The Best Carpet for the Basement

Basement rec room with carpet and bar area.
A finished recreation room in the basement, featuring wall-to-wall carpet. jim kruger/E+/Getty Images

Carpet is a great floor covering option for a finished basement, for several reasons. Carpet is warm, soft, and cushioned, making it ideal for covering the cold cement floor. In addition, carpet is one of the most flexible floor covering materials, so even if your cement floor is not perfectly level, carpet can be installed right over it, without the need to level the floor or otherwise prep it first.

Many people wonder what type of carpet they can use in the basement, and if there is a certain type that is better for underground living than others. A common concern is regarding higher moisture levels that are often found in basements, as compared to above-ground living areas of the home.

I have had carpet in the basement of every home in which I have ever lived, and have installed it (through my business) in the home of many, many customers over the years. I live in a four-season climate, and have never had an issue with mold or mildew as a result of the carpet.

Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best carpet for the basement.

Use Synthetic

Carpet fibers come in two categories: synthetic (man-made) fibers and natural fibers. Synthetic fibers are the best choice for basements, because they are more “breathable” – meaning that they do not retain moisture the way that natural fibers do.

Basements are naturally damp, because they are underground. Therefore, your floor covering material has to be able to withstand increased moisture levels. Synthetic fibers are able to release the moisture, to avoid the risk of mold or mildew occurring in or under the carpet.

The majority of synthetic broadloom available today also features synthetic backing material, which is just as essential in allowing the carpet to breathe.

Just double-check before you buy, to ensure that the backing is indeed synthetic.

Style Options

In most basements, you can use any style of carpet you like. Depending on how you plan to use your basement space, you can select a carpet that matches your performance needs with your style preference.

Unless your basement suffers from an excessive moisture problem (above and beyond the typical basement dampness) there is no reason that you can’t use looped berber carpet, or even thick, plush saxony styles. Really, in a properly finished basement, you can install any style of carpet. All styles are available in a range of qualities, so be sure to choose a carpet that suits your needs.

Carpet Padding

Most residential carpets are installed over padding. On a cold, hard basement floor, a soft pad is essential for comfort and warmth. Underpad is generally fine to use in a basement, provided it is also synthetic. Opt for a polyurethane foam pad, and stay away from a rubber pad.

If you prefer a carpet that has an attached pad, choose a Kanga style instead of a rubber-backed carpet.

When to Avoid Carpet

Please note that the above recommendations are for basements that are finished, and that are generally dry.

If you do not have an insulated basement that is protected from outside leaks, or if your basement regularly floods for some reason, then no floor covering is going to be able to withstand those conditions. In such cases, your best bet is to leave your cement floor uncovered. If you wish to have something covering the cement, opt for a piece of inexpensive outdoor carpet that is designed to withstand water – and be prepared to throw it out if necessary. Even outdoor carpet can’t survive repeated or intense flooding.