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I’ve been reading over how to tile or carpet a basement floor and I’m looking for the absolute cheapest option. I’ve read about laying a subfloor, but to be honest, I’m not very handy at all.

Can you lay tile/carpet directly on a concrete basement floor without a subfloor?

The floor has no cracks, moisture issues, water damage or anything like that. This will be primarily a family room for my kids and I.

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  • It would be good to specify what you mean by "tile". My immediate thought was ceramic/porcelain tile like in a shower surround (except designed for flooring). However, one of the current answers went towards carpet tiles. You could also mean vinyl flooring tiles or, well, there are lots of "tiles" out there.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 12, 2021 at 12:07
  • I would choose a floating floor: carpet squares or interlocking vinyl tiles (there are some where the edges fit in a dovetail type pattern) If you use any adhesive you are creating problems for the next iteration. Sep 11, 2021 at 14:42

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The easiest and coziest way to put flooring in a basement is definitely carpet. Make sure you get the thicket pad you can in 8lb - most places will have 1/2" available. There is no need for a subfloor unless you have major water issues.

Honestly a subfloor in a basement is just dumb in 98% of all cases. If you get a large leak in a carpeted area you roll it up and blow fans to dry and put it back.

Also almost places will install carpet for you for free. And with kids playing carpet is always their favorite. My go to on houses I am renovating is a darker brown plush carpet in basement.

If you go tile it is more expensive and will require someone that really knows what they are doing - basements usually aren't flat and it is an art to tile them correctly. Whatever your carpet costs I would estimate your tile costs will be about double.

Your other option is a nice click lock rubber/vinyl planks. This might be the most attractive option and easiest to deal with in a basement. The cons are the nice ones will run you 2-3 times carpet (plus padding) at least. And when walking on them it is really hard and cold.

So when we are talking about basements I start with carpet and there has to be specific reasons to move onto another flooring type.

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  • Tile

There are all kinds of tile. But what I suspect you are referring to is what's commonly called "peel and stick" tile. That is probably the easiest and cheapest thing to do, particularly if you only peel and stick and not put down adhesive. (I have memories of my Mom doing that sometime around 1975.) Tile is going to look a lot nicer than the bare concrete, and it will clean easier, but it will be relatively cold. Not my ideal choice for family room with kids. It is a good choice if there is even a moderate chance of water, because wet carpet is a huge mess. But short of that, I'd go with carpet.

  • Carpet

I've never done carpet DIY. My understanding is that traditional wall-to-wall carpet requires some extra tools to stretch it and install it properly. Inexpensive carpet won't feel as good as the expensive stuff, and it won't last as long, but I think it is a good choice for a family room. If there are any small bumps in the concrete, carpet will cover them more effectively than tile. Carpet tile, which is squares of carpet that you glue down individually, may be a good choice for DIY, and if you have a few extra squares you can use them to replace stains or other damage where with a regular wall-to-wall carpet you would have to replace the whole room.

A lot depends on usage. If "kids" = "sprawl out on the floor playing or watching TV" then I'd definitely go with carpet.

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    Peel and stick will not last long...in ten years they will start to come up. Been there...done that! Sep 11, 2021 at 14:38

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