Picking the best type of basement flooring depends on the condition of your basement floor, whether or not your basement is waterproof, and your climate. Before you start planning your basement flooring, you should make sure that the area is clean and completely dry year-round. You will also need to research your flooring options, as there are some ideal materials for basement floors and other materials to avoid.
First of all, make sure your basement floor is moisture proof. You can check it yourself by taping plastic sheeting airtight against several areas of the concrete foundation. Leave it taped there for at least a day, longer if conditions are drier where you live. Look for moisture that's accumulated under the plastic. Since any water on your basement floor will likely ruin it, this is an important step. You may want to spend the money and call in a professional. If you do have moisture seeping up from your basement floor, there are steps you can take to solve the problem. This will require the services of a pro and involves installing a vapor guard.
You should also check your basement walls for seepage. While some "sweating" may not be a major problem, anything that will cause standing water to accumulate, even if it's a puddle, will need to be addressed. If you have seeping floors or weeping walls in your basement, don't fret. There are still flooring options available to you. More on those later. Also, before you lay flooring directly on the concrete, you'll have to make certain that it is perfectly smooth. Otherwise any imperfection, bump or dip will either show or become a problem when you lay your flooring.
One type of floor to avoid is wooden subfloors or any type of subfloor that maintains solid contact with your concrete basement floor. For a basement, you would need a subfloor that allows for a vapor barrier between it and the concrete to prevent rot.
You can use just about any type of flooring you want in your basement, including cement, carpet, hardwood floors, laminate materials, ceramics and porcelain tile. Some of your choice will depend on personal taste, but since it's a basement, the initial determining factor will be your basement's waterproofing.
If you have excessive rain or flooding, painting or staining a cement floor is a great option. You can get creative with these options. Use different colors of paints in a variety of patters, buy or create your own stencils, or use a combination of paint and stain. There are planting of materials to give you a wide range of decorating options when it comes to simply painting your basement floor.
If you have occasional seepage or just high humidity, linoleum or vinyl flooring may be your best option. Both come in a wide variety of affordable design options. You can get them in either a roll or a sheet. Plus, linoleum and vinyl are easy to install and are a great way to freshen up the look of your basement floors.
Ceramic and porcelain tile make a beautiful basement floor covering. These are more expensive that linoleum and vinyl, but have the same water-resistant properties. You'll want to make sure there are no cracks in your basement floor before installing since that would cause your tile to crack. Basement tiles come in a wide variety of different styles, shapes and colors. Plus, tiles can be replaced, either singularly or in groups. Keep in mind that tiles are heavy to carry down stairs and easy to crack.
Laminate floors will give you the look and feel of hardwood floors, but are less vulnerable to moisture. Installing laminate flooring has fast become one of the most popular do-it-yourself projects in the country. It's easy and looks terrific. Laminate flooring is more moisture resistant than hardwood and carpeted floors. However, they are not as resilient as linoleum, vinyl, tile or ceramic so use caution. They may be prone to buckling and warping just like natural wood.
Hardwood floors will give any room added warmth, style, charm and elegance. However, to use these as basement floor coverings you need to be absolutely certain your basement is waterproof. Wood is highly susceptible to warping, cracking and staining when it gets wet. Even humidity can cause problems with hardwood floors.
Carpeting is perhaps the last choice for basement flooring. One heavy rainstorm and a wet floor can ruin a carpet, whereas linoleum, vinyl, tile or ceramic are more likely to survive some water. If you do install carpeting, all weather carpet is a great choice. Also, newer basement carpet tiles can be placed over a properly installed underlayment. These carpet tiles are thick pieces of rubber backed carpeting that come in a variety of designs and patterns.