Basements are often cold, sometimes damp, and a room for a lot of play.
This makes flooring your basement have unique challenges, and in this article, I want to focus on one floor in particular: carpet.
I like carpets in basements because they give insulation, warmth and cushion against the concrete slab in a basement. On the other hand, carpet absorbs moisture more than other floors, and this can be a problem in a basement.
Every basement is different. Every family’s needs are different. And every climate is different.
This makes a single best carpet and pad recommendation impossible (but I will start out with my most recommended carpet and pad). So here are things we need to cover:
- top 3 carpet materials for basements (and their pros and cons)
- best padding for basement
- moisture barrier pros and cons
- style options and do they matter?
- what to avoid
So, what is the best carpet and pad for a basement?
I promised you I’d give my most recommended carpet and pad.
The best carpet and pad for basements is a 40+ ounce face weight, PET polyester carpet with a synthetic fiber padding.
I’ll go into each part of this recommendation below.
Carpet materials pros and cons for the basement
Let’s cover some of my favorite carpet materials for basements and the pros and cons.
This will help you make the decision for yourself on which is best (because polyester isn’t for everybody):
Pros and polyester in a basement
Polyester is my favorite material for most basements because it’s cheap, synthetic, soft and has natural stain resistance.
The synthetic part is key. Synthetic is a fancy name for man-made. Synthetic fibers don’t absorb water like natural fibers do. This is the most important decision in basement carpet because all basements have some moisture.
The stain resistance is nice if you entertain or have kids in the basement.
The reason polyester is gets the win over my other top 2 picks is it is the cheapest. I usually don’t go on cost, but in a basement, there is a chance your carpet gets permanently moisture damaged. If it does, you aren’t out as much money (if this isn’t a concern… consider my other top picks).
Cons of polyester in a basement
Polyester’s biggest drawback is a big one: it’s not durable. This is why I don’t recommend it in main living areas. But this isn’t as big of a deal if you don’t use the room often, or you plan on replacing the carpet more often. I like the idea of replacing carpet more frequently in basements because of the moisture issue.
You can help this weakness by buying a higher face weight polyester. That’s why I recommended 40+ ounces above. Or you can choose one of the next two fibers.
Pros of nylon in a basement
Nylon is like polyester on steroids. It’s synthetic, so it naturally resists moisture, but it’s also the most durable carpet fiber. It’s great if you want to carpet you basement and have it last longer.
Cons of nylon in a basement
So why not always pick nylon over polyester? You guessed it: the cost. Nylon costs around double (or sometimes more) than polyester. Like I said earlier, I like going for the cheaper carpet options in basements, but this is a personal preference. Nylon is my pick for most other rooms.
One other thing with nylon is it doesn’t have the natural stain resistance that polyester does. It can have just as good of stain resistance, but you have to make sure your nylon has good stain protection.
Pros of Smartstrand triexta in a basement
Smartstrand is a trademarked name by Mohawk. It’s a “new” polyester that is completely unique from the “standard” polyester described above, but it has some of the same benefits. It’s a synthetic fiber that will resist moisture, and it has even better stain resistance than standard polyester.
It will also be more durable than polyester.
Cons of Smartstrand triexta in a basement
Smartstrand is the middle sibling of the fibers we’ve discussed.
It won’t be as durable as a good nylon carpet, and it’s more expensive than standard polyester. With that in mind, sometimes middle ground is the best.
Best carpet padding for a basement
The best padding for a basement is controversial. The debate revolves around moisture. Even if you don’t have a moisture problem, you almost certainly have some moisture leaching into your basement floor.
Some experts believe you should block the moisture from getting to the backing of your carpet. Other experts believe you should let the moisture breathe through the carpet. I tend to side with the “let it breathe” theory.
The problem with moisture blocking padding in basements is it traps the moisture between he pad and the concrete. This can make a stagnate pool of water that grows bacteria and mildew. It also can lead moisture to “escape” through the edge at the drywall, which can lead to bigger problems.
Padding that blocks moisture would be moisture barrier padding and slab rubber padding.
In a basement, I like synthetic fiber padding. It’s breathable, but it’s also synthetic so it’s not as prone to mildew. Combine this with one of our synthetic fibers we mentioned above, and you have a carpet that let’s basement moisture flow naturally isn’t as affected by moisture.
Berber and other carpet styles in the basement
Sometimes people want to know about carpet styles.
“Is Berber a good carpet for my basement? What about frieze?”
The short answer is styles don’t impact carpet performance much. So Berber, frieze, plush all work in basements. I may slightly prefer tighter weave carpets, and that would include both frieze and Berber. But my general recommendation is to go with whatever style you like. I discuss more on how carpet styles will and won’t impact your carpet durability here.
What other specs should I care about when putting carpet in my basement?
I’d give thought to the face weight you want for your carpet. Face weight is the second most important factor in how long your carpet will last. I give ranges to look for in that page on face weight.
But one warning: if you have a basement that has periodic water damage, I’d go lower on the face weight. Why? Because lower face weight carpet is cheaper, and the face weight isn’t going to save you from water damage.
On the other hand, go higher on the face weight if you don’t think moisture will be an issue, and then you won’t have to replace your carpet as often.
What carpet and pad should I avoid in a basement?
I’ve mentioned synthetic a lot in this article. That’s because man-made fibers tend to not mildew.
On that note, I’d avoid wool carpet at all costs. It’s prone to mildew, and it’s expensive! A bad combo for a basement. This also goes for natural fiber pads. Carpet padding made with animal hair will not resist moisture like a synthetic pad will.
What to do next:
Now you know what carpet and pad go best in your basement. But you may have a few more questions:
- If you aren’t sure you want carpet in your basement, consider reading about luxury vinyl which is my favorite basement flooring.
- Want to know how to get the best deal on the best carpet for your home? Read our how to buy carpet guide.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to add carpet to other rooms in your home, check out our buying guide for the best carpet for bedrooms.
Any questions on the best carpet for basements? Let me know in the comments below.