I live in Michigan, where humidity is fairly high. I have a 70 pint dehumidifier that works great. I also have a sump pump and water powered backup sump pump.

I am looking to floor my basement because I am planning on using it has a home theater.

I have done a lot of googling on this topic and have found a lot of varying opinions.

I don't want to add a subfloor because I don't have much headspace to play with. Currently it has a drop ceiling and I am 6'4". I am only a couple inches from the ceiling standing on the unfinished floor.

I have been looking at different carpeting and vinyl options. I am trying to finish around 600 sq ft so price is a concern here. I would like to stay under $1000 and can do installation myself if needed.

I am concerned about moisture not being able to dissipate into the air and instead getting trapped under whatever flooring I put down.

Is it okay to use a padding with carpet? Do they make special padding that allows for air to transfer through it?

Is vinyl going to trap moisture underneath and cause mold?

I don't really like the look of painted/stained concrete so I want to avoid that option.

  • So does this part that is getting finished have humidity issues or standing water? What is it's history? – DMoore Sep 3 '13 at 18:35
  • I just recently purchased this home. No standing water, the concrete floor hasn't ever looked damp since I bought the house (even during heaving outside humidity+rain). My dehumidifier says it keeps humidity at around 40%. There is an attached unfinished crawlspace that needs to have a vapor barrier put down in it but I will be doing that before I floor the basement. I am also not very worried about potential flooding because of my water powered backup sub-pump. – erebel55 Sep 3 '13 at 18:43

I lived in a house that had standing water once or twice a year. It had a pad with berber(?) carpet on top. It dried easy with a space heater and fan within a day of these wet periods. Usually a 5x10 foot area got wet. When I went to pull up the carpet both the carpet and pad were in perfect condition. I asked a friend who had done installations for years and he said that I had an open-celled padding with no moisture barrier and if they are dried out thoroughly within a reasonable time he has never seen mold.

So new house I am in is basically about the same as yours. I am putting down carpet in part of the basement with pad. Almost all pads are open-celled and you would have to ask for one with a moisture barrier - so if you go to a carpet store and pick out their normal padding that is the right thing.

Also I am using Trafficmaster Allure Ultra on part of the basement which I have used on jobs. I am not a HD homer - but I have used this stuff and it is awesome. It is pure rubber and even if you got mold (you shouldn't) it would just clean right off.

As for your $1000 budget. You are going to have to get some very low grade carpet to meet that. Do not get non-floating vinyl. If you have to install the vinyl to the floor and you do have moisture problems you are in for a big mess. The recommendation I have above is $1800. Also a great website for flooring builddirect.com has other all rubber options but they may make you have a minimum order.

  • Thanks for your input. I have seen a lot of people suggest that you shouldn't pad in the basement at all. I will do more research on the open-celled padding. Also, with the Allure flooring I have read some things about how it doesn't allow for the moisture to dissipate into the air and instead traps it underneath. I know it is supposed to be water and mold proof but I'm not sure how well that holds up. – erebel55 Sep 3 '13 at 19:16
  • Any vinyl you lay down would have the same issues as the allure ultra. It will potentially trap water underneath. It has more to do with the temperature in your basement and amount of potential water coming in. I guess you could also poke tiny holes in the flooring if you were that worried about water standing. I always suggest solid rubber click lock planks for basements, traditional tile, or carpeting for basements. Tile is a ton of work and could potentially have issues in older basements so I usually stick with the other two options. – DMoore Sep 3 '13 at 19:33
  • Thanks for your help, I'm thinking I will probably stick with carpet for now than. I have been looking at menards.com/main/flooring/carpet/indoor-outdoor-carpet/… and menards.com/main/flooring/carpet/level-loop-carpet/… – erebel55 Sep 3 '13 at 19:36
  • Carpet is the easiest. Ask your installers the easiest way to take it up if it gets water on it. Carpet in general dries very easily during wet periods. Just run the fan/heater an extra day to totally get pad dry. – DMoore Sep 3 '13 at 19:38

When I lived in MN I had the same issue. I opted to stain the concrete floor. I liked the looked, it was affordable, and as long as I ran a dehumidifier (a requirement in most any mid-western basement anyways) there was no water worries at all.

I'd never put carpet in a basement. Been in too many carpeted basements with a definite mildew smell to scare me away from it.

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    This is a good idea too. But floor will be hard and cold. Also your floor has to be in pretty good condition (no cracks, buckling or issues) or it doesn't look right. I mean the stained concrete looks good but I would lay around on it in my basement. Definitely a cheaper solution if his floor is in really good shape. – DMoore Sep 3 '13 at 19:52
  • @DMoore hard, for sure, but surprisingly not cold (basement was heated in MN). As for looks, our floor was cracked, paint spattered, scarred. The stain blends it all in and gives it a very nice patina, IMHO. It's an industrial/loft type look (obviously it's not a look for everyone). We had plans to add some indoor/outdoor rugs, but found that it wasn't ever needed. – DA01 Sep 3 '13 at 19:56
  • What do you do with the cracks before staining and what do you do with ridges? There is a basement I am working on soon that this might be a good option. Do you fill things? Can't really waterproof right? – DMoore Sep 3 '13 at 20:20
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    We did 2 things: 1 - cleaned off some remnant mastic (using a soy based solvent) 2 - chiseled off a couple of rough spots. We didn't seal any cracks (though that's probably not a bad idea). We also used a water-based sealant on top. One option would have been to go with an epoxy based sealer (which likely would have been more of a waterproofing option) – DA01 Sep 3 '13 at 20:27

You can simply lay carpet right on the concrete without a pad. It obviously won't be as soft as it would with padding, but it's easy, cheap, and air should flow through it better. Don't need to glue it down, it will stay put on the concrete once you have some things on it.

  • I've thought about this but I've heard that the carpet won't last as long without a pad because of the rubbing against the concrete. I am currently doing a moisture test in my basement with 6-mil plastic taped to the concrete slab to see what type of moisture if any is coming up. – erebel55 Sep 16 '13 at 13:37

Personally I would do the vinyl plank but not the allure. I would rather use Moduleo but it won't be budget friendly. If you are running the dehumidifier that will take care of any moisture issues.

Carpet is certainly the warmest and most economical. I would definitely use a pad (chip foam is best below grade). If you don't install the carpet over pad or glue it down it will always buckle. I would recommend getting it installed.

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