It can be tough to get a comfortable, homey feeling in below-grade spaces like basements. Carpet warms up a room instantly, but conventional wisdom says carpet and basements don’t mix. That doesn’t have to be the case. With good moisture management and affordable carpeting deals on the right kinds of carpet, you might be able to put warm and cushy carpeting in your below-grade rooms.
Can I Carpet My Basement?
Whether or not you should use carpet in below-grade rooms comes down to a few factors.
1. Moisture. Water leaks, ground moisture wicking into concrete subfloors and humidity from limited ventilation can all cause ongoing water problems. Carpeting can hold onto that moisture and grow mold and mildew. Perpetually wet basements aren’t good candidates for carpet, but drier basements can offset risks with proper installation and maintenance.
2. Carpet type. Some carpets dry faster, are more mildew resistant and easier to recover after leaks than others. If you can find good carpeting deals on more basement-friendly types, carpet can be feasible.
3. Maintenance. Having a carpeted basement means being prepared for leaks and ensuring you minimize moisture levels on a day-to-day basis. If you keep up with maintenance, make smart choices and act quickly after leaks, it’s possible to maintain attractive, healthy carpet in below-grade rooms.
Is Your Basement a Good Candidate?
Step into your basement. Does it feel humid? Do you see any water staining or other signs of leaks? Does it smell like mildew or dampness? If you don’t have any of these issues, your basement might be a candidate for carpet.
To have carpet, your basement needs to be:
- Free from excessive humidity
Moisture detection services can help you pinpoint the source of water problems or test if your basement has significant moisture rising up from the ground. Sometimes, excessive moisture is caused by something as simple as a dryer vent that’s knocked out of place. Your basement can be professionally sealed, and outside drainage issues can be addressed by specialized contractors. Running a dehumifier can also reduce airborne moisture levels.
Choosing the Right Carpet Deals
When choosing carpet for your basement, you’ll want to consider material, type and style. Think style first. If your basement is a little damp or leaky, opting for interchangeable carpet tiles will let you pull up damaged squares and replace them easily. They’re also a great choice for basements that will be kids’ play areas. For drier basements, traditional carpet is a viable option.
When it comes to type, low pile carpeting that’s either closed loop or cut-and-loop will dry out faster than traditional cut pile styles. Closed loop carpet is also easier to extract water from should you ever have a leak or flood. Plush carpeting is only a good choice for very dry basements.
For material, head straight for man-made fibers with excellent stain-, moisture- and odor-resistant properties. Olefin and SmartStrand are the most popular choices. Olefin boasts fantastic moisture- and stain-resistance and is an affordable option for basements that don’t see much foot traffic. SmartStrand, which blocks moisture from the core and is sealed with nanotechnology, is durable enough families and pets. Look for options with moisture-resistant backing for extra protection.
Once you’ve addressed moisture issues and secured excellent carpeting deals on a smart choice, don’t forget installation. It’s important to consider vapor barriers and padding. Vapor barriers are impervious plastic sheeting that sit between your concrete subfloor and your carpet to block ground moisture. Go with the grade and type your installer recommends to ensure maximum protection.
In cases of leaks and floods, carpet padding can be very difficult to dry out. Make sure you opt for open-cell carpet padding, which dries out faster, with odor-blocking properties. Avoid rubber padding that will trap moisture under the pad and may cause it to pool up against your walls and baseboards. Some people skip padding entirely, but it’s less comfy and can cause your carpet to warp and wear out rapidly. It’s not a good choice for living spaces.
What to Do When It Leaks
Whether it’s a burst pipe or a flood from a clogged window well, most basements will face some type of moisture problem eventually. Carpeting can often be salvaged if you act quickly.
Act on any signs of a water problem, like stains, damp smells or warping baseboards, immediately. A professional water extraction team is usually necessary for significant leaks and floods. In the case of extensive flooding or long-term damage, replacement can be necessary.
Basement carpeting is a risk-reward balancing act that some families are happy to tackle. If it sounds like too much work for you, remember that other soft flooring options, like cork and linoleum from Peek‘s, are always available.