Installing carpet in your finished basement gives the space a warmer, more welcoming feel that encourages family members and guests to spend more time there. It can also complement your decorating scheme, providing either a neutral background or a bright accent. Basement spaces don’t make carpet installation easy, however. If you don’t do the job correctly, you could end up with mold, water damage or other problems. Here’s what you should know about finishing your basement with carpet.
Sealing your concrete can help protect the carpet in some basements. Concrete sealer is a liquid treatment that keeps moisture from passing through to the carpet. It’s commonly used when an underlayment isn’t feasible due to the height of the ceiling or basement fixtures. Concrete sealer reduces the porousness of the basement floor and acts as a water barrier, but it won’t protect against flooding or very damp basements.
If your basement slab doesn’t incorporate a moisture barrier, something that’s common in older houses, you’ll need to provide an underlayment that works as one. Several materials work to keep your carpet from wicking moisture out of the slab. One is cellulose-based soundboard at about 3/4 inch thick. You can also add dimpled polyethylene sheeting directly over the concrete, and then top it with 1/2 inch plywood. In basements that are relatively dry but still lack a vapor barrier, a single sheet of 6 mil plastic can be used instead of the polyethylene.
Even the driest basements end to be damper than the upper floors of the house. Stop mold and mildew from growing in your carpets by using synthetic fibers over natural ones. While low-VOC, natural fibers may be a great choice elsewhere in the home, they’ll quickly encourage fungal growth in the basement. Choose polyester, nylon or polyethylene to discourage these micro-organisms. Stick to synthetic backing materials, too. These will reduce the risk of an unpleasant smell or an increase in allergens.
If you think that mold is a high risk in your basement reconsider carpet installation or opt for a floor covering that has been treated with anti-microbial agents. These substances discourage the growth of mildew, mold and other fungi. They’re incorporated right into the carpet fiber and can last for many years.
Many basements can benefit from the use of a dehumidifier. These devices can be used either as standalone devices or installed directly into your home’s existing heating and air conditioning system. They remove the extra moisture from the air and will periodically need to be emptied, but they make a finished basement much more comfortable. In addition to making it easier to install carpet, they also reduce the “clammy” feeling of many basements.
Your carpeted basement will perform much better and feel more welcoming if it has the correct ventilation. This could mean ductwork or it could be as simple as installing a few ceiling fans. Leave the fans at a low setting to allow them to circulate the air. These devices can also be used to help maintain a consistent temperature in the basement by moving warm air down from the ceiling, a useful feature for people whose finished basements still tend to get cold.