Basements do not follow conventional design rules when it comes to flooring options. Basements are most often made out of concrete for its durability. However, concrete is very porous which makes basements prone to water problems. The best flooring option for you will depend on two factors: the budget for your basement flooring and the ease of maintenance you desire.
Waterproof Basement Flooring
Waterproof basement flooring options are great for basements that you intend to use as an art studio or workshop. These flooring options are epoxy paint and sealed concrete.
Epoxy paint is thick and durable. It can withstand the wear and tear of foot traffic and comes in a variety of colors. This allows you to put some personal flair into your basement flooring. Sealed concrete uses a waterproof sealing paint. You can add in dyes to the sealant to provide more visual interest to your finished floors.
Both of these options are inexpensive and waterproof. They will come out no worse for the wear in the event of a leak or full-blown basement flooding. Of course, you will want to take all necessary precautions against flooding, but even the most water-resistant basements can experience water issues from time to time.
Vinyl Basement Flooring
If you do not want concrete floors, but you do not want a high-maintenance floor either, there are numerous vinyl products that can suit your needs. Vinyl is water-resistant, provides some cushion for your feet, and reduces sound. It is affordable and comes in a variety of colors and styles.
Vinyl sheets are what they sound like—solid sheets of vinyl. Vinyl sheets have a protective barrier that resists stains, scratches, and gouges so you do not need to tread lightly when walking on them. If you want a fancier look, you can use luxury vinyl tiles. These are made to mimic the look of natural stone, ceramic tiles, or wood. If you want a tiled look without that added cost of real stone, you can even install luxury tile with grout. Another vinyl option are basic peel-and-stick tiles. You can install these yourself to save even more on cost.
A similar flooring option to vinyl is linoleum. Linoleum requires a little more care than vinyl as you will need a specific floor cleaner. However, it is very durable and made from natural materials. It also comes in an even wider variety of colors than vinyl.
Carpet Basement Flooring
Carpet basement flooring comes with a certain level of risk. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you may want to consider a more water-resistant option. However, if you live in a drier area and you know your basement is as efficiently water-proofed as possible, then there is no reason you cannot go with carpet flooring. It is an innately warm option without the need for in floor heating.
You can also go with carpet squares rather than wall-to-wall carpet. Carpet squares have come a long way since their original inception. They come in a variety of colors and patterns. While they are just as prone to mold from water damage as regular carpet, you can replace sections of carpet squares with much greater ease than you can with wall-to-wall carpet.
Be sure to install a subfloor and check that there is a proper vapor barrier. If you have carpet flooring and your basement does flood, do not wait for it to dry out on its own. Mold will almost always grow and ruin your carpet before this can happen. Instead, invest in industrial drying equipment to save your carpet.
Tile Basement Flooring
Tile is an excellent option as far as waterproofing and style are concerned. In the event of flooding, tile will dry out without damage. It can also be laid directly on your concrete slab. While tile can be cold, you can always install heat coils before laying down your tile.
Tile comes in a variety of styles. You are not limited to the traditional square tiles. You can even install long thin tiles that imitate the look of hardwood without the maintenance. There are a variety of tile options that can suit any design and budget.
Wood Basement Flooring
If you desire the look or wood but you do not want to use imitation tiles, you can use laminate instead. It is even available in waterproof options! Waterproof laminate does not require a vapor barrier like many other types of basement flooring. However, there are fewer options to choose from than standard laminate.
Standard laminate is a suitable basement flooring option as well. It is warmer than many other flooring options and you can install it yourself. Unlike waterproof laminate, traditional laminate does require a subfloor.
If you want real wood floors, opt for engineered hardwood rather than solid hardwood. Engineered hardwood is not as prone to shrinking and expanding with temperature changes as solid hardwood is. Engineered wood floors use a plywood base with a real wood veneer on top. Even so, engineered hardwood requires a subfloor to protect from moisture.
If you want low-maintenance and low-cost flooring options, your best options would be to seal the existing floor or install vinyl or linoleum. If you want a more elegant look that is durable as well, tile and waterproof laminate are excellent options. The most luxurious options that require more maintenance in the event of flooding are carpet and engineered hardwood.