Carpet Vs Laminate In A Basement – What To Consider

Whether you are adding brand new flooring to an unfinished basement, or replacing an existing floor, it can be tough to work underground. Since the basement is a tricky place, it's important to make an informed decision between carpet and laminate flooring. These two options are practically opposites. So, they will have very different advantages and disadvantages. We have carefully researched whether carpeting or laminate floors are best in the basement.

Between carpet flooring and laminate flooring, carpets are generally considered best for a basement. This is mainly because carpets are more resistant to moisture. But there are many factors you should consider before choosing either carpet or laminate floors, including:

  • Moisture
  • Basement activities
  • Carpet pile
  • Price
  • Installation

Installing a new floor anywhere in the home can cost you a lot of time and money. But working with a basement can be unusually difficult since it’s the only room that isn’t on the ground level. Keep reading to learn all the benefits and drawbacks of carpet or laminate floors, and how they hold up inside a basement.

A gorgeous basement with laminated flooring, white painted walls, and pot lighting, Carpet Vs Laminate In A Basement - What To Consider

Carpet Vs Laminate - Factors To Consider 


Some basements are dry enough to let you choose any kind of flooring you want. But the majority of the time, basements are subjected to a lot of moisture. There are several ways this is possible. It’s important to learn how moisture is allowed to develop in basements so that you can determine if your basement will be dry enough for any kind of flooring.

For example, if the subfloor is cracked in any way, moisture will easily rise and stick around. Cracks may also be found in basement windows or walls. In fact, if moist soil is pressed against your basement walls, the water can be sucked in like a sponge.

Also, keep an eye out for water or air leaks. Vents and windows can let in too much airflow, which can raise the humidity in the basement and cause moisture. Leaky pipes in the home, such as the bathrooms, can seep into the basement. Even sprinkling your lawn too much can allow excessive groundwater to penetrate the basement.

Moisture is the most important issue when you choose a basement floor. If you know your basement often suffers from any of these problems, then it may be best to leave a concrete subfloor alone. Otherwise, you can still consider either carpeting or laminate floors. You just need to know how well each one can deal with the moisture.

Interior of a wooden flooring basement and a small carpeted area for the guest bedroom

What happens to laminate flooring when it gets wet?

Laminate floors are often believed to be purely synthetic, mere imitations of a real hardwood floor. This may convince you that a floating laminate floor is totally fine with water. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.

Yes, laminate flooring uses a layer of high-resolution imagery just to look like real wood. But laminate floors are made up of multiple layers, and the core often involves actual wood.

Typically, the core layer of a laminate floor is made up of high-density fiberboard. This fiberboard is sometimes known as hardboard or HDF. That means there is still engineered wood inside your laminate floors.

Many laminate floors are sold as “water-resistant.” But this usually means that only the surface of the laminate floor is protected against water damage. That can be useful for spills and the like. But now you know that moisture can enter the basement in too many different ways.

A broken sump pump or some groundwater can attack the laminate floor from underneath. Laminate floors are never one hundred percent waterproof. They aren’t protected from the ground up. And their signature interlocking joints allow too much wiggle room. If the moisture problem is severe enough, no kind of underlay can rescue laminate wood floors.

Water can easily compromise the entire laminate floor. The joints can crack and give out, letting the floor buckle throughout the basement. The wood will swell and bubble, creating uneven boils until the whole surface is too warped to use.

Even worse, persistent moisture will allow mold and fungi to grow and rot the floor from the inside. The CDC agrees that mold needs moisture to live and that you should keep humidity as low as possible.

What happens to carpet when it gets wet?

Natural carpets are not meant to remain wet for very long, either. They can develop mold just as easily as any laminate wood floor. Specialists like Southington Carpet Cleaners advise that you might want to replace wet carpets if they haven’t been cleaned within just seventy-two hours.

Carpets really soak things in, including water damage. Aside from building a perfect home for mold, the carpet will also be stained, and it can produce a foul odor pretty quickly.

The big difference here is that carpets are available in purely synthetic materials. You can also choose a special carpet texture that will be easier to draw the water out of. This will make the carpet far more resistant to moisture, over time.

Contemporary interior living room with carpeted flooring, a black sectional sofa, and throw pillows promoting elegance

Basement Activities

Once you have determined the moisture levels of your basement, you are free to decide on a flooring that will suit your personal needs.

Now you should consider just how you plan on using the basement. For example, if you plan on using the basement as a living space, you may want to choose carpet.

