How to choose basement flooring

December 22, 2014

Choosing flooring for your basement is no easy task. Find out what the options are to decide which one is best for your home.

How to choose basement flooring


Basements are made out of concrete, which is durable but also porous.

  • Moisture moves through porous materials.
  • Particularly in older houses, moisture can get in through cracks in the foundation.
  • For that reason, most sources recommend against carpet or hardwood flooring in basements. Those materials are likely going to get wet and grow mould.

Adding a subfloor

If you've had water in your basement before, you should consider adding a subfloor. You don’t have to build a subfloor anymore. There are several products on the market that come as 2x2 interlocking tiles.

Various materials can be laid over top, including the following.

Ceramic tile

To quote Bob Vila, "If you don’t like to take chances, you can’t go wrong with ceramic tile, the Cadillac of basement flooring. Unaffected by water or water vapour, ceramic tile may be installed directly over a concrete slab, helping to conserve precious inches in a low-ceilinged space."

  • The downside: it's cold.
  • Solutions: add a subfloor and/or under-floor heating.

Vinyl flooring

This isn't your grandmother's vinyl flooring.

  • Today's products come in a number of formats, style, textures and colours.
  • They can take on a flood and are resistant to mould growth.
  • Some products feature textured plastic bases that enable the concrete slab to breathe.
  • They can even be removed, washed, and reinstalled after a flood.

Vinyl products are some of the most economical, and they provide some insulation from the cold slab. Floating vinyl floors can work well on uneven basement floors.

Laminates or engineered wood

Many sources recommend these products only be laid over a subfloor. While a vapour barrier can be laid directly on concrete, any water coming over the barrier will likely damage the flooring.

  • Engineered wood flooring is more moisture-resistant than wood or laminate.
  • A newer product on the market in North America is waterproof laminate, which has no wood content and will not swell when wet.


If you're not sure the extent to which moisture is a factor in your basement, you can do a moisture check as follows:

  1. Cut open a plastic garbage bag
  2. Tape down all the edges to your basement floor
  3. After 48 hours, check under the back for moisture. If it's present, you've got a moisture problem. You should consider installing a subfloor or using waterproof materials such as tile or vinyl.
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