flooring for basements.
LVP is supremely versatile and only costs between $2 and $6/sq. ft., on average. You can put vinyl plank flooring on stairs, use it for mudroom flooring, put it in a bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom, and of course, put it in your basement!
This high-end and multilayered PVC flooring option is entirely synthetic, completely waterproof, and can be made to look like anything: you can find LVP that mimics wood, stone, tile, and more.
There are also many types of luxury vinyl. For one, you can get it in a tile format (aka luxury vinyl tile or LVT). But there are also options that offer enhanced durability, a springier feel underfoot (like WPC flooring), or even floors that can be changed on a whim (like loose-lay vinyl plank flooring).
Luxury vinyl could be considered the best flooring for basements solely because it won’t spontaneously combust from moisture. But, it’s also dent and scratch-resistant flooring, and generally comfortable to walk over (which is why it’s some of the best flooring for dogs and kids).
So: it works just as well in workshop-y basements as it does for entertainment spaces.
But best of all, luxury vinyl is an unparalleled choice ifyou want to mimic the look and feel of wood floor designs in your basement without worrying about moisture tearing it apart like it would real wood.
That said, if you don’t mind these flaws, LVP is a great all-around basement flooring idea.
#3. Sheet Vinyl
If luxury vinyl seems like too much of an investment, sheet vinyl is a cheaper PVC flooring option that still offers more pizazz than painted or stained concrete.
Sheet vinyl isn’t as versatile as luxury vinyl, but it’s still fully waterproof and generally durable in its own right. As basement flooring, it’s probably better suited to practical purposes because while it’s not particularly realistic, it’ll still workfor entertainment spaces.
Plus, the range of looks and styles offered by sheet vinyl is virtually limitless—well, except that there are very few wood-look options.
Pros of Sheet Vinyl Basement Flooring
You can find quality sheet vinyl for less than $1/sq. ft. and it’s relatively cheap to install. It’s also easy to replace, and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding options that fit your basement’s aesthetic.
Cons of Sheet Vinyl Basement Flooring
The downside: sheet vinyl isn’t trying to wow anyone with its looks or comfort. It’s thin so it takes on the features of its subflooring—in this case: cold, hard concrete.
For comfort seekers, sheet vinyl simply isn’t the best flooring for basements but it’ll do a good job in a pinch (and it’s affordable).
What is laminate flooring? Laminate looks like prefinished hardwood flooring but is largely synthetic. Using fiberboard as a base, laminate gets its look from a photorealistic image layer. It’s generally more stable than hardwood (and very scratch-resistant to boot)—so it’s safe to install as basement flooring.
Otherwise, the pros and cons of laminate flooring are a little polarizing. On the one hand, laminate does a great job of mimicking real hardwood and it’s generally much cheaper. But on the other hand, laminate isn’t particularly eco-friendly and most options aren’t waterproof like LVP is.
As with luxury vinyl, the cost to install laminate flooring in a basement is a lot more expensive than sticking with the default concrete option. And like we mentioned above, your average laminate flooring isn’t waterproof or even water-resistant—which means you’ll need to choose a more robust option if you have moisture in your basement.
We want to bring this point home: moisture will completely obliterate non-water-resistant laminate. Install it in a basement with even moderate moisture and you’ll be looking up how to replace flooring after a month. If you’re curious, our Pergo TimberCraft reviews and Pergo Outlast reviews highlight two laminate basement flooring options that are water-resistant.
Tile works well as basement flooring because it’s waterproof, looks good, and performs well against daily wear and tear. And like vinyl, the style and budget options are tremendous.
Tile is also good for both practical purposes and spaces used for entertaining, though whether it’s the best flooring for basements is probably debatable.
Types of Tile
There are 3 main types of tile (ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone) that can be further broken down into a bazillion different subcategories. As one of the oldest flooring types on Earth, tilemakers have had a lot of time to think about options.
Ceramic tile is porous yet generally waterproof. It’s the earthiest of the bunch, which is why it tends to be used outdoors more than anything. Porcelain tile is technically a type of ceramic, but it’s more refined and glazed—and thus, far less porous and typically stronger.
Stone tile, on the other hand, is usually made of things like slate or onyx. It’s typically more expensive than the other options, but also more durable and, well, one of the classiest floors you can buy. Seriously, it can be gorgeous.
