Can You Finish A Dirt Basement?

Older homes tend to come with basements with bare dirt floors. In modern home construction, every space available serves a purpose rather than simply providing more room for other items. Dirt floors may limit how you use the room, so you're probably wondering, can you finish a dirt basement floor? And if you can, how should you do it? We've asked the experts, and here are their answers.

Yes, it is possible to finish a dirt basement floor. It's essential to use flooring with high resistance to moisture. Finishing a dirt basement usually involves covering the floor to turn it into an indoor-feeling space. The steps below summarize how to do it:

  • Add a vapor barrier.
  • Reinforce to fight moisture.
  • Level the surface.
  • Pour the new flooring.
  • Finish it off.

After finishing a dirt basement, you will probably remodel it to make it an efficient room. However, you'll have to clean and eliminate odor before doing so. Keep reading to get insight on how to remove musty smells and dampness in the basement.

semi-finished basement undergoing home improvement project. Can You Finish A Dirt Basement

What Should I Put Down On My Dirt Basement Floor?

There are various flooring options to choose from that are available to use with dirt basement floors. Almost any type of flooring works to finish a basement, but you should ensure it can withstand high humidity levels.

Some of the preferred choices include the following:


Covering up a dirt floor with the concrete is one of the inexpensive and accessible options. Pouring concrete is often done before applying other floorings to give the floor a solid foundation.

If you keep the concrete base, finish it with a protective coating or sealer to reduce cracks on the floor. Adding a sealer also increases the floor's durability and ability to withstand heavier traffic.

Epoxy Coating

Epoxy coating is easy to buy and comes in a wide range of variants. Common features of epoxy floor coating include different colors, waterproof, and easy application.

Some might require sealing during preparation or after the process for better results.

If you want to look more into applying epoxy on basement floors, read through this post: Can You Epoxy A Basement Floor?

Ceramic Tile

Tiles are capable of resisting moisture and allow easy installation onto different surfaces. Ceramic tiles work even on non-concrete bases and come in various styles and designs.

Although they tend to be more expensive, they last for long periods.

Rubber Flooring

Rubber or foam flooring is a lower-cost option for vinyl or linoleum. It is comfortable and comes in waterproof variants. While they are durable, they aren't as long-lasting as flooring with more solid structures.

Laminated Hardwood

Mold can grow on regular hardwood flooring, meaning it may not be capable of enduring usual basement conditions. Most experts recommend using laminated or engineered wood flooring, as it can resist moisture well.

Getting hardwood laminated comes at various price points, but they can be installed at affordable rates.

Steps In Finishing A Dirt Basement

Finishing a dirt basement follows a few basic steps. They are as follows:

A building contractor is installing vapor barrier, plastic sheeting stapling it

1. Install A Vapor Barrier

The first step to finishing a dirt basement is to install a vapor barrier. It will prevent moisture and bacteria buildup that is harmful to the home and people inside.

These are commonly made from moisture-resistant plastic sheeting or foil. They go through walls and floors, thus, controlling humidity levels by keeping water vapor away from the main foundation.

Place the sheeting on the surface, covering up as much of the floor as you can, before applying concrete or flooring material.

Installation of light metal grating and gutters for drainage of rainwater

2. Reinforce To Fight Moisture

Once the vapor barrier is in place, it's vital to correct other sources of moisture in the basement. Doing so will allow the vapor barrier to work effectively.

Check the sewer and pipelines, drainage installation, and even the ground outside of the house. Make sure that water flows away from the home to prevent unintentional moisture collection.

3. Level The Surface

Be sure the floor is level before you place the flooring. Installing the new floor is easier to complete and keep straight when the base is already smooth.

If necessary, rake the dirt or remove solid objects on the ground, such as rocks.

Metal rods connected at the basement for concrete pouring

4. Apply The New Flooring

This is when you pour concrete onto the dirt base. Concrete is effective in hindering water vapor and dust buildup and warding off pests and insects.

When you correctly install concrete, it can last for lengthy periods without needing any replacements or touch-ups.

To do so, you should first mix cement and aggregates. Make sure to do this in an open area. Use a wheelbarrow to transport the concrete, then feed it through the basement with a concrete feeder.

Check with construction guidelines in your area to determine how thick you should pour the concrete and ensure you meet the ceiling height requirements.

Worker carefully placing ceramic floor tiles on adhesive surface

5. Finish It Off

Once the concrete dries, you can add tiles, coatings, and any other flooring you prefer. Be sure to pick a flooring that suits the condition of your basement and offers high durability and resistance.

How Much Does It Cost To Finish A Dirt Basement Floor?

The cost to finish a dirt basement floor with professional assistance ranges between $7 to $23 per square foot, averaging to about $25 per square foot.

You may spend a total of around $2,800 to $34,000 for spaces over 400 square feet. The prices usually include labor, materials, and permits required.

Finishing a dirt basement yourself can save you on labor costs. In this case, you will only have to pay for the materials, which vary on the type of flooring and sealants you will use.

How Do You Get A Musty Smell Out Of A Dirt Basement Floor?

Wet dirt causes an unpleasant odor to spread throughout the home. Leaving this untreated causes it to worsen over time, affecting the house construction and personal belongings.

To get rid of the smell, follow the steps provided below:

  1. Keep the basement well-ventilated 24 hours a day by opening windows and doors to allow more room for air to circulate through. If possible, place a fan in the room to help with air movement.
  2. Create a mixture to trap the smell using bleach, vinegar, baking soda, or cleaning sprays. Use the solution to clean the basement walls, floor, and ceiling.
  3. Locate cracks in the basement's foundation, then seal them with silicone and plastic sheeting. You can also check drainage systems to ensure water is moving away from the house.
  4. Allow an air purifier and dehumidifier to run in the room at least once a week for 48 hours to maintain moisture levels and eliminate odor.

Get further insight on getting rid of foul basement odor by reading this post: Should You Air Out A Basement? [And How To]

How Do You Treat A Dirt Basement?

Dirt floor basements require certain maintenance to keep them a people-friendlier space. A few ways you can improve a dirt basement is through the following remedies:

Adding A Vapor Barrier

A dirt floor is prone to moisture collection, leading to mold and bacteria growth throughout the room. Installing a vapor barrier to the flooring will block water vapor from spreading.

Pouring Concrete

A permanent solution is switching to a concrete base, making the floor sturdier and safer. Concrete flooring is low-maintenance and has higher compatibility with different coatings and the like.

Managing Ventilation

Ventilation is crucial in maintaining long-lasting basement protection. Basements are primarily weak to high humidity, causing the room to experience damages due to mold or mildew growth.

Does DampRid Work In Basements?

Yes, you can use DampRid in capturing moisture in basements. It features absorbers that trap excess water vapor, helping in terminating foul smells and delaying moisture damage.

How To Use DampRid In Basement

Use DampRid in a basement by following these instructions:

  1. Open the bag and evenly pour the crystals onto a tray.
  2. Set it down on a flat surface.
  3. You can remove the safety cover for faster absorption, but note that you cannot reattach it once removed.
  4. Leave the crystals to do their work. It takes up to 2 weeks before brine starts to drip into the chamber.
  5. Once the crystals have dissolved, dispose of the liquid on the tray.
  6. Refill it when necessary.

basement under construction with unfinished wall ceiling and floor. Can You Finish A Dirt Basement

In Closing

You can finish a dirt basement by installing moisture control remedies and different flooring. Covering the dirt floor with concrete allows the use of more floor options that are usually not compatible with a dirt base.

Controlling moisture levels is also essential in reducing possible damage to the flooring and the spread of unpleasant smells.

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