The Best Floors to Have Installed onto Concrete

Updated: June 19th, 2024

A bare concrete floor can be a mixed blessing. In the hands of a skilled designer, it can become the focal point of a trendy, modern design scheme. Or if it’s in the basement, concrete can serve its purpose as a durable, utilitarian floor. But concrete floors can also be the bane of a homeowner’s existence—they’re cold and hard, which is not a particularly welcoming combo. For homeowners looking to upgrade the comfort of an area of the home with concrete floors, they can end up feeling like an obstacle that will require a ton of additional work before new flooring can be installed. But those worries are often unnecessary: these days, there are quite a few floors that can be installed directly onto concrete without requiring any subfloor modifications.

unfinished concrete basement
Bare concrete floors don’t have to be an obstacle to improving the look and feel of your home.

Before we begin, let’s get a quick refresher on what exactly a subfloor is. The subfloor is, as the name suggests, the floor that is or will be immediately below your finished floors. In typical residential situations, the subfloor will be made of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). Wood subfloors are durable and affordable and make an ideal surface for affixing a wide range of flooring products. These wood subfloors can be attached to flooring joists, or often laid down over a concrete slab. However, adding that wooden subfloor can lead to additional costs and complications when having new floors installed on concrete. For this reason, many homeowners find themselves searching for a floor that can be installed on concrete without needing additional preparation.

Carpet on Concrete?

Believe it or not, you can have carpet installed directly onto a concrete floor without any additional subfloor material. Depending on the area of your home that you would like carpeted, there are a few things to consider. If your goal is simply to spruce up a three-season room or unfinished basement, you might consider indoor/outdoor carpet. This rugged carpet is built to withstand exposure to the elements, making it more it an excellent choice for anywhere that regularly deals with lots of dirt or water.

A key part of its outdoor-ready construction is that it’s designed to be installed directly onto a concrete slab. However, it’s important to note that because it doesn’t use any carpet padding, indoor/outdoor carpet won’t be a huge upgrade in comfort. But it can still go a long way towards making a sunroom or dingy unfinished basement feel more welcoming.

Carpet tiles are another option. Though typically used in commercial settings like offices, they are perfectly suitable for use in areas of your home where you want a simple yet rugged soft surface floor. One of their main advantages is that carpet tiles can be installed directly onto concrete. Their modular nature also makes them great for oddly shaped spaces as well as areas likely to see higher traffic—if one area of the floor becomes severely damaged or stained, you’ll only need to have a few carpet tiles replaced instead of the entire floor.

creme basement carpet
You may be surprised to find out that carpet can be installed over concrete in your basement or sunroom.

If your primary goal is to maximize comfort on those cold concrete basement floors, then you’re in luck. Thankfully, you won’t be limited just to indoor/outdoor carpets. In fact, the most common styles of carpet, like plush or Berber carpet, can also be installed onto a concrete floor. When selecting a carpet for concrete floors, you’ll also often have the option to choose from a variety of carpet pads to be used during the installation. Opting for a thick, dense rubber carpet pad can greatly increase how soft the carpet feels underfoot, as well as help insulate it from the cold concrete flooring below it.

Vinyl Flooring is an Ideal Concrete Covering

While traditional carpet over concrete is a viable option for many homeowners’ needs, it isn’t a good choice for certain spaces, like a basement that deals with persistent dampness or a mudroom that will see, well, lots of mud. Situations like these are best served by floors that are easy to keep clean, and which can endure exposure to water. In areas like these, your best bet will be some type of vinyl flooring. Sheet vinyl, vinyl plank, and vinyl tile all offer options that are rugged, waterproof or water-resistant, and also still look great.

One of the great benefits of having vinyl flooring installed over concrete is the vast array of visuals available across its multiple formats. Luxury vinyl plank floors offer the convincing look of hardwood; vinyl tile is an affordable alternative to porcelain or ceramic tiles; and sheet vinyl is available in a mix of both aesthetics. While vinyl flooring can be installed directly onto concrete, you can also choose to have an optional underlayment used during the installation. This underlayment will help insulate your new vinyl floors from the concrete slab below, and can also add a bit of cushion to make it a more comfortable surface

Tile Floors are a Great Choice for Concrete

And there’s always ceramic or porcelain tile, the stalwarts of basement flooring. Both types of tile can be installed on concrete floors. Tile will provide much of the same feel and functionality as a bare cement floor—it will still a hard surface that will feel cool underfoot and won’t do much to improve the comfort of a room. But tile’s similarity to a concrete floor means it also shares many of the benefits: a tile floor is typically very durable, resisting scratches and chips; it’s easy to maintain, requiring little more than regular sweeping and mopping; and it’s a floor that can stand up to the spills and dampness that a basement might typically encounter. Plus, tile floors are a great way to improve the look of a bare space without adding worries about complicated upkeep.

When it comes down to it, if you’re looking to have finished floors installed onto concrete, you’ll have more choices than you may have imagined. There are even some wood laminate and engineered hardwood floors that are suitable for installation directly over concrete, though they often come with a few more maintenance concerns and may not be a good choice for basements. But Empire® offers a great variety of carpet, vinyl, and tile floor products that can be installed on concrete, improving the look and feel of your home while still keeping some of the low maintenance of bare concrete.

If you’re hoping to have flooring installed onto concrete in your basement, three-season room, or other area of the home, give us a call or click any of the “Schedule In-Home Appointment” buttons on the site to set up a free, no-obligation consultation with a flooring professional today.

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