How to Install Flooring in a Basement


Installing flooring in a basement is a do-it-yourself task for the moderately skilled handyman. If the basement has a concrete floor the job will be much easier; if the floor is dirt (common in older houses) a sub-floor must be built before flooring can be installed. The following guidelines presume a sub-floor or level concrete foundation is already in place. The preferred flooring for a basement is carpeting, to provide warmth. Laminate, wood or tile can also be used, however.

Things You'll Need

  • Sealant and heavy plastic underlayment (for a basement with a concrete floor)
  • Carpet, carpet pad, and 1/2-inch tack strip; or carpet squares and adhesive tape.
  • Sharp, hooked carpet knife (sold at flooring stores and home improvement centers)
  • Exacto or other hand-held razor knife
  • Chalkline (for carpet square installations)
  • Carpenters square and hammer (for roll carpet installations)
  • Carpet stretcher (for roll carpet installations)
  • Baseboard and finishing nails

Installing basement flooring

  • Scrape up any old adhesive or dirt from a concrete floor and sweep thoroughly. Seal with concrete-approved sealant and let dry for at least 12 hours. For a wood sub-floor, sweep thoroughly and seal edges with silicone caulk, smoothing into the cracks with a rubber gloved finger. Ensure there is absolutely no debris left on the floor before installation begins.

  • Spread heavy plastic underlayment over concrete floors, and trim edges flush with the walls. The purpose of the underlayment is to prevent moisture from seeping up into the carpet. A product with a dimpled or pebbled surface will allow air to circulate and prevent moisture from collecting and causing mildew or rot. If a wooden sub-floor has been installed there may be no urgent need for underlayment, but it will provide an extra layer of protection and soundproofing if desired.

  • For Carpet Squares: Mark off the center of the floor and lay out a grid with a chalk line if using carpet squares. Apply carpet tape around the perimeter of the room. Begin laying squares down along the grid lines, making sure they fit snugly against each other. Work out gradually and evenly from the center of the room, making sure the nap of the carpet lays in the correct direction for each tile. Trim carpet squares where they meet the wall, and check for snugness and uniformity before removing protective adhesive backing strip and pressing carpet edges firmly down on adhesive.

  • For Roll Carpet: Lay carpet pad out on wood sub-floor, and trim 1 1/4 inches from wall. Unroll carpeting and spread flat, tugging into place and pressing out wrinkles. Cut carpet using a carpet knife, pressing carpet down to the floor at the wall with a carpenters square for a clean cut. fold back edges of carpet and install tack strip one half inch from the wall, around perimeter of room. Use carpet stretcher to pull the carpet taut, and a hammer to fasten it to the tack strip. Trim any excess carpet even with the wall, and tuck wisps down between tack strip and wall.

  • Finish your basement flooring job by adding baseboard. This can be pre-stained and the finishing nail holes filled in with matching putty. Basements with concrete or brick walls can be finished by using rubber baseboard molding, attached with a strong permanent glue.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your basement floods on a regular basis, consider installing a pump and a sub-floor to prevent ruining your carpet. If the walls of your basement sweat, seal them as well as the floor.

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