What is the Best Vinyl Flooring for Basements?
Average Cost per Sq/Ft – $2.50 (Sheet Vinyl) – $7.00 (EVP)
With its waterproof qualities vinyl flooring is a great basement flooring option. Choose between:
Sheet Vinyl Flooring – Budget Option, Best for Simple Basements
Luxury Vinyl Plank and Tile – Mid Priced Option, Best for a Finished Basement
Engineered Vinyl Plank – Premium Option, Best for a High Traffic Basements
In this Home Flooring Pros post we’re going to run you through three basement vinyl flooring ideas, sheet vinyl, vinyl plank and EVP (engineered vinyl plank). As well as the general pros and cons of basement vinyl we will also drill down to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type, the cost of materials and installation and finally a break down of which is the best vinyl flooring to use in an unfinished, semi-finished or fully finished basement.
PROS & CONS OF BASEMENT VINYL FLOORING
This at-a-glance table points out the pros and cons of vinyl basement flooring. Your options, an overview of each type and prices follow.
VINYL FLOORING TYPES AND HOME FLOORING PROS ADVICE
What types of vinyl floors are available? And what is the best type for the kind of basement you have and what your basement is used for?
We have the answers, so read on!
Vinyl is plastic, and plastic is waterproof and mold-resistant.
So, it stands to reason that vinyl is a top flooring choice for the basement where dampness and even occasional water leaks from pipes or foundation cracks are issues.
However, not all vinyl flooring is fully plastic. In fact, there are three main types of vinyl flooring to consider.
- Sheet vinyl
- Luxury vinyl plank and tile, or LVP / LVT
- Engineered vinyl plank, or EVP
The good and bad of these types are covered here. Plus, we consider your basement and which flooring will suit its needs the best.
Vinyl flooring costs for each type are in the next section.
It is the least expensive and available in a wide variety of prints to look like ceramic tile, stone or wood. The material consists of a synthetic backing, vinyl printed layer and a clear wear layer. The thicker the wear layer, the more expensive and durable the flooring.
Advantages are fully waterproof design and low cost. Installation is pretty easy – cutting the perimeter and around other obstacles is the biggest challenge.
Disadvantages include cheaper, thinner material that is more easily damaged and readily telegraphs imperfections beneath. Full-glue vinyl is a bear to remove. Ask the retailer if the material can be perimeter glued, if sheet vinyl is your choice.
Sheet vinyl is best for basements when you want a budget-friendly (cheap?), practical and low-maintenance flooring to cover the drab concrete. This material is often the choice when the main uses of the basement are storage, laundry, workbench or a kids’ play area. The concrete should be quite free of cracks, because imperfections scream loudly through sheet vinyl.
LUXURY VINYL PLANK AND TILE (LVP/LVT)
Constructed the same, the shape of the pieces is the only difference between planks and tiles. Planks are made to look like wood, right down to the embossing or surface texturing. Tiles more often resemble stone or ceramic tile than wood.
Construction of the flooring begins with a firm but flexible vinyl base layer that makes up about 85% of the thickness. It is topped by the design layer that gives the flooring its unique appearance. A tough, clear film layer adds strength, and the topcoat, often aluminum oxide, protects against scratches and fading caused by UV.
Advantages begin with higher quality than sheet vinyl and better durability. The more robust appearance better mimics genuine wood, stone and tile in a pleasing range of styles. Both loose lay (very easy) and click-together (pretty easy) are DIY-friendly.
*Loose lay, you say? Yes. The pieces of loose lay LVP don’t click together. They simply butt. No worries, though. The backing is grippy (not peel and stick), and the flooring has enough weight to stay in place. You’ve likely walked on commercial LVP flooring – it stays in place even in high-traffic areas. But note, your concrete will need to be cleaned and sealed to allow the backing to grip securely.
Disadvantages include higher cost than sheet vinyl and the fact the flooring is considered water resistant but not waterproof. That’s not critical in a basement when the subfloor is concrete. Not as thick as EVP, LVP hides imperfections better than sheet vinyl but not nearly as well as engineered vinyl planks.
Luxury vinyl is best for basements when you want an upgrade from sheet vinyl and the basement is quite dry – no leaks with humidity levels that don’t require a dehumidifier to control. In those conditions, it is a good choice for a finished basement, maybe a walk-out, with living/entertaining space and/or a bedroom suite. And it’s easy installation is a “plus” when you intend to DIY.
ENGINEERED VINYL PLANK (EVP)
EVP is a type of LVP. The main difference in EVP vs LVP is a rigid core between the base and design layers in EVP. The other layers of construction are the same as LVP.
Terminology tip: Other names for EVP are vinyl composite planks and tiles and, as noted, rigid core vinyl flooring.
And there are two types of rigid cores: Wood polymer core (WPC) and stone polymer core (SPC). You’ll see the word “plastic” substituted for polymer in some brands. Each brand has a “proprietary” formula, which means they are all nearly identical, but each manufacturer can say theirs is superior to all others : ) In truth, they are all quite durable.
