How Do I Get Rid of Moisture in My Basement?
The basement is usually left last when it comes to home renovation. You will take care of your bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and basically all the spaces where you are going to spend your time, and, only after, reserve some money and time to deal with this room. It isn’t a bad thing that you choose this order of things. In fact, the problem appears mostly when you postpone or even forget to turn your basement into a safe space as well.
One of the biggest problems that appear in this case is humidity, which can be caused by a broad array of factors. And, unfortunately, even if unfinished rooms are the most exposed, it can still find its way in if you have turned your basement into a bedroom or a gym. In both situations, your health will be put to risk, as mold and bacteria growth is favored by high humidity.
Nonetheless, each problem has a solution, or, in this case, more than one. It just takes a bit of determination and the right tools to deal with it. Ready to find out how to do it? Let’s start.
What Is a Safe Humidity Level for a Basement?
Like any room in the house, this space should remain dry and safe. This means that you will want your hygrometer to show a relative humidity value between 30% and 50%. While it isn’t uncommon for unfinished or freshly-built rooms to overcome this value, if it is higher than 80%, then you should expect mold problems.
The symptoms can vary from very discrete to blunt, “I need to fix this problem now” signs. Some may even appear over the night if the problem is a small crack in a wall pipe or flooding caused by extreme weather conditions.
Here are some signs that can tell you that you are dealing with high humidity:
- Wet stains appearing on the walls and ceiling
- Moldy or deteriorated rugs
- Damp, difficult to breathe air
- Decayed wood furniture and objects
- Wet floors that never dry
- Water drops falling from the ceiling
For homes that don’t come with a basement, the space between the ground and the first floor will be the most exposed, and if it becomes wet, you can expect this to happen to the entire home. Usually, these spaces are the most exposed to floods and need to be dried fast afterward. With no windows available, the most suitable solution is a machine that can get the moisture out, but even in this case, you will need to scroll through a multitude of crawl space dehumidifier reviews until you can find a model with the right capacity and options. And, you should note that this solution can only be used after you have dealt with the cause and made sure water is no longer invading the space.
What Are The Main Humidity Sources in a Basement?
Sometimes is just somebody cooking too much inside the house while in other cases it can be a serious problem that cannot be solved by opening the windows. The basement is a sensitive area, as it is always in contact with the ground, so, when the ground gets wet, there are high chances for this room to get wet as well. The same goes for the crawl space in homes without a basement.
Therefore, before jumping to action, you will want to make a little investigation and discover the source of the water. It is the responsible way to do it, and it will prove to be the most convenient in the long run, as, once solved, you will never have to deal with it, or at least won’t deal with it for a long time.
The humidity sources can be divided into three categories:
- Indoor Sources – These usually have to do with improper ventilation, which can appear when the windows are kept shut for a long time and there’s a lot of cooking, showering, bathing, clothes drying, and water boiling happening inside. But it can also be a structural problem, namely, the house doesn’t have enough vents or they are improperly mounted. The use of a humidifier can be an issue as well, especially if it affects the entire house.
Other interior sources can be old pipes that have, in time, developed small cracks, slowly leaking water into the walls or floors, or home appliances that are not functioning properly. For example, a cracked hose on the washing machine can turn into a real problem if ignored.
- Outdoor Sources – An important aspect you need to consider when building your home is grading. If it isn’t done right, you will deal with basement flooding all your life. This is because if the landscape slopes toward your building instead of sloping away from it, all the water that collects after rain will be pushed toward your foundation. In days with heavy rains, the pressure that is put on the walls can lead to fine cracks, which will allow the water to leak inside. Your basement and crawl space will be the first exposed.
Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily need for the water to gather around the foundation. It is enough for the ground to stay wet for long periods for porous materials like concrete or stone to allow the water to raise at floor surface, creating dampness. This effect is called capillary suction.
- Condensation – It appears when water vapors hit a cold surface and turn into water droplets. You may have seen it in the bathroom and kitchen. But when it comes to basements, the main source is the warm humid air that is left inside in the summer. The room’s walls are kept cool by the ground, so when the air touches them, condensation happens.
How to Keep Your Basement Dry and Mold-Free?
The main problem with humidity is that it leads to mold growth. This fungus is not only unaesthetically pleasing on the walls, but can spread fast through microscopic spores, which can become airborne and travel through the air until they find another favorable spot in your house.
To avoid these problems, you should act as soon as you identify the symptoms. Here are some common problems that can occur and how to fix them:
Water Gathering around the House Foundation
The first thing you will want to check is if the water isn’t accumulated around the house as a consequence of heavy rains and defective grading. This should reflect inside through puddles on the floor and walls wet on the inferior side. If the slope isn’t the biggest trouble, you should go on and check the gutters and downspouts. They may be clogged or some of them may be missing in key points, and this can cause the water to be directed toward the foundation instead of being diverted from it.
