Decorative concrete floor. Source: The Design Center.

Someone asked me recently if we have a sump pump for our basement. I said no, we never get that much water…and then of course we got hit. We had been thinking about finishing off the basement, so this whole recent water seepage thing now has me a bit concerned, especially with regards to picking a floor option. I had already ruled out carpet: it wouldn’t be a good idea over our un-insulated concrete floor. Even if we did manage to stop any future water from coming in, the concrete floor will always be cooler than the air temperature, creating a lovely condition under the carpet for mold to grow. 

So what are good basement flooring options? Here are some to consider:

Note: All of these options assume that you have any moisture problems under control. If not, you should take care of that first before installing any floor options.

Decorative concrete. Stained concrete offers a beautiful and economical alternative to tile or carpet. It comes in any color you can imagine, and it can even be stained/etched to look like stone or wood.  It’s long lasting, durable and it can be used with an in-floor radiant heat system (before the concrete is poured) or retrofitted with an overlay heating system. And unlike carpet, you don’t need to rip up the concrete floor if water occasionally gets in your basement.  So it can save you money over time and help keep carpet out of landfills.

Tile. The main thing to consider when using tile on a basement floor is making sure the floor is level and relatively free of imperfections; otherwise the tile might be susceptible to cracking.  Tile is durable and waterproof and there are many beautiful options to chose from, including natural and eco-friendly linoleum.

Engineered Hardwood. This is real wood that has been beefed up with a layer of plywood underneath, enabling it to withstand moisture better than traditional hardwood.  Wood and moisture don’t mix well, so if you absolutely must have wood floors in your basement, then chose an engineered hardwood. Also, unlike a traditional solid wood floor, which must be nailed down to a sub floor, engineered wood can either be nailed down or float above an existing floor.

Laminate.  Laminate is a floating floor. It would lie on top of the existing basement floor, making it fairly easy to install for you DIYs out there. There are many luxury laminate choices out there today that look just like real wood or stone. I just installed a stone laminate in a client’s home, and unless you touched it, you could not tell that it wasn’t tile. Laminate is a very affordable option compared to tile, engineered hardwood, or even decorative concrete. It’s durable and easy to clean. If you do choose laminate, just make sure you opt for one that is certified for basements.

Carpet tiles. Carpet tiles have become very popular in recent years for their ease of use. Just pick a color/style, figure out how many you need, and then place them on the floor using an adhesive backing system. When one of the tiles gets wet or dirty, just remove it, clean it, and return it to its spot. They are a great green product too: most carpet tiles today are made from post consumer content. They can get a bit expensive though when compared to the cost of an area carpet, so you’ll need to do the math if carpet is the way you want to go.

Bamboo and Cork.  Bamboo is naturally moisture resistant and a renewable resource. It can be installed over most sub floors, including concrete, and you can use radiant floor heating systems with it. You can also get an engineered bamboo floor that is better suited for basements. Cork is another great option because of its moisture resistant properties and its softness underfoot. It should be installed as a floating floor over concrete.

Here are a few local retailers that I would recommend if you are considering any of these options:

Homescapes: 101 North Marion Street, Oak Park IL (708) 788-4051

Green Home Experts: 823 South Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL (708) 660-1443.

Floor Coverings International (Chicago): 4222 N. Ravenwood Avenue, Chicago IL (773) 770-6770. 

So which option will I choose? I haven’t decided yet, but I’m having a lot of fun shopping for it! Hopefully I can pick one before the next round of storms hits…

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Lexi Nielsen

Lexi is an interior decorator living in Oak Park. Her projects range from simple color consultations to gut rehabs. She fully appreciates that not everyone salivates at the thought of shopping for home...