Thoroughly waterproofing your basement to turn it into a fully habitable room can greatly increase the value of your home. Unfortunately, it is not always practical or affordable to completely eliminate damp from basements, which are often humid and musty environments. In the case of a naturally damp basement, such as those of buildings built before the era of modern damp-proofing construction methods, your options will be further limited. Additionally, there's the higher risk of flooding in a basement, particularly if you don't have an automatic sump pump installed beneath the subfloor.
Assuming your basement already has a fairly smooth concrete subfloor, there are still some options available that are largely impervious to rising damp repairs. Before you lay down the new floor, however, it is essential to repair any leaks in the area and make sure the subfloor is dry, smooth and thoroughly clean.
Sisal and Coir
Sisal and coir are two types of natural fibre originating from tropical plants. Unlike the synthetic materials that most modern carpets are made from, these natural fibres are breathable, meaning that they don't allow moisture to get locked beneath them. Because rising damp is one of the most common problems in basements that have not been converted for everyday domestic use, it is important to use breathable materials. Sisal and coir carpets or rugs also provide the same cosy feeling as carpet, and they're easy to clean with a vacuum cleaner. Another advantage is their excellent durability, requiring minimal long-term maintenance. They're also available in many different colours and patterns from rustic basket weave styles to more luxurious designs.
Natural stone is the obvious choice for older basements, particularly those intended for regular use. After all, natural stone is the most common flooring material in converted cellars now used as public venues. It's absorbent and breathable, extremely durable and completely impervious to damp. Rising damp doesn't present any problem for natural stone floors either, although it should only be installed on a dried-out subfloor. Natural stone comes in many different varieties too, such as limestone, granite, sandstone, slate and terracotta. Bricks or brick tiles are another great option for a basement since they are also breathable and will absorb and evaporate rising damp from the subfloor. Just be wary of putting any non-breathable materials such as conventional rugs and linoleum on the surface, since they can attract damp from beneath and lead to a build-up of mould and mildew.
3 Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is another very popular option for basements, but you'll need to use a cement-based grout rather than an epoxy-based one for areas subject to rising damp. Ceramic tiling presents many advantages, including excellent durability and imperviousness to damp. For basements at risk of flooding, ceramic tile is particularly suitable, since it will not be damaged by standing water. Due to a large number of options and manufacturers available, you'll also find that ceramic tile can be among the most affordable basement flooring solutions available. Of course, there are even cheaper options, such as vinyl, linoleum or carpet, but they're not at all suitable for basements subject to rising damp.
The above are ideal for damp basements, but you'll have many more options available to you if your basement is professionally waterproofed. Alternatively, and particularly in the case of older buildings, which need to retain their breathable structures you can install a joist floor. Flooring joists will allow air to circulate between the subfloor and the main floor, giving you the freedom to install almost any type of floor you like.