Advantages – Both are considered waterproof. And as the thickest, toughest vinyl option, they are the best vinyl flooring for hiding small cracks and gouges in the concrete beneath. Appearance is close to the “real thing,” and you won’t lack flooring options in the color and style you want. WPC and SPC can be installed by homeowners with good skills.
Disadvantages are the slightly higher cost and the fact the floors are hard – true of all vinyl, however. If you have had leak issues, we’d recommend SPC over WPC. Sure, both are waterproof, but when you hear “wood” in any flooring, you understand saturation with water might eventually cause absorption, swelling and a ruined floor.
Engineered vinyl plank and tile are best for basements when you want a tough yet attractive material you’re willing to pay more for. It’s a favorite DIY or pro-installed vinyl flooring when the basement gets a lot of use for entertaining, recreation or family hang-outs. And it is the best vinyl flooring to handle moisture issues, especially when you select a stone polymer composite EVP.
INSTALLATION & COSTS
Let’s break down cost into labor and materials.
Labor: Installers charge $1.50 to $4.00 per square foot and around $50-$75 per stair, if included. Open floorplan basements come with lower installation costs than those divided up into rooms because the work goes faster with less cutting and trimming. Sheet vinyl installation cost is on the lower end of the spectrum, because it installs the quickest.
NB – That sheet vinyl can be quickly installed doesn’t make it more friendly for doing it yourself. That’s because a false cut can ruin a large piece of flooring or leave you with a difficult patch job. Mess up a cut on a plank or tile, and you’re out one piece – or it might work for another spot in the job.
Sheet vinyl cost: The cheapest starts under $1.00 per square foot. Average cost is around $2.50-$3.50, and premium vinyl sheet flooring price tops out around $5. Find out how to install vinyl sheet flooring yourself here.
Luxury vinyl cost: You can find LVP for around $1.00, but appearance and feel are a little plasticky at that price. Quality LVP and LVT is more likely to cost from $2.50 to $5.00 per square foot with premium options closer to $7.00.
Engineered rigid core SPC and WPC cost: Average cost is a few bucks higher than LVP, so expect to see prices in the range of $3.50 to $7.00 with a few options topping $10.00 per square foot.
BEST VINYL FLOORING OPTIONS FOR A FULLY FINISHED BASEMENT
After accounting for potential moisture issues, and if the concrete is in good condition, the best vinyl flooring for finished basements is the one that fits your budget and has the look you want.
It’s all good.
However, “If the concrete is in good condition” is a big “if.” It’s worth repeating: Any cracks or bumps in the concrete are likely to show through sheet vinyl. Consider sanding down raised bumps and ridges caused by careless finishing and filling and smoothing cracks using a polyurethane crack filler and a putty knife.
Sheet vinyl is the budget choice at $2.50 – $6.00 per square foot installed, but wears out the quickest.
LVP is a nice middle ground in terms of cost at $4.00 to $8.00 per square foot installed for most choices. It is more wood-like in appearance and texture, but not as hard wearing as EVP. If the basement is a shoes-off spot that doesn’t get high traffic, LVP will last a good long time.
EVP is the premium choice at $5.00 to $9.00 per square foot for most brands, with an upper range of $12 installed. If the basement is a daily-use area, has a home gym or office where clients are met, is used for entertaining groups or subject to the rowdy whims of kids, then move engineered vinyl flooring to the top of your list.
If your finished basement features a bathroom, utility tub or washing machine, choose an SPC floor for greatest protection and peace of mind against water issues.
BEST VINYL FLOORING OPTIONS FOR A SEMI-FINISHED OR UNFINISHED BASEMENT
This usually means that the basement isn’t the go-to spot in the house, or if it is, it doesn’t need to be the best dressed.
The most popular choices in this situation are sheet vinyl and lower-cost LVP. Many homeowners choose one of these affordable options thinking ahead to when they might want to tear it out and upgrade to a finished basement with higher-quality vinyl flooring.
HOME FLOORING PROS CONCLUSION
Vinyl nicely mimics wood, stone and ceramic tile at a much lower cost and, compared with solid hardwood and engineered hardwood, a better choice for damp areas.
Sheet vinyl is acceptable for a basement when the concrete is in good shape, and the better grades of it are quite attractive. When properly installed, it is waterproof even at the edges and around obstacles.
EVP vinyl, especially stone-polymer core vinyl, is the other reliably waterproof option. Perhaps it goes without saying that if your basement has frequent water issues, they should be resolved before you put any flooring down.
If excellent indoor air quality is essential because someone in the household has asthma or other respiratory issue, then limit your search to flooring certified by FloorScore or GreenGuard. There is plenty of it, and it won’t hinder your stylistic options too badly. But it will cost a little more!
When glue-down or floating installation are your options, choose floating because planks or tiles can be easily replaced if damaged. And if the subfloor gets wet, the flooring in the affected area can be removed piece-by-piece and reinstalled once the floor is dry.
Not sold on vinyl flooring for your basement? Check out the answers to these questions:
About the Author:
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 10 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years’ experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-overcomplicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”