Choose the Best Basement Carpet for your Home
“Can I install carpet in my basement?” and “Which carpet is the best for basements?” are two questions we hear a lot. Most basements are chilly and could use a warm touch. That’s what makes carpeting your basement such an appealing option. And there are plenty of basement carpet options available but you do have to choose wisely, because the right carpet will depend on what kind of basement setup you have.
In this post we will look at the different types of basement, the best carpet for each environment, ideas and recommendations of specific carpeting products for each situation. So let’s get going and find the best carpet for your basement.
Pros and Cons of Basement Carpet
Before you even consider installing carpet in a basement, let’s just run over the pros and cons of this decision.
- Comfortable and soft under your feet.
- Better insulation from the cold concrete than vinyl, laminate or epoxy flooring.
- DIY-friendly installation if you choose carpet tiles.
- Prone to mold in damp conditions
- Worst option in case of flooding
- Stains and discolors more easily than other flooring
Common Issues and How to Avoid Them
Problems with carpeting in the basement usually relate to water – high humidity, leaks or periodic flooding. When moisture remains in the carpeting, mold is inevitable.
But don’t worry! Unless your basement is consistently damp, carpet can still be an option.
3 Tips for Basement Carpet Success
If you don’t want a musty basement where mold spores multiply, here are the rules.
- Use synthetic materials only.
Organic carpet materials soak up moisture and take a long time to dry out. This makes them unsuitable for the basement.
There are four major types of synthetic fiber used for carpet: Polyester, nylon, polypropylene (often called by the brand name Olefin), and Triexta, a material made by DuPont and similar to polyester.
These materials do not absorb water, and if they get wet, they dry much faster as a result. The best practice is to use a fully synthetic carpet – both the backing and the pile.
- Choose low-pile carpet.
The lower the pile of the carpet, the better it will “breathe” and dry out if it does get damp. Faster drying means a lower likelihood of mold getting a foothold. The reality is that unless you have a very dry basement, see below, plush-sink-your-toes-in-it carpet isn’t a smart choice below grade.
- Keep a dehumidifier available in the basement.
No matter how dry the air might feel, most basements have a pretty high moisture content unless you live in an arid region. It is recommended by experts to keep a dehumidifier available for humid times of the year – or even running continuously – to keep your carpet dry and free of mold and mildew.
The Best Carpet for 3 Different Basement Situations
The best materials have been listed above. Now, let’s consider three common basement environments and get more detailed about the best approach to carpeting each. Which of these three basements most accurately describes your situation?
Unfinished Basement – Moderate but ongoing moisture issues, so waterproof materials are essential
Partially Finished Basement – Steps have been taken to control moisture, but it might be an occasional problem
Finished Basement – Moisture is under control, and damp problems are a thing of the past
Let’s now take a look at some basement carpet ideas that might suit these three options.
Carpet for an Unfinished Basement
If you have a totally unfinished basement with concrete floors and consistent moisture issues, then the best carpet to install is a choice between the following two carpeting options.
The first option is to install a plywood subfloor on top of the concrete slab with a plastic vapor barrier between the concrete and plywood subfloor. Many homeowners don’t realize that moisture from below the basement floor will migrate up through the concrete – and hence, the moisture barrier. Then, water-resistant carpet can be installed on top of the plywood subfloor.
Skip regular carpet padding in a really damp basement. Padding holds moisture like a sponge, and you’ll have mold sooner rather than later. Instead, consider a waterproof subfloor made of rubberized floor tiles.
Pro Tip: If periodic flooding is a problem, this is not an option, since the plywood subfloor is sure to suffer water damage and swelling if it remains wet for even a short period of time.
Your second option, and probably the safest, is to skip the plywood and the pad, and install carpeting designed for damp areas. Sure, this won’t be as comfy or warm, but if you’re set on carpet in a moist basement, you’ll have to take this route or tear it out in short order due to mold and the musty smell accompanying it.
Here are two great carpet recommendations for an unfinished concrete basement floor.
Water-resistant carpet tile squares are an affordable, low-risk option. The nap is one of the basement-safe materials listed above; the backing is a rubberized or plastic waterproof material.
To install, press together the interlocking sides of the carpet squares until the floor is covered. You’ll also want to measure the space’s length and width and balance cut pieces on either side. For example, if your carpet tiles are 24” wide and you’re going to have 10” left over, start and finish with pieces 5” wide. A little pre-planning will give your floor a professional appearance.
Cost: $1.00 – $3.00/square foot
- Simple DIY installation
- Easy to remove and replace. If your basement floods or moisture seeps in, you can remove carpet tiles to air them out.
