How to choose basement flooring
Most types of flooring you can use in other parts of the house are also great options for basements. Whether you're using carpet, tile, laminate, or some combination of these or other types of flooring, you'll want to think it through to ensure you end up with the right type of basement flooring for YOUR lifestyle.
Before you install any type of flooring in your basement, make sure you don't have any wall leaks or other moisture problems! If you do, see our basement waterproofing topic, or our sections on repairing cracks and repairing rod hole leaks.
Carpeting a basement
Carpeting is great for a basement because it keeps it warmer in the winter, and is much softer to walk on than a tiled or concrete floor. Also, it will deaden the echo in your basement which should help make your home theater sound much better!
Indoor/outdoor carpeting can be used, but you may like the look of Berber or other 'regular' carpet better. Go with a good thick padding and try to get a moisture resistant pad with some type of vapor barrier. When you go shopping, make sure you let the salesperson know that it's for a basement. He or she will be able to guide you away from products that won't work on your lower level.
Using tile in a basement
If you're putting in a bathroom, wet bar, or kitchen, you'll probably want some tiled areas too. Remember that tile will reflect sound and wreak havoc on your room acoustics. Also, when you have your 'loud' friends over, they'll be that much LOUDER! If you have large areas of tile, you may need to offset it with carpeting, area rugs, or other treatments to 'deaden' the sound.
Since ceramic or stone tiles are difficult to install, vinyl tiles or linoleum may present a good compromise. They offer some of the cushion of carpeting, and absorb some of the sound in a room. If you go with linoleum, you'll probably want to have it installed for you. One bad cut can ruin the whole room- you may not want to take that chance!
Choosing laminate or wood flooring
There are a variety of laminate floors on the market that will give you a look of real hardwood floors in your finished basement. Many laminate floors are 'floating' floors which means you won't need any glue or nails to insall them. Whatever type of floor you choose, MAKE SURE it's approved for use below grade! Most (if not all) laminate floors can be used in a basement, but most (if not all) hardwood floors are NOT.
You will find some 'engineered' hardwood floors that can be used below grade, but check to make sure. Engineered hardwood flooring contains a thin layer of real wood over a plank made of the same materials used in laminates.