Carpets in the Basement: Go for It (Complete Guide)

Carpets are a common part of homes nowadays. They are a symbol of elegance and class. Obviously, they offer comfort and a surface that is pleasing to the eye. As such, homeowners would do all their efforts to cover every single possible inch with carpet.

However, it is extremely hard to install carpets in some places, like the bathroom and the basement. These places are notorious for their moisture and humidity, which could be a very bad death sentence not just for your carpet, but for your house as well.

Here are the ways and know-how on how to install a carpet inside the basement. After all, you want to have that challenge finished as soon as you can!

What Are the Basics of a Basement Floor?

Dry, warm, basement floors are designed to manage many things. First, they are designed to keep water at the ground level. We all know that gutters and downspouts are connected to splash blocks on soil placed away from the building. In other words, water is just somewhere around the corner.

In addition, there is water at your foot, in the form of a perimeter pipe drainage. Just below your basement is a porous material, which is called a capillary break (for example, free-draining gravel or a nonporous sheet good like polyethylene) underneath the slab, between the concrete walls and the soil, and between the footing and the foundation walls.

Finally, the basement is one of the keys to maintaining a comfortable floor surface temperature, as sub-slab rigid insulation warms the basement slab and elevates its temperature.

You need to keep all of these things in mind when you are choosing on which carpet you should use for your basement floor.

What Do We Need for a Basement Carpet?

Here are the following basic qualities that make a carpet best-suited for basements.

First, the carpet should have a low pile, or in layman’s words, a thin layer. High-pile (thick) carpet takes a longer time to dry out, should it get wet. The lower the pile, the faster the drying process.

Second, it should be of a cut pile format. Carpet is usually made of fiber loops that can be left “as-is,” cut, or combined loop and pile. Cut pile carpeting tends to be more durable and easier to extract water from, should the need arise.

Third, it should be padless. While most people installing carpeting in basements are reluctant to give up the padding (it has the advantage of making the floor warmer), padding also acts as a sponge and traps water within and underneath it. In other words, you will have a harder time if your carpet has padding underneath it.

Fourth, it should be synthetic, similar to the ones used for bathrooms. Carpet that is taken from organic materials (for instance, wool) will not stand up to moisture as effectively as synthetic materials. Nylon and polyester, among others, are the most popular types of man-made carpet fibers.

Fifth, it should be modular. If you buy wall-to-wall carpeting and part of it gets so soaked that removal is necessary, the entire carpet must come out. If you buy carpet squares (or modules), you can take out the water-logged part of the carpet with surgical and careful precision. Not only that, carpet squares are a DIY-friendly install.

Finally, it should be waterproof. Some carpets are considered waterproof because they have special backings that prevent moisture from passing through. Nowadays, carpet technology has improved a lot, so it is becoming more common that carpets come with a waterproofing system on its own.

What Are the Pros of Carpeting Your Basement?

A carpeted basement conveys a warm and welcoming feel, much like your home’s living spaces upstairs. As a matter of fact, if you think of your basement as a “second living room”, then having a carpet is an excellent choice when it comes to comfort and aesthetics.

Carpet is a good “sound muffler”, which means that it naturally reduces the noise that is made when the room is in use. This also means that carpeted rooms are generally quieter than rooms with hard flooring.

This is a nice bonus if your basement is split between a kids’ area and an adult’s area – and also a great bonus if you live in a place where many disasters happen, such as tornadoes or bandit attacks that will require you to use the basement.

If you have kids, no doubt they’ll want to carve out their own niche in the basement. Carpet is the optimum flooring choice for children: it’s soft, warm, comfortable to walk on and play on, and far more forgiving than concrete, laminate, or hardwood. Yes, despite what some people may say, it’s quite easy to remove stains from carpets, provided you know the procedure for each one.

Any furniture that comes together into your basement blueprint will be much more difficult to move when placed on the carpet. This is a big plus from a safety standpoint. Heck, you can even nail them and no one will notice the difference!

Compared to hardwood and other rigid flooring surfaces, carpet offers the most choices in terms of color, vibrancy, thickness, and texture. The ability to have different carpet colors provides an almost limitless number of choices, meaning you’ll have no problem finding the perfect carpet to match the rest of your basement’s aesthetics: paint color, furniture, etc.

Do I need to say that carpets, especially with bright colors, improve the mood and the atmosphere of your basement?

What Are the Cons of Carpeting Your Basement?

To be honest, based on the facts that we know already about basements, it is more than expected that there will be quite a lot of hitches.

First of all, floodwater damage is the biggest threat to basement carpets, especially when you live in a place with a lot of rain. Even 5 centimeters of rain can necessitate removing the carpet, which when wet, is a prime candidate for mold and mildew (remember your bathroom?) that can cause a number of health problems. Floodwater also carries with it harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that are dangerous to anyone playing or walking on water-damaged carpet. Oops indeed.