- Carpet squares will not be damaged by getting wet
- Does not add value to home
- Corporate look, not as aesthetically pleasing as most carpet
Budget Option: TrafficMaster carpet tiles
Quality Option: ThermalDry
Note: This carpet is only available through certified installers, so DIY isn’t an option.
Indoor Outdoor Carpet – Olefin
Olefin polypropylene is a synthetic material originally designed for outdoor/marine use. It has since become a popular material for basement carpeting due to its durability in damp areas. Your best concrete basement floor option in Olefin is a low pile, tightly looped carpet style like Berber.
Cost: $0.65-$8.00/square foot
- Easy to clean
- Does not absorb water
- Synthetic, so not prone to mold growth
- Highly resistant to fading
- Not crush resistant, so it will lose its shape over time in high-traffic areas
- Susceptible to oil stains
- Can be pricey
Budget Option: TrafficMaster at Home Depot
Quality Option: Couristan
If you’re interested in other waterproof basement floor options then click here.
Carpet for a Partially Finished Basement
If you have a partially finished basement with occasional dampness or high humidity, then you’re with the majority of homeowners. There are plenty of great carpet materials for you to choose from while still following the general guidelines of sticking to synthetic materials with a low pile.
Pro tip: It’s still a good idea to pass on carpet padding, but if you insist, look for a carpet pad with open cells. These are your best bet because they are much better for ventilation than closed-cell pads. A salesperson might say, “go with closed-cell foam. It’s waterproof!” Well, it isn’t totally waterproof, and when water gets into the cells, it won’t come out easily, and mold will result.
It’s also worth considering carpet tiles. If sections of carpet get water damaged, they can easily be removed for cleaning, drying or replacement.
Here are three more carpet materials to consider:
Polyester is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable, versatile carpet. It does well in basements that are low-traffic areas.
Cost: $0.65-$6.00/square foot
- Soft underfoot
- Wide range of colors and styles
- One of the most budget-friendly carpets
- Stain resistant
- Recyclable and eco-friendly (but good luck finding a recycling facility that isn’t already over its intake limit of carpeting)
- No crush-resistant, so it will wear out more quickly than LVT
- Requires more upkeep and cleaning than hard flooring
Budget Option: TrafficMaster at Home Depot
Quality Option: Mohawk EverStrand
Also called PTT, this is a subclass of polyester known for its strength and affordability. Companies like Mohawk have stated that it outperforms both polyester and nylon in price and durability. Triexta has become popular in basements for durability and stain-resistance.
Cost: $2.00-$7.00/square foot
- Eco-friendly manufacturing
- Impressive durability
- Long lasting
- Resistant to water and stain
- Density can make it difficult for a weak vacuum to really pull out the dirt
Budget Option: StainMaster
Quality Option: Home Depot LifeProof Carpet
Nylon is currently the most popular carpet material, and for good reason. It is super-sturdy, and works great in the basement because it lasts a long time with minimal upkeep.
Cost: $2.00-$9.00/square foot
- Very strong and long-lasting
- Crush-resistant, so it’s good for high-traffic areas
- Resists mold and mildew
- Not stain-resistant
- Not eco-friendly in its manufacturing
Budget Option: Shaw LifeGuard
Middle Range Option: Shaw Nylon carpet at Home Depot
Quality Option: Masland nylon carpet like Panache.
Carpet for a Finished Basement
If you’ve invested in a finished basement with no risk of dampness or flooding, your carpeting options are broader.
You can use anything from carpet tiles to Triexta rolls to make your basement a comfortable spot for your family.
But it still makes sense to follow the principles for a successfully carpeted basement: Use synthetic carpet with a low-pile, and run a dehumidifier in humid seasons.
Budget Option : Phenix SureSoft is water-resistant Nylon carpet boasting intricate pattern options.
Middle-Grade: DreamWeaver Purecolor Soft Nylon.
Quality: Fabrica nylon carpet options like the Donegal line.
Q: What is the best carpet padding to use in a basement?
A: If you have an unfinished basement, it’s safer to avoid carpet padding altogether. If your basement stays pretty dry, look for an open-cell, polyurethane foam pad. This will make it much easier to dry out the pad if it gets wet, and protect your home from mold and mildew. Avoid rubber padding unless there’s a moisture barrier beneath it, as it can trap moisture between the pad and concrete.
Q: Can I install carpet in the basement myself, or does it have to be done by a professional?
A: In most cases you can install your own carpet. Check out our carpet installation guide for help: https://www.homeflooringpros.com/rugs-carpet-floors/installation-guides/
If you’re still not sure whether basement carpet is right for you then take a look at the other basement floor ideas here: https://www.homeflooringpros.com/basement-flooring-ideas/