Cheap Concrete Basement Floor Solutions
by Reader Contributors
Our frugal readers offer affordable suggestions for finishing a concrete basement floor on the cheap to make your basement usable and livable.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Do any of your readers have a simple, inexpensive solution to covering concrete basement floors? We have done various things, including linoleum blocks. However, they came loose when it got damp/wet down there.
Is there a good paint that will stay on and look good? I would like to know what others have tried for covering concrete basement floors.
Do Your Prep Work
First, you need to check the floor to see if it can be painted. Take a plastic trash bag or a piece of plastic drop cloth and spread it over a dry section of the basement floor (at least 1-foot by 1-foot). Using duct or masking tape, tape all four sides to the concrete so no air can escape from under the plastic. Let it sit for 24 hours. Pull the bag up, and inspect the concrete underneath. If the concrete is damp, you have a moisture seepage problem and the concrete cannot be sealed. If it’s dry, you can paint it.
Most home improvement stores carry garage floor paint, which is an epoxy-based paint that will seal the concrete and provide a durable finish. The prep work is labor intensive, but you should be able to complete the project in one weekend plus an evening after work. It’s relatively inexpensive. Figure about $200 for a garage-sized area. This includes all the necessary prep materials.
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Address Moisture and Then Paint
What will work depends on whether the moisture problem is something that has always been a problem or a recent thing. If you have a moisture problem, you need to solve it. Often, cleaning gutters and routing downspouts away from the house can resolve the problem. If excess rain caused it, wait until the moisture dries up and keep a dehumidifier in the room before you start or you will not be able to get the paint to set properly and mildew/mold will be a constant problem.
I would use three to five colors of concrete paint to make a “tile” or “vinyl” look floor. My dad’s house was done this way 22 years ago, and the floor still looks great. Vinyl look is the easiest.
Remove everything from the room, and cover anything you don’t want paint to splatter onto. Use a neutral color like vanilla cream or an earth tone as your base coat and paint the entire floor with it and let dry. Use a small paintbrush to splatter 2-6 colors that blend and contrast to make a random design all over the floor. When dry, it very much resembles vinyl, and mistakes don’t show since there is no pattern. Make sure at least one of your colors is the color of the dirt in your yard and the floor will not look dirty unless it is very dirty.
To get ideas for color combos, look at tile samples from a flooring store. You can mimic grout lines. First, use a black or dark gray base coat, and then put down narrow tape on dry paint to be the grout lines. Then repaint the floor with the light base coat and continue as above. You can also make a stamp from a large sponge and stamp the floor, but that can be hard on your knees.
Try This Epoxy Kit
We just bought an epoxy kit, made by Rustoleum, to do our basement floor. It’s water based and easy to apply. There is no primer needed. It comes in gray or tan, and the kit has colored chips you can choose to sprinkle on while the floor is still wet.
My in-laws put this in their garage, and we were so impressed that we had to get some. The finish resists spills, chemicals, etc. Water will just bead up for easy cleanup. I would say that it’s worth every bit of the money we spent. The kit covers a 250 square foot area. You can go to rustoleum.com to check it out.
Sponge Paint to Look like Granite
When we bought our house, the basement floor was painted with gray concrete floor paint. The basement was unfinished. However, our teenage son asked us to build a basement bedroom for him. He did not want carpet or any other flooring other than the cement. So we sponge painted the floor to look like granite. We used a sea sponge torn into several pieces and sponged on black, light gray, and an occasional bit of yellow. We just used ordinary latex paint. Then we coated it with four coats of low gloss varnish to protect the paint. It still looks great five years later. It’s easy to keep clean too.
The only thing that I would do differently would be to paint a brick design or some kind of border at the doorway. Our floor already was based-coated with the floor paint. If you have bare cement, you should probably etch the cement before painting. Ask at the home supply store. Also, you can paint any type of stone look or tile look you want. Just look at samples of marble, granite or terra cotta tiles at the home supply store and you should be able to duplicate the look yourself.
Our son has mild asthma and his allergist wasn’t happy that his room is in the basement until she found out that he doesn’t have any carpet. We can easily dry or damp mop his floor and his asthma problems have gone way down since he lives without a carpet in his room.
Related: Cheap Ways to Finish a Basement
Look into Concrete Stain
A very popular method today is concrete staining. I have a friend who does business in new construction and restoration work on tile and concrete floors. Her business in floor stains is increasing by leaps and bounds. The stains are water-based and can be sprayed on in several colors/layers and then sealed with several layers of sealer. Beautiful and personalized designs can also be done (like stenciling) and I’ve seen some that look like polished marble, faux tile, mosaic, or rough stone. Talk to your local hardware dealer or search online for concrete stains.
Also, if the basement is unheated, you might want to think about radiant floor heat and putting a wood floor raised just a few inches over that.
Creativity at its Best
We are in the process of pulling up indoor/outdoor carpet from our basement, and it seems to be working just fine. I wanted to do this because the carpeting smelled musty to me, and no amount of scrubbing would help. We have three rooms down there that we use as a guest area.
Our test case is in the back bedroom, and here’s what we’ve done. We pulled up the carpet and cleaned the floor with muriatic acid. We then put on a sealer by Dry Lok that also served as the primer. It’s easy because you just roll it on. It’s available in both oil and latex (we chose latex).
Next, we put on porch paint. It comes in so many colors. I thought it still looked a little plain, so I made a border (with wallpaper border) around the floor, about 10 inches from the edge. To protect the border, we covered it with polyurethane. We did not cover the entire floor with polyurethane, just the part with the wallpaper border.
Boat Deck Paint May Be the Answer
I suggest boat deck paint. It has sand mixed into it so it is non-slip and very durable. Area rugs could then be used to add color and warmth.
Reviewed August 2021
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