Wood-look tile is another option (that can be made of ceramic or porcelain) that’s one of the best fake wood flooring options out there. The texture of wood-look tile is weirdly spot on and its incredible durability combined with its natural waterproofing makes it a superb contender for the best flooring for basements (or in general).
Tile offers plenty of options so it can fit well with just about any basement style and budget. Plus, it’s fully waterproof so moisture generally isn’t a concern.
Cons of Tile Basement Flooring
So what’s the problem with tile? It doesn’t solve the comfort problem. Remember that basements tend to be a little colder than the rest of your home. If you’re choosing between tile vs. laminate, for example, laminate’s softer on your joints and doesn’t get as cold.
Carpet is the best flooring for basements that serve as dens or living rooms. It’s soft, cozy, and generally low maintenance (outside of having to vacuum it periodically).
However, carpet isn’t a good choice for utilitarian basements or those that see a lot of moisture. Even if you get a good moisture barrier, carpet fibers (i.e. the pile) will absorb moisture in the air. This can encourage mold growth and bacteria.
Overall: debating putting carpet in your basement is similar to debating between carpet or hardwood in a bedroom—except with tons of added moisture concerns.
Carpet tiles (aka carpet squares) tend to be some of the best flooring for basements because they’re comfortable and easy to replace. If your basement floods or suffers a moisture spike, you can simply replace your carpet tiles.
Pros of Carpet Basement Flooring
Carpet is unparalleled when it comes to comfort and warmth (which tend to be lacking in basements). Plus, there are tens of thousands of options spanning endless brands, budgets, and styles.
Oh, and if you go the carpet tile route, they’re super easy to install and easy to replace (here’s a guide on how to install carpet tiles, by the way).
Cons of Carpet Basement Flooring
The problem with carpet is that not all basements can support it. If you have a moisture problem, it’ll ruin just about any carpet you install; not to mention that it’s a horrible choice if your basement is doubling as a workshop. If any of these apply, you’ll want to explore different basement flooring options.
Cork is a contender for the best flooring for basements that don’t suffer from excess moisture. Unless you continually re-stain cork, it can expand and degrade with moisture. However, its springy feel, durability, and general versatility make it a solid basement flooring idea.
Pros of Cork Basement Flooring
Cork is generally regarded as environmentally-friendly flooring because it can be sustainably manufactured and it goes heavy on natural ingredients. Of course, your choice of stain can impact how green it is.
Moreover, the best cork flooring performs a unique and rather interesting hardwood impersonation. It looks like… like if someone asked Tim Burton to design hardwood, if that makes sense
But best of all, cork is naturally antimicrobial—meaning it’s great for those with allergies or sensitivities to mold!
Anyway, if you maintain cork flooring properly, it’ll last a long time. Plus, it’s warm, functional, and can resist mold growth. Translation: cork is, surprisingly, some of the best flooring for basements!
Cons of Cork Basement Flooring
The disadvantages of cork flooring involve its heavy use of adhesives (which tend to be filled with volatile organic compounds) and its serious water allergies. Like we suggested above, properly sealed cork should do okay with moisture but this is something you’ll need to mess with often (#hassle).
Also, cheaper varieties like Lowes cork flooring should probably be avoided for questionable quality.
Well, engineered hardwood marries a thin veneer of real hardwood to a slab of high-performance plywood or oriented strand board. This makes it significantly less vulnerable to warping and cracking (caused by moisture and temperature shifts), making it relatively basement-safe!
Pros of Engineered Hardwood Basement Flooring
The best engineered wood flooring brands make unbelievable products. While LVP can achieve the look and feel of hardwood floors, it can’t capture the authenticity of engineered hardwood.
Best of all, engineered hardwood will last for as long as it’s well-maintained (one of the reasons some buyers opt for engineered hardwood vs. laminate or other hardwood alternatives). It’s no wonder that many of the best hardwood floors are actually engineered!
All in all, installing engineered hardwood as basement flooring is one of the best ways to make your basement look classy as heck.
And of course, it goes without saying that if your basement is prone to flooding—or to excess moisture—wood is not the way to go (regardless of whether it’s solid or engineered).
#9. Rubber or Foam
Rubber matting is some of the best flooring for basements that, well, aren’t especially flashy. It offers middling durability and limited style options, but it’s also super inexpensive and easily replaceable—not to mention fully recyclable.
Foam “tiles” offer virtually the same perks, except they’re made of plastic.
