Having a finished basement can dramatically increase your home’s usable space, transforming a small, cramped home into a spacious, inviting space. Choosing the right type of flooring for your basement is one of the most important decisions you can make for the long-term enjoyment you’ll get out of a finished basement.
This article covers the five best basement flooring options, ranking each flooring material in terms of price, durability, water resistance, and more.
What to Consider When Deciding on Basement Flooring
Here are the main considerations you need to make before deciding on basement flooring.
What You Use Your Basement For
The most important factor to consider when choosing flooring for your basement is what you plan on doing with the basement. Tile flooring may be appropriate for a basement laundry nook, but it would look out of place in a workout area, and a painted concrete floor would be perfect for a workshop but is probably not inviting enough for a bar and hangout spot.
Before you make any decisions about what kind of flooring you want, take time to think about what your basement’s primary use will be and choose flooring materials that suit that purpose best.
Your Basement’s Moisture Level
Basement flooring needs to be more water-resistant than flooring throughout the rest of your home since basements tend to be damp, moist places. Hardwood floors, for example, are almost never the right choice for basement flooring since they’re prone to warping and damage in wet environments.
If you prefer flooring that doesn’t play as nicely with water — like carpet — you might be able to get away with it if you take the necessary precautions. Dehumidifiers can help remove some excess moisture from a damp basement, and regular inspections and leak repairs can keep water at bay.
Whether Your Basement Needs Any TLC
Before you install new flooring in your basement, make sure you take care of any outstanding issues that need to be fixed. Repairing any foundation cracks and leaks should be your first priority before spending a bunch of time and money installing new flooring.
The 5 Best Flooring for Basements: Pros, Cons, & Cost
The following table provides a quick look at the five best flooring types for basements.
|Type of Flooring||Pros||Cons|
|Painted Concrete||Cheapest option|
Reduces the risk of damage from leaks
Easy to “install”
|Not aesthetically appealing|
Still has that basement feel
|Luxury Vinyl||Extremely affordable|
Easy to clean up
|May hurt resale value|
Easy to install
Resists impact damageWarm underfoot
|Often have a strong odor|
Not aesthetically appealing in most contexts
Can sit on top of concrete
Can damage easily
Colder than other basement flooring options
|Carpet||Warm and cozy|
Easy to install
|Can get moldy in a damp basement|
Easy to install
|Not great for moist environments|
Requires an underlayment to protect it
The cheapest option for basement flooring is simply to paint the existing concrete. Paint is cheap, easy to do yourself, and resistant to water, making it an excellent option in many cases. If you’re short on time or money, painting your basement floor is the best choice, although the results won’t be as transformative as installing a more involved type of flooring.
If you mostly use your basement as a workshop, laundry room, or other room that favors form over function, paint is the way to go. Painted concrete is utilitarian, making it the perfect choice for a basement that serves a clear purpose that doesn’t involve entertaining guests. It’s also very low-maintenance and water-resistant, so it’s a good choice if you have the stereotypical damp basement.
Some people choose to apply epoxy over a painted concrete basement floor as an added layer of moisture and impact resistance. This is a good option, although it does little to counteract the downsides of painted concrete. Epoxy floors are better for a more polished look than painted concrete, so it is worth it in some cases.
Painted Concrete Pros & Cons
- Cheapest option by far
- Easy to do
- Resists water damage
- Perfect for laundry rooms and workshops
- Not the most visually appealing
- Can be cold, especially in the winter
Painted Concrete Cost
The only cost associated with painted concrete is the cost of the paint. Some people choose to hire a professional painter to save time, but even then, painted concrete is one of the most affordable types of basement flooring.
In many ways, luxury vinyl flooring is the opposite of painted concrete. Luxury vinyl flooring comes in two varieties: luxury vinyl planks and luxury vinyl tiles. Both versions of vinyl flooring offer a range of styles, colors, and designs, making vinyl a great option for basement living spaces and entertaining areas.
Vinyl plank flooring is often used to mimic the aesthetics of solid hardwood at a fraction of the cost. While vinyl planks won’t fool anyone on a close inspection, they can give you much of the warm, cozy feeling of real wood flooring without the high costs needed for expensive upkeep. Vinyl holds up well in wet environments and is warm underfoot, giving your basement a homier vibe than bare or painted concrete.
