Finishing the basement is often the very last item on the home improvement list. It’s right down there with renovating the attic for an extra guest bedroom. But once this major project is finally complete, the rewards are terrific. You’ve extended the overall living space of your house, increased its value, and beautified what has been an unsightly storage pit for years.
As with most projects, getting started is the hardest part, which includes the task of deciding on what to do with the floor and how to go about doing it.
Save Money by Doing it Yourself!
Installing a basement floor might not sound like the easiest DIY project. But with going with some of the cheapest (and best) materials, the difficulty of doing the work yourself is quite minimal.
By forgoing a hired contractor to do the job for you, you can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars. The cost of labor usually runs between $0.60 and $4.00 per square foot. Contractors will factor in sales taxes, the difficulty of the project, travel distance, prep work, testing for hazardous materials and more into their estimate.
With a little research and motivation, you can avoid these extra costs. Not only that, but you’ll also earn the satisfaction of having done the work yourself.
To help get you started, here’s a list of flooring materials that are DIY friendly, easy to install, and easy on the pocketbook.
9 Cheap Basement Flooring Options Over Concrete
1. Stained Concrete Floors
Concrete staining is incredibly cheap, usually costing about $0.30 or $.040 per square foot. There are two varieties of concrete stain: water-based and acid-based. The acid-based stain tends to last longer and look better.
There are a lot of options when it comes to colors and designs, or you can go with a transparent coating. The only drawback is that the color you choose might come out different once the stain has dried, and if you’re not satisfied with the outcome, there’s no going back because the stain is now permanent.
The staining process is simple. Prepare the concrete with a thorough cleaning (pressure washing is recommended), section off the areas you want stained with tape, test a small corner to be sure you have the desired color, apply the stain, let dry, and then finish up with a coating of sealant for added protection.
Carpeting a basement floor is a bit of a controversial option. Due to extra moisture and susceptibility to flooding, carpeting can be seen as a potential headache. However, if you have a fairly dry basement, going with carpet can do the trick. It’s comfy, reduces noise, and provides insulation.
Prices vary depending on the quality. Per square foot, you’ll likely pay $2 to $7. A good option for carpeting a basement floor is carpet tiles which are easier to install, clean, and repair.
3. Foam or Rubber Tiles (Easiest Installation Option)
Interlocking rubber tiles come at $3 to $8 per square foot ($1 to $5 per square foot if you buy it in rolls). This is a popular choice for its durability, water resistance, and easy installation. With a wide variety of styles and textures, you can get wooden-looking foam tiles, all black or colorful. Rubber tiles are especially great for a home gym, a playroom, or a utility room.
There are some complaints about a distinct, rubbery odor that comes with the material. To avoid this problem, look for tiles made of synthetic rubber as opposed to natural rubber material.
You will find cheap foam tiles on our 7 Cheap Bathroom Flooring Ideas When On A Budget article, check it out!
4. Sheet Vinyl Flooring
Sheet vinyl flooring comes in large roll at an affordable price. You’ll spend as little as $0.75 or up to $4 per square foot.
The fun of vinyl flooring is its wide variety of patterns and styles to choose from. This material is quite durable and easy to clean. But beware, installation may take patience when cutting the right size. Also, any bumps in the concrete will show through, so it’s often recommended to install a subfloor for a smoother finish.
5. Cheap Laminate Flooring
With laminate flooring, you can fool your guests into thinking you’ve splurged on actual wood. Or you can choose from any number of other styles. At about $2 per square foot of quality material, this easy-to-install option looks great and is easy to maintain.
It is susceptible to water damage if it stays wet for too long, so keep this in mind if your basement is flood-prone. Even if your basement stays nice and dry, it’s important to ensure that the particular laminate material you buy has been manufactured specifically for basement conditions.
6. Epoxy Sealed Concrete
Another DIY option is an epoxy sealant, running at about $3 to $7 per square foot. Applying epoxy is as easy as a basic paint job, requiring only a thorough cleaning of the concrete and two coatings (just be sure to protect your nose and mouth from the unpleasant fumes during application).
