A basement in your home can mean extra living space, room for storage, and added value to your home. Unfortunately, basement foundations can also bring a variety of problems, including mold growth, especially if you live in a particularly rainy area (looking at you, Oregon).
And while most homeowners prefer a finished basement, floor coverings can make your mold problem significantly worse.
Luckily, there are some flooring options that can reduce the risk of a mold infestation in your basement.
We talked to foundation experts from Regional Foundation Repair to discuss the risks and benefits of basement carpeting and why carpet pads might be a better option for you.
Why have carpets in your basement?
A basement can serve as a space for entertaining or as added living space, but bare concrete floors aren’t exactly inviting and can make your basement feel unlivable. That’s why most homeowners opt for some type of floor covering.
Because basements are naturally colder than the rest of your home and the concrete slab rests directly on the cool soil below, hard floor coverings - like tile, hardwood, and vinyl - will make the space look better but won’t do much in the way of insulation.
There are other problems with these floor options as well. Ceramic floors are rigid and will crack easily if the foundation shifts at all. Wood flooring is beautiful, but it can soak up moisture and contribute to potentially dangerous and damaging mold growth.
With all of these problems with hard flooring options, carpeting naturally seems like the best option. It won’t get cold in the winter, so your floor will always feel warm, and it offers cushioning for added comfort. Carpets are also flexible, so they don’t need to be placed over a perfectly level surface, something exceedingly rare when it comes to basement slabs.
Unfortunately, carpets are even more absorbent than wood flooring, so traditional carpeting can cause even more severe issues with mold growth. Additionally, some carpets are installed semi-permanently, which means you won’t be able to pull up the carpeting to check for signs of mold or moisture on the underside.
That’s why carpets with rug pads that are designed specifically for basements are becoming an increasingly popular flooring option; they solve the problems with mold growth and limited access to your foundation.
The importance of using carpet pads made for basements
Basement carpet pads are generally custom cut to fit perfectly in your basement and beneath your rug of choice, so they’ll look just as professional and appealing as traditional carpets and area rugs. The ones made specifically for basements differ from standard rug pads in several key ways.
Firstly, they’re either mold resistant or include a breathable, rubberized barrier on the bottom to prevent mold growth entirely. This ensures that moisture doesn’t accumulate under the carpet and air can flow freely beneath it, creating an environment that isn’t suitable for mold to grow.
In rainy areas, this is crucial for maintaining good indoor air quality and keeping your home and family safe.
Secondly, they’re held in place only by the non-slip lining on the bottom, which means you can easily pull up an area of the carpet pad or the entire thing for an easy inspection of your basement slab. If at any point you suspect you have a foundation leak or there is excess moisture, then you can quickly remove the pad and carpet to assess the mold issue and replace it once the problem is solved.
Finally, area rugs can offer some cushioning to your concrete floor, but it’s often not enough. Rug pads add an additional layer of comfort and insulation to turn your cold slab into a warm and plush surface. That means you can actually use your basement as a living area or to entertain without putting the area at risk of mold growth.
What to look for in a carpet and carpet pad
When you’re shopping for a carpet and carpet pad for your basement, it’s important to choose the right one to optimize comfort and appearance while still minimizing the risk of mold growth.
When it comes to a carpet, opt for a naturally mold-resistant material, like acrylic, nylon, or polyester. These carpet fibers won’t hold onto damaging moisture and they have the added benefit of resisting stains as well. This helps not only reduce the chance of a moldy carpet but also reduces carpet stains and the musty odor that typically comes with a dirty carpet.
A slim carpet is best, as thinner material has less of a chance of retaining water from a leak, should one occur.
But that's just the half of it. Even with semi mold resistant carpet fibers, you'll still need something to help reduce the humidity between the floor and your carpet for further mold prevention.
Choosing the right rug pad for your basement is far more important than choosing a carpet. The pad will be in direct contact with your basement slab, so you need one that allows for good airflow and is mold resistant. Poor-quality pads will likely lead to mold problems, as basements are naturally humid and prone to moisture and water accumulation.
This is one of the reasons why waterproof rug pads are great.
Additionally, you should choose a thick and plushy pad that offers some insulation from the cold concrete floor. More robust pads will help prevent cold feet when walking over or standing on your rug. A thick rug pad also provides cushioning for a truly luxurious and inviting feel.
Our Anchor Grip rug pad is perfect for basement floors because it does not absorb water like other materials, making it harder for bacteria and mold to take over. Made with an EVA backing this sustainable rug pad doesn't contain plasticizers that can react to your floor or carpet. It's best for high traffic areas and hot and humid climates, making it the obvious choice for basements.
Additional steps to prevent mold growth
Even with the right carpet padding and synthetic carpet fibers, there is still the risk of mold infestation wherever there is moisture. And while you'll never be able to prevent mold spores from contaminating your home, you can certainly make it harder for them to settle into a mold colony on your carpets.
To help further prevent toxic mold from taking hold of your basement, follow these tips:
- Keep Humidity Low: mold grows in moisture, so keeping excess moisture to a minimum will help keep mold spores from spreading. Invest in a dehumidifier for those rainy days and keep fresh air pumping through your basement as much as possible. If possible, open windows or keep the fan running so that damp air never settles on your basement surfaces.
- Keep a Clean Carpet: use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to regularly vacuum your carpets and use a carpet shampoo designed for mold whenever a moldy smell builds. A HEPA vacuum will trap mold spores, reducing the possibility of them spreading and colonizing further. A carpet shampoo or carpet cleaner with borax will help prevent fungal growth and do wonders on your dirty carpet. Baking soda is a famed mold prevention ingredient, though isn't as powerful as Borax. As for liquid options, white vinegar is also a popular choice for mold prevention, though isn't as effective as bleach.
- Keep Lower Temperatures: Mold likes warm and moist environments, so regulating the temperature (and moisture levels) will help reduce the spread of mold. If your carpet has a musty smell, then it's time to get some fresh, cool air through your basement.
It's no secret that basement waterproofing in wet cities (like Portland) is a necessity! But there are other steps you can take to reduce mold growth and slow the spread of mold spores. While mold remediation is certainly an option if things go too far, it's worth trying to prevent mold in the first place!