Vinyl tiles are similarly flexible and are capable of mimicking ceramic tiles, stone, and other more expensive flooring options.
An important note is that luxury vinyl is not to be confused with sheet vinyl, a cheaper, less attractive flooring option. Luxury vinyl is a floating floor, which means it doesn’t attach to your subfloor, making it much easier to remove.
Luxury Vinyl Pros & Cons
- Nearly endless style options
- Great for basement living areas
- Prone to dents and scratches
- May be undesirable if you plan to sell your house
Luxury Vinyl Cost
Most luxury vinyl planks and tiles cost between $2 and $5 per square foot, although some high-end options may reach $6–$7 per sq. ft.
Rubber Tiles or Rubber Sheets
Switching gears back to a less stylish option, interlocking rubber tiles or rubber mats can be an excellent option for high-traffic areas. If your basement doubles as a home gym or workshop, rubber tiles are a great affordable option that will protect your basement concrete underneath from impact damage.
Rubber mats are easy to install and don’t require any expensive equipment or expertise, so installing them is the perfect DIY project for people with little or no home improvement experience.
Rubber isn’t a particularly fancy flooring option, but most rubber tiles and rubber sheets come in a variety of styles, textures, and designs, giving you a little choice, but not much. Most textured rubber flooring options are designed to provide maximum traction and protection and pay much attention to style.
Rubber Tiles Pros & Cons
- Top-notch protection from impacts
- Great for gyms and workshops
- Easy to install
- Not very visually striking
- Sometimes have a strong smell
Rubber Tiles Cost
Rubber tiles cost between $3 and $7 per square foot and are slightly more expensive than purchasing a rubber sheet roll, which will run you between $1 and $5 per square foot, on average.
You might be surprised to hear that ceramic tile is one of the best basement flooring materials, but its ability to be installed directly on top of concrete, combined with its high level of moisture resistance, makes it perfect for basements.
Tile is a great choice for a laundry room since it’s easy to clean and won’t be negatively affected by water or soap spills. Tile is also a good choice for the kitchen area of a basement apartment, although ceramic tile is prone to cracking and chipping, so you’ll need to be careful not to drop anything hard or heavy.
Unfortunately, installing tile on concrete takes more work than slapping down some rubber mats or rolling on paint, so you’ll need to expend more effort to make it happen. Ceramic tile also has a tendency to be extremely cold, so you probably won’t want to use ceramic if you plan on spending a lot of time in your basement in the winter. Unless you want to install radiant heat between your ceramic tiles and your concrete slab, you’ll have to wear an extra pair of socks when you use the basement.
Tile is also much more expensive than other options considered so far, making it a poor choice for anyone on a limited budget.
Ceramic Tiles Pros & Cons
- Can be installed directly on concrete
- Won’t be damaged by water
- Can chip and crack
- Very cold underfoot, especially in winter
Ceramic Tile Cost
Ceramic tile costs more than vinyl flooring or rubber mats, on average, although there are some cheap options available. You can expect to pay anywhere from $3–$20 for ceramic tile, with high-quality tile typically costing between $12 and $18.
You have to be careful using carpet in a basement. As long as you monitor your basement’s moisture levels and take care to prevent mold and mildew, carpet can do wonders for making a basement a cozier place to relax. A little extra cushioning under your feet goes a long way to making your basement feel more welcoming.
Installing carpet in your basement is surprisingly simple and should be doable by most homeowners, even those with minimal DIY experience. It’s also affordable, especially compared to expensive tile or hardwood flooring.
Synthetic carpets are much better options for basements since they don’t hold moisture the way natural-fiber carpets do. Even if you opt for a synthetic fiber carpet, make sure to have a dehumidifier around to battle humidity and moisture when you need to. You’ll also have to do your due diligence to check for leaks since they can be harder to notice in a carpeted basement, depending on their location.
If you’re considering carpet for your basement, you might also want to consider installing a moisture barrier or vapor barrier to make your basement less humid and more carpet-friendly.