The result is a smooth, durable surface that’s easy to clean and provides protection to the concrete. However, while the top is highly water-resistant, it’s important to know if moisture seeps up through the concrete floor, as the epoxy will trap the moisture in and damage the slab.
For extra style and texture, you can add a sprinkle of sand or shredded plastic while the epoxy is still wet.
When searching for cheap basement flooring options over concrete I must say an epoxy sealed floor looks super cool and it’s extremely durable, I am totally giving this one a shot soon!
7. Polish the Concrete with Concrete Grinder
If you want to keep the rustic look of your unfinished floor, consider polishing the concrete for an appealing stone-like gleam and smoothness.
For this, you’ll need to rent a concrete grinder from your local hardware store which can cost as much as $1000 per week, so careful planning and preparation is needed before renting in order to minimize how much you spend.
The work itself is pretty easy once you get the hang of operating the grinder. Also, be sure to apply sealant to preserve the concrete.
For an intro on this task, check out this great video here!
8. Lay Large Area Rugs
The simplest of all is laying a large area rug on your basement floor. The perfect rug can really tie the room together. With endless styles and designs, you certain to find the rug that best matches your personal taste. In a one-and-done deal, you can buy a high end area rug for as low as $400 or as high as $10,000, as said by the pros at Circle Furniture. But you could opt for a cheaper option like the Unique Loom Sofia Collection Traditional Vintage Area Rug, 9′ x 12′.
Installation is the easiest part. All you need to do figure out where to look to find what you want.
9. Linoleum Flooring
Linoleum might be more associated with public spaces than in the home, but this option has been growing in popularity for basement flooring for its agreeable price and eco-friendly qualities. Linoleum is made from natural, renewable materials and, when eventually discarded, it breaks down quickly without any chemical pollution.
Linoleum usually costs $2 to $4 per square foot. Installation requires an adhesive that is susceptible to moisture, so extra consideration is suggested before settling on this option.
Do You Need Flooring in your Basement?
The raw, untreated concrete slab of your basement floor will last as long (if not longer) as the rest of your house. So, increasing longevity is usually not a concern. However, a flooring upgrade will certainly turn your dungeon-like basement into a comfortable, attractive living space. How you plan on using your basement will help determine the type of flooring that you choose.
If you want to continue using your basement for storage, then an epoxy sealant or linoleum will do the trick. Not only will these surfaces make for easy cleaning, but they’ll keep your storage items safe from moisture. For a cozy living space for the family, you might want some carpeting. A stylish staining and a couple of rugs would go great for a social-friendly zone.
Basement Flooring FAQs
How to Add Moisture Protection to Basement Floor
Because a basement concrete slab is porous, moisture tends to rise upwards. With a raw slab, this poses no issue, but with certain types of flooring, the moisture will wreak havoc on the material, causing an excess of mold and mildew to grow. One of the cheapest and most popular preventative measures for this is installing subflooring. A basic subflooring consists of plastic tiles with a grid system that adds extra space between the concrete and the flooring of your choice. Not only will the subflooring dissipate moisture, it will also add insulation from the cold concrete slab.
What About Hardwood Flooring in the Basement?
If your heart is set on hardwood, now is the time to let go of that dream. Not only is it extremely pricey, but if your basement is not properly moisture protected it could potentially warp the wood and harbor mold and mildew that can pose potential health hazards. It is a more expensive basement option too. You could try to lay it directly on the basement concrete floor, but laying a moisture barrier sub-floor is the best way to go to mitigate the risks.
What are my Cheapest Basement Flooring Options?
For the cheapest basement floor option, you can go with staining or an epoxy sealant. Both are also DIY-friendly. They won’t improve that cold, hard feel of your basement floor, but if all you need is a little facelift, they’re the way to go.
Making the Right Decision
Deciding on a flooring option is easy once you know your options and your intended purpose for your basement. With the above tips, you’ll have a great head start on your journey to a better basement. Choose wisely, and have fun!
Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.