Pros of Rubber or Foam Basement Flooring
If you’re looking for the easiest flooring to install, rubber flooring might just be it. You need absolutely zero experience to install it because most options simply roll out. Beyond that, rubber flooring is soft, comfy, and a great insulator.
As for foam flooring, the only real difference from rubber (aside from its composition) is that its pieces fit together like a puzzle.
Both options are great for buyers who want a modular design that can easily be switched out. For example, if you need to use your basement as a workshop, simply lift your rubber or foam basement flooring (or leave it there and replace it if it gets damaged). Or, if you want to entertain or use your basement as a home gym, simply lay the flooring down again.
Cons of Rubber or Foam Basement Flooring
If you want your basement flooring to last, rubber and foam aren’t your best options. These floors are literally designed to be expendable.
After a year or two (and possibly sooner depending on what you use your flooring for), you’ll need to get new floors. The good news: it’s only going to cost a couple hundred dollars for most basements.
Just as well, rubber and foam aren’t intended to be classy options. If you want something beautiful, you’ll want to consider different basement flooring ideas.
#10. Epoxy Flooring
If you know anything about epoxy, then you know that it’s not usually marketed as flooring. However, this clear compound is a great temporary basement flooring solution for those who don’t mind its flaws.
To create epoxy flooring, you simply pour a bucket (or several) of epoxy over concrete subflooring and leave it to cure for at least 24–48 hours.
We’d also recommend setting up some sort of ventilation or an air purifier (or two) to keep the fumes tolerable. Once the epoxy is set the fumes will subside.
Pros of Epoxy Basement Flooring
Epoxy flooring is relatively cheap and can act like a pause button if you’re not sure how you want to use your basement. It’s also a fantastic insulator and completely waterproof.
Cons of Epoxy Basement Flooring
Unless you have experience using epoxy, we would recommend handing over install duties to a pro. It gets messy quick.
And as we said, epoxy isn’t a permanent basement flooring solution; it degrades after a couple of years. Worse: it’s really hard to remove epoxy once it’s there. The easiest way to get rid of it is to use harsh chemicals like acetone to soften it up first. Then you need to break it apart and remove the pieces.
Epoxy is also pretty uncomfortable to walk on because it offers almost zero give.
Marmoleum is a relatively new option for basement flooring. But…what is it? Marmoleum is a multilayered, 21st-century version of linoleum exclusively made by the brand Forbo.
According to the brand, Marmoleum is durable, water-resistant, and incredibly eco-friendly. And to be clear, Marmoleum is not the same thing as laminate. This new-age flooring, like linoleum, is almost exclusively made from sustainable, natural materials whereas laminate is mostly artificial (check out our article on linoleum vs. laminate to learn more).
Pros of Marmoleum Basement Flooring
The big draw of Marmoleum is its green qualities. It’s 97% natural, biodegradable, produced sustainably, and a low-VOC flooring option.
As basement flooring, Marmoleum feels similar to laminate flooring and can even mimic a wide range of wood styles. It’s also decently water-resistant so long as it’s installed and maintained properly, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry too much about basement moisture.
Cons of Marmoleum Basement Flooring
Marmoleum is pretty hard to find. And if you can get some, it’s probably going to be expensive because of all the hoops you have to jump through.
Also: Marmoleum is so new that you kind of have to trust the brand that it’s a quality product.
Best Flooring for Basements: The FAQs
Now that we’ve covered a few different types of the best flooring for basements, let’s cover some frequently asked questions about basement flooring ideas in general.
Can You Put Solid Hardwood Flooring in a Basement?
Technically, you can install hardwood flooring in a basement. But you shouldn’t expect it to last unless you’re able to control your basement’s humidity and temperature 24/7.
Why? Since basements tend to collect moisture and aren’t always part of a home’s HVAC system, this means that whatever basement flooring you choose is going to be exposed to temperature and humidity swings. And solid hardwood is very prone to warping with these swings.
Find the number of an experienced contractor and have them do it. Seriously. Messing up your subfloor is super easy if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Subflooring needs to be blemish-free; anything less can ruin your flooring.
What is the Best Flooring for a Wet Basement or Basements That Flood?
If you need the best flooring for basements prone to moisture or flooding, stick with waterproof options like concrete, tile, or the best vinyl flooring.
What’s the Best Basement Flooring That’s Waterproof?
Tile literally lines swimming pools because it’s so waterproof! That said, unless you’re planning on turning your basement into a pool, any of the best flooring for basement options we listed above are fine.