If you’re concerned about water damage, carpet tiles might be a better choice. Carpet tiles aren’t among the most popular flooring ideas these days, but they can be the perfect flooring choice for a basement since replacing a few carpet tiles if a leak occurs is much easier than replacing an entire carpet.
Carpet Pros & Cons
- Makes your basement much more welcoming
- Soft and warm underfoot
- Easy to DIY
- Very affordable
- Moisture is a much bigger risk for carpets
- Not appropriate for many common basement uses
Carpeting costs about $2.50 on average, making it an attractive option regardless of your budget.
Laminate is another low-cost, low-maintenance basement flooring option that can give your basement a more homey feel. Laminate flooring comes in many different colors, textures, and designs, giving you plenty of room to flex your creative muscles. Some laminate floors provide the much sought-after wood look, while others mimic stone or slate floors.
The main drawback to using laminate floors in a basement is moisture. Laminate floors don’t do well in moist environments, so you’ll have to install an underlayment between the laminate flooring and the concrete. Most people also install a basement subfloor before installing laminate flooring, giving them more protection from moisture and more insulation from the cold.
Laminate Flooring Pros & Cons
- Easy to install
- Visually appealing
- Prone to moisture issues
- Requires underlayment
- Slightly more involved to install
Laminate Flooring Cost
Laminate flooring is affordable, with most options costing between $3 and $6 per square foot.
Factors That Affect Basement Flooring Cost
The following table summarizes the primary factors affecting basement flooring cost.
|Factors that Affect Basement Flooring Cost||Relative Importance|
|Whether you want a subfloor layer||Medium|
The most obvious factor that affects how much your basement flooring will cost is the materials you use. Ceramic tile will cost more than an affordable option like carpet or rubber flooring, and vinyl plank or vinyl tile flooring costs somewhere in between the two extremes.
Of course, choosing to paint your concrete floor avoids material costs altogether, although it might not be an option for you, depending on how you use your basement.
DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
You can save a bunch of money on basement flooring if you install it yourself. Installation costs make up a significant fraction of floor replacements, although they tend to pale in comparison to the price you’ll pay over time if you do a poor job installing new flooring yourself.
Whether You Want a Subfloor Layer
Basements are notoriously cold and drafty, so many people install a subfloor layer to make their basements more livable. This is typically done by a professional contractor, although it’s possible to do it yourself if you have the time and skills. Subfloor layers provide extra insulation between the cold concrete and your feet, making them a good option for people who want to be comfortable while they spend time relaxing in their basement.
It’s easy to overlook preliminary repairs when you’re calculating the cost of basement flooring, but fixing cracks and leaks in your foundation can considerably increase your costs. Make sure you don’t forget to account for the cost of purchasing a foundation repair kit or hiring a contractor with foundation repair experience if your basement needs some work before you can install new flooring.
DIY or Hiring a Professional Contractor for Floor Installation
Installing flooring in your basement is a home improvement project that’s within reach of most homeowners. Most people should be able to install carpet, rubber tiles, or vinyl flooring without the need to hire a professional contractor. Ceramic tile is more difficult to install, and most people are probably better off hiring a flooring expert if they want it for their basement.
In many cases, people decide that installing flooring on their own is too difficult or time-consuming, even if they are technically capable of doing the job. There’s something to be said for paying for a professional when you can afford to. A professional installation will give you access to your new flooring more quickly than you would have if you chose to DIY. A professional will also do a better, more precise job, meaning fewer headaches and hassles for you down the road.
Conclusion: Which Flooring Type Is Best for Your Basement?
New flooring is one of the best ways to spruce up a dingy basement. A nice new carpet or some vinyl plank flooring can make your basement feel much more like part of your home and less like an afterthought that’s only suitable for storage.
Before you run out and choose new flooring for your basement, make sure to consider how you want to use your basement in the future. Rubber flooring and painted concrete are great for workout spaces and workshops, while vinyl flooring and carpeting are perfect for a playroom, family room, or living room.
Regardless of what material you choose, make sure to take care of any existing problems in your basement before you start installing new flooring. It’s much easier to take care of cracks and leaks before you put down the new floor rather than have to tear it up and reinstall it later.