This is because carpet is more ideal for comfort. Carpeting will insulate the basement floor, keeping the area warmer. This can be highly important if you want to have company in such a typically cold room. Carpeting is also much softer than concrete or wood. This makes carpeting more comfortable for daily foot traffic.

However, you should also keep in mind that carpeting that is subjected to frequent traffic will also need to be cleaned more often. Carpets will absorb and build up dirt more quickly than laminate floors.

Laminate flooring is also better for a workshop basement. If you want to use your basement for lots of DIY projects, you don’t want carpet. Any carpeting will be more prone to stains of any kind, including paint, sprays, oils, and many other typical DIY tools. Laminate floors won’t retain spills and stink up the basement.

The only advantage a carpet would have is its softness. Laminate wood floors would show their damage. For example, if you plan on any basement woodworking, scrapes and dents are going to pop up everywhere from heavy equipment and so forth.

Can you carpet over concrete?

A small carpeted basement with beige colored walls and gorgeous lighting

Basements usually have a subfloor of concrete. This is simply because concrete is the most durable option, which is vital when you’re building underground. Fortunately, carpeting can easily be installed on top of concrete.

All you need to do is make sure the concrete is cleaned, dry, and level. Some carpeting has a built-in underlay. If not, you should apply an underlayment on the concrete for proper moisture protection. There are plenty of carpet adhesives available once you’re ready for the surface level. You don’t actually have to use conventional tools like staples or tack strips.

Click here to find this concrete carpet adhesive on Amazon.

What pile carpet for the basement?

The “pile” of your carpet simply refers to the assembly of the fibers. Firstly, there’s high pile or low pile carpeting. High or low pile just determines the height of the carpet fibers.

You can also choose the texture of your carpet fibers. These options include the cut pile, loop pile, or a combination of the two called cut-and-loop pile.

Low pile carpets aren’t as thick, so this flat option dries up more quickly. Cut pile carpeting is also easier to get water out of. That’s because a cut pile means the carpet fibers have been cut on the end rather than looped.

You should also consider an artificial carpet. There are multiple synthetic fibers, like nylon or polyester. Specialists like Sewing Is Cool agree that polyester has a much smaller moisture regain level than nylon. So, also be sure to choose a polyester pile type for your carpet.

Is it cheaper to install carpet or laminate?

Now you can debate the price of carpeting or laminate wood floors. Up front, both choices are inexpensive and even cost about the same amount. Both floors are also relatively easy to install. This means that hiring someone to install the floor for you should be equally cheap, too.

But laminate floors are laid using a very simple tongue and groove system. All of the wood is locked together at the ends. This makes laminate floors the easiest to install all on your own. In other words, you can save the entire cost of hiring someone.

If you feel up to the DIY installation, laminate flooring is automatically cheaper to install than a carpet alternative. Carpeting can be a little tougher to install unless you use something like carpet tiles. But carpet tiles can be a little more pricey than conventional carpeting.

Click here to see these carpet tiles on Amazon.

Are carpet or laminate floors cheaper to maintain?

You should also consider how much the maintenance of either floor type will cost you. In this regard, laminate flooring usually takes the victory. That’s true for a number of reasons.

Firstly, laminate floors can be treated with a top layer of protective coatings. This will make it much easier to clean up in the long run. All you need to do is mop or wipe up an even surface. And if the wood is ever too damaged, it’s easy to replace laminate flooring. You can’t repair it very well, but you only need to lock in a new piece.

Meanwhile, carpets will always have to be vacuumed and steamed. They don’t have any surface protection, aside from the material of the fibers. If carpet is damaged, replacing it can be much harder. You can read this post to learn how often you should wash your carpet.

Click here to find this bagless vacuum on Amazon.

Do you need underlay for laminate flooring on concrete?

It is best to use an underlay between any subfloor and floor covering. The underlay only adds even more essential protections against serious problems like moisture. But laminate floors are considered a “floating” floor. They are not installed directly into the level beneath them. They just sit on top of it. This means that laminate flooring absolutely requires an underlay in any situation. You can read this post to find out more about if wood laminate needs an underlay.


A gorgeous basement with laminated flooring, white painted walls, and pot lighting, Carpet Vs Laminate In A Basement - What To Consider

Carpeting and laminate wood floors are wildly different choices for your basement. They each have their own set of advantages. Planning on how to add a new floor to the basement can be a little complicated. But now you can make a knowledgeable decision on which type of flooring is best for your own home.

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