In a perfect world, you could choose any flooring for your basement. But unlike above-grade rooms, basements are often prone to latent moisture—veritable mold factories.
Additionally, since basements are the lowest point in the home, they are the collection point for flooding from dishwashers, water heaters, water supply pipes, and clothes washers.
Even if it appears that the subfloor is dry, given enough time, it may still give off enough latent moisture to ruin your floor covering.
Moisture is the core deciding factor in basement flooring. Basement flooring must adapt to these conditions. What is the best all-around flooring for basements, as well as for specific activities?
Best for General Basement Conditions
Vinyl flooring, sheet or plank, is best as an attractive, 100 percent waterproof covering for basements that most homeowners can easily install. Sheet or plank vinyl flooring hits the middle sweet spot of requirements for basement flooring.
It is 100 percent waterproof. It is easy to clean, in the event of flooding. And, in the form of luxury plank vinyl, it is attractive enough to pass muster for most homeowners.
The quality that tips vinyl flooring into the number one position is the sheer ease of do-it-yourself installation.
Best for High or Moderate Moisture Basements
Ceramic tile or sheet vinyl work well in high-moisture basements. Inorganic materials must be used as your basement floor covering if you expect moisture. Concrete, sheet vinyl, and glazed tile (ceramic or porcelain tile) all qualify as waterproof.
Ceramic tile works best because water typically cannot infiltrate below the tile.
For Low Moisture Basements
Basements with manageable atmospheric moisture can use vinyl flooring and tile, as well as wood byproduct floorings such as engineered wood or laminate.
Vinyl and tile, plus laminate flooring and engineered wood flooring can also be used in basements with normal atmospheric and ground moisture.
Normal would be defined as a humidity level controllable by a dehumidifier and ground moisture that can be blocked with waterproof subflooring such as DRICore.
Carpet in basements is a debatable subject. While it is generally best to choose hard-surfaced flooring that dries fast, waterproof carpeting such as Shaw LifeGuard or Tigressa H2O is specially designed to prevent water for soaking through to the padding.
For Basement Home Gyms or Yoga Studios
Soft flooring that is easy to clean (i.e., not carpeting) is best for exercise flooring in basements. Rubber roll for yoga or aerobics; concrete for weights. Rubber horse stall mats are one unusual way to cover concrete floors for gym purposes.
For Your Basement Movie Theater
Choose a soft-surfaced flooring like low pile carpet for home movie theaters. Hard flooring installed into home movie theaters leads to confusing audio reverberations. Low pile carpeting is a soft floor covering that absorbs sound yet is easy to dry out if it gets wet.
No single floor covering is perfect for every homeowner in every situation. However, vinyl or ceramic tile works best as all-purpose basement flooring.
Moisture in basements can range from outright seasonal flooding to mere condensation on the walls. Moisture is by far the biggest determining factor when shopping for basement flooring.
One simple way to test for moisture is to tape a square of clear plastic to your concrete subfloor. After several days, condensation may begin to form on the inside of the plastic.