Of far less consequence, but still well worth considering (especially with kids) is that large spills and messes can be much harder to clean up on carpet than on hardwood or laminate. Coffee, tea, juice, and other drinking liquids are the main culprits when it comes to this one.

Even in the absence of major spills, carpets must be cleaned more frequently than other surfaces. This is extra important if you have pets and/or family members with allergies – well, as we mentioned already, a basement is more or less a damp place!

If you’re lucky enough to avoid water damage or spills on your basement carpet, it will still possess a way shorter lifespan than wood flooring and similar surfaces. You thought the bathroom was bad already?

Take this into account when developing your homeowner’s budget, because the carpet is expensive to replace.

Why Is It That Carpets in the Basement Are Undesirable?

Let’s be honest, a basement is a place where water exists a lot. You don’t need to use something – it will come out. At certain points, the carpet will get wet at one point or another. At best, the carpet will feel heavy and soggy, which is not exactly the best feeling in the world to start with.

If you ask whether you should worry about molds and mildew, the answer is, unfortunately, yes: They can cause fungal, bacterial and viral infections (that are annoying at the least, such as flu, and can lead to all sorts of medical complications at its worst, such as tuberculosis; damp places are perfect for these germs to thrive), as well as increase existing medical illnesses such as allergies and the like.

This can definitely happen if you are not careful in maintaining the carpet or when you don’t take out the rug once a leak hits it. As a result, people always quickly fix the basement as soon as they can.

Finally, real estate brokers hate nothing more than seeing a home full of paint flakes, discolored wood, pests, and molds, even if it is the basement. Not only they will have a hard time selling these homes (or putting them out on lease), their tenants would have to spend more remodeling the home and face the risk of getting sick by exposure to every imaginable thing that can come out of it. If you want to fix it, you’ve got to spend a lot of money on it.

In other words, carpets in the basement are undesirable because they have the potential to make everyone in your house sick big time and add a ton of expenses to your bill.

How Do I Install?

Before you put any finished flooring down on what appears to be a dry floor, it’s a smart thing to determine just how dry it really is. Many basement concrete floors don’t have a capillary break or vapor barrier installed underneath them and evaporate what can be quite a bit of water off of their surface, water that is coming from the soil up through the concrete. It is a natural process.

There are two simple tests to determine floor moisture transmission (see One involves just taping down a sheet of plastic for at least the better part of a 24-hour day and seeing if the underside of the plastic is wet If it’s dry, good for you! It’s now the right time to put down any finished flooring product you want to.

If it’s wet, you might want to consider the next test, which is an anhydrous calcium chloride test, which can tell you the amount and speed of moisture transmission. Knowing this rate means that you can check flooring manufacturer recommendations on moisture transmission rates and see what types of carpets can handle what your floor is doing.

Keep in mind that many types of carpets go down with water-soluble adhesives; that can be a real problem if your slab is drying a lot of water through its surface. This is why it is very important to choose carpets that

Related Questions

Where does the moisture come from?

As already mentioned, the basement is a natural place for moisture to come in, more so than any other part of the house.

Basement moisture ranges the spectrum of woes for your life. At one end of the scale, in certain climates, it can be seen as a fact of life that must be managed. At the other end, basement moisture can be a huge issue indeed and a real estate deal-breaker, as said already.

Tracking down moisture in the basement prior to installation of flooring is a tricky business. The source often seems like a shifting target. But you can narrow down the sources of moisture in your basement into three categories.

First, water leaks can come from cracks in the foundation wall, up through cracks in the floor, down through air-vents in the side of the foundation, etc. You are not always so “lucky” to catch an active water leak in the process. But even dried-up leaks can be identified by remnants such as calcium deposits and other trailings that are left behind.

Second, moisture in the air is a natural thing. Even the best-dehumidified rooms have moisture in the air. Moisture-laden air inhabits many basements. Often, the source is easier and less invasive than you might fear. A displaced dryer vent hose spewing exhaust into the basement will spike basement humidity levels. Dehumidifiers are always a great idea in basements, even ones that appear to be dry.

Finally, we already know that moisture on the floor is a thing. To be more specific, a crack in the concrete floor will emit moisture. But did you know that even a stable, intact concrete floor can release moisture?

Which Carpets Should I Use in My Basement?

In most basements, you can use any style of carpet you like. Depending on how you plan to use your basement space, you can select a carpet that matches your performance needs with your style preference.

Unless your basement suffers from an excessive moisture problem (above and beyond the typical basement dampness) there is no reason that you can’t use looped Berber carpet, or even thick, plush Saxony styles.

Really, in a properly finished basement, you can install any style of carpet. All styles are available in a range of qualities, so be sure to choose a carpet that suits your needs. Just make sure that they meet the above requirements for waterproofing, as well as easy installment and preparation.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like history and reading about carpets. I like to play soccer too :)

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