The process of finishing a basement properly generally requires you to take waterproofing precautions in order to create a dry, comfortable space. That process can eliminate many of the issues that are associated with carpeting in below grade locations. However, there is still a danger of humidity, mold, and stains causing problems under certain conditions, especially if the wrong type of material is selected.
Concrete Slab Water Issues
The ideal situation will be one where the concrete foundation of the building was installed over a proper vapor barrier layer. You can conduct concrete moisture tests in order to see whether there is liquid being retained by the slab, which will indicate the lack of a water barrier. In those cases, protective underlayment such as cellulose based soundboard can be placed over the concrete and beneath the carpeting to resolve the issue.
Depending on the environmental conditions of the location, the basement may be prone to periodic flooding due to a rise in the water table precipitated by storms and severe weather. Many basements also have exposed plumbing pipes, and large water based appliances such as water boilers and washing machines, which can leak when damaged causing flooding conditions as well.
A sub pump can be used as an emergency measure to try and remove excess water during a flood. Proper maintenance of all water based appliances and piping will eliminate structural causes. You can also keep your gutters clean and well maintained, and take steps to slope the ground soil around the building away from its foundation to lower the risk of natural water issues.
The dangers of water are not always obvious, and they can be downright insidious in subterranean locations, where liquid air can cause long term damage to a carpet installation. Humidity is a huge issue for below grade flooring as it is able to penetrate deeper into a material, with less resistance. Over time this can be the cause of mold, mildew, and staining problems that can be difficult or even impossible to rectify.
Know Your Environment
Before installing carpeting in a basement you should understand the environmental conditions of the location. Some places have a naturally higher water table and will be more prone to having floods during times of intense rainfall. On the other hand, desert’s and other arid locations will not have those issues.
Liquid through floods, leaks, or humidity can cause stains and discolorations to the carpet and may cause the adhesive holding it in place to come loose. However, the most insidious water damage problem will be from the growth of mold and mildew, which can happen deep in the under the padding of the carpet making it difficult to sanitize. Over time spores from these organisms can infect the air making the basement an unsafe location.
The Best Carpet for Basements
Cut Pile: Carpeting consists of loops of fabric, which can either be left in tact or cut to make straight strands. In a basement, you always want cut pile materials, as they tend to be more durable, resistant to water penetration, and easier to clean. They also dry faster when they do get wet.
Low Pile: The length of the pile refers to how long each strand is. Longer pile carpets will be more plush and soft, at the expense of being more absorbent and retaining moisture longer. The depth of material can also make it difficult to sanitize.
Synthetic: There are a variety of synthetic carpet fibers that are far superior to natural options when it comes to water resistance. Olefin is the most popular of these and is often used in basement installations for its ability to naturally wick moisture, causing it to rise to the tip so that it evaporates faster. The drawback to this type of synthetic carpeting is that it tends to be less durable, and more vulnerable to dirt and small particle debris.
Natural: There are antimicrobial treatments that can be applied to natural carpet fiber choices if their use is deemed necessary in a basement location.
Boat Carpeting: These heavy duty materials are manufactured specifically to be able to handle moisture and humidity without problems. Often installed without underpadding to avoid issues with penetrating liquid leading to mold, they are a durable and hassle free choice for adding a soft surface to your cellar or basement.
Carpet Tiles: This is an obvious choice for a basement, as they are inexpensive, and easy to both install and replace when damaged. In some cases, tiles may be machine washable.
Appliances: The use of a dehumidifier can help to heavily cut down on the moisture contained in the basement’s air. Fans and open windows can then reinforce this effect by keeping the environment well circulated and fresh.
The Benefits of Basement Carpeting
When developing a finished basement space one of the greatest challenges is creating a sense of inviting comfort. Below grade, rooms tend to have a dungeon like quality, which is exacerbated by the lack of natural sunlight that is able to filter in through windows set high and recessed in the walls. Carpeting can offset some of those elements by providing a warm, comfortable, familiar look and tactile sensation within the space.