What Fake Wood Basement Flooring Is Better: Vinyl or Laminate?
The debate between vinyl plank vs. laminate is so much larger than basement flooring. But in this case, we’d have to choose vinyl because it’s fully waterproof.
For basement flooring, vinyl plank isn’t as cozy as carpet, of course, but it doesn’t get frigid like concrete or tile does. Many EVP flooring options are actually designed to combat this, particularly those with WPC cores.
What’s the Warmest Basement Flooring?
Not counting basement flooring with radiant heating systems, carpet is the clear winner.
What Is the Cheapest Way to Finish a Basement Floor?
Converting your concrete subflooring into normal flooring can cost as little as a few cans of paint or stain. Otherwise, rubber and foam are really cheap basement flooring options—and epoxy and sheet vinyl aren’t too far behind.
Are There Any Floating Floor Options for Basements?
Yes! But what is a floating floor? It’s actually an install method using that relies on friction and gravity to do all the work (i.e. there’s no need for glue, nails, or staples).
Concrete, tile, and epoxy don’t need moisture protection. And you don’t have to use it for foam or rubber flooring. But otherwise, yes, you should use moisture protection for basement flooring.
And when we say “don’t need”, we’re not saying that it wouldn’t be a good idea. All basement floors can benefit from a moisture barrier.
Can I Use Radiant Heat for Basement Flooring?
Generally, yes. However, you should check with your floor’s manufacturer and warranty first.
What’s the Best Basement Flooring for Uneven Concrete Subflooring?
If you can’t fix your subflooring, paint or epoxy are great ways to cover up blemishes while still achieving some semblance of actual basement flooring. Is either the best flooring for basements? Probably not. But they work!
Is There Mold-Proof Basement Flooring?
Mold-proof flooring doesn’t necessarily exist though plenty of options are incredibly resistant to mold, especially when combined with a moisture barrier.
Concrete, rubber, and foam, most forms of tile, cork, epoxy, and vinyl are naturally (so to speak) mold-resistant. Laminate, engineered hardwood, and carpet will only develop mold in humid conditions.
Conclusion: What Is the Best Flooring for Basements?
Whew! We made it! So after all that, can we definitively say which product is the best flooring for basements? Well…
The Best Basement Flooring Options or Materials Depend on Your Needs
The best flooring for basements really comes down to what the spaces will be used for. You could argue that luxury vinyl products like Pergo Extreme or Proximity Mills are the best all-around option because they generally score well across the board.
However, if you’re only using your basement for storage or functional purposes, there’s not much reason to invest in anything beyond sheet vinyl or fixing up your concrete subflooring.
As we said, the best flooring for a basement depends on the needs of its owner!
Your Local Flooring Store Can Help You Find the Best Basement Flooring Around
What we can definitively say is that you’ll have the best luck searching for basement flooring at your local top-rated flooring stores! Local stores hire true experts and carry the best flooring products. Plus, they hire real contractors who know what they’re doing—not average Joe’s who hang out on the corner.
On the other hand, if you’re still exploring basement flooring ideas, the articles below are a great place to continue your search!
Take any subject and there’s a good chance Christian has written about it. From marketing and international relations to wildlife (hobby!) and sports, Christian writes, edits, or helps publish just about everything that’s resigned to written form. His love for home design and remodeling began with his first job working for his uncle’s property management business.
We’re just going to come right out and say it: carpet is one of the best flooring choices around. There are so many different types of carpet on the market that it’s easy to find the perfect color and style for any taste.
However, have you ever had the urge for…more? Well, did you know that some people like to put area rugs on top of their carpets? You might be asking, isn’t that a little redundant? Well, yes and no. Besides, who says redundancy has to be a bad thing?
What’s the best flooring for kitchens?
Tile and vinyl can’t be the only options, right? What about hardwood or laminate? Does the best kitchen flooring really have to be waterproof? Are there workarounds?
If you’re here, you have questions. And we have answers!
Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the best flooring for kitchens, including a quick summary of different features to check for, a full breakdown of 10 of our favorite kitchen flooring choices, and an FAQ section to cover any remaining details about choosing the best flooring for kitchens.
Have some questions about putting vinyl plank flooring on stairs? We hear you. Vinyl plank is gorgeous, easy to install, and is among the most durable wood flooring alternatives out there. But: can LVP go on stairs? Do all types of vinyl plank work? And how do you even install vinyl plank on stairs, especially if you have floating floors?