How to Fix It
Getting the landscape grading right can be a difficult job which would imply bringing sand and gravel to try and change the slope. But it may be worth considering it if the defect is considerable and there’s no other way to do it. At the same time, if the gutters and downspouts aren’t in good condition, you should make time and clean them. Make sure to have at least one downspout placed per 50 feet of roof eave. And make a habit of keeping them clean. Leaves, dirt, and other debris brought by the wind or birds can cause them to become inefficient.
Cracks in the Structure
Not only the floor of the basement comes in contact with the ground but the walls as well, as this room is basically underground. Moreover, concrete is not only a porous material that can absorb water but it is prone to developing fine cracks in time. This can be caused by soil settling or improper linking of the floor joists with the wall.
How to Fix It
Although the drainage system will evacuate the water that may come through these openings, the walls will remain wet and so will the air inside. Thus, you will want to check the walls and floor and determine the weak spots. Repairs are mandatory, as these issues can, in time, wreck your foundation’s structure. A good solution could be to waterproof the walls, but only after you have patched the holes with hydraulic cement.
High Humidity inside the House
While the basement can be the one spreading the dampness, thigs can also go the other way around. Sometimes, symptoms of low humidity can be the same as the ones caused by low humidity, so you may have gotten them mixed up. You may be using a strong humidifier, maybe one for the entire house. This problem can also be caused by drying clothes inside or extensive cooking every day, especially if it implies a lot of boiling. Old pipes can also be regarded as sources.
How to Fix It
First, get a hygrometer and check how high the RH really is. Then, it’s time to take action. The solutions are diverse. For example, you can reduce some of the activities that provoke this problem and decide to use a dryer to dry the clothes. Moreover, keeping the windows open and using fans to get the moisture out can be a good idea, but only if the air outside isn’t already moist, as it can actually aggravate the problem. Nevertheless, the most efficient way to solve this issue is to use a dehumidifier. You will find models specially designed for basements, which come with large motors and offer continuous draining. Trust us, you will be amazed by how much water can a machine of this type draw.
If your problem is caused by leaking pipes, then it may be time to replace your plumbing system or the parts of it that are damaged.
If you often spot water droplets on your walls, but you’ve checked all the other issues and determined that there’s no damaged pipe leaking it, then you are probably dealing with condensation. It usually appears in the summer, but some indoor activities can make it emerge in the cold season as well. In some cases, it can be caused by cold pipes.
How to Fix It
Although it may sound counterintuitive, you will want to keep the windows closed in the summer. The humid air from outside will only make the problem worse. Instead, you can use the air conditioner’s dehumidification function to keep the walls dry. Or install a dehumidifier, which is specially designed for these situations and is usually the most reliable.
On the other hand, if the pipes are the ones producing condensation, you can isolate them with foam pipe insulation, which is not only cheap but easy to fit as well.
What Can Happen If You Don’t Deal With This Problem?
If your basement is an uninhabited place, you may decide to ignore this problem. However, you should be aware that it is part of your house, which means that what happens there can affect the other rooms.
Take a look at the most common problems that can emerge:
- Mold – It comes with ugly stains and odors, but the big problem with it is that it can be toxic. Long exposure to mold can lead to breathing problems and allergies. Plus, it can fly from one room to another immediately, and if it finds a good space, you will see it flourishing in less than 48 hours. Mold is extremely dangerous to children, this is why it should be dealt with immediately. This would imply cleaning the spot with bleach or another disinfectant solution and even using an air purifier to remove the spores from the air.
- Allergies – Dampness favors the spread of allergens like dust mites or pollen. Moreover, it leads to bacteria growth, and the effects will be felt first by asthma and allergy sufferers. In some cases, non-allergic individuals can experience the same symptoms, including nasal congestion and difficulties in breathing, as they are associated with high moisture.
- Odors – If your basement smells bad, there’s just a question of time until the odor fills your entire house. It can be unpleasant, but what should alert you are the causes of the smell, which, in this case, are bacteria and mold.
You are spending most of your life at home, so it is vital to keep it a pleasant and safe place. To do so, you must first acknowledge that it is a shelter in the middle of nature and will be exposed to natural elements that can affect its structure and alter the comfort inside. Then, make sure that you do everything that stays in your power to protect it while paying attention to the uninhabited spaces as well. To put it short, keep your basement and crawl space dry if you don’t want to deal with mold and other pests. It can be easy or it may require a lot of effort and money, but at the end of the operation, you will proudly look at your basement, and maybe decide to turn it into a nice living space.