Whether you use your basement for living space or if it’s just unfinished storage or work space, it shouldn’t smell any different than any other part of your home. That musty “basement smell” that many of us are accustomed to is neither necessary nor inevitable and if your basement has it, the source may be water seepage.
Some homeowners choose to ignore the problem, figuring “that’s just what a basement smells like.” As mentioned above, that’s not true and may indicate that the person has lived all their lives around basements with seepage problems.
Another common reaction is to say “that’s just mildew.” That is probably true but “mildew” is not the harmless substance that comment would imply – it’s visible growth formed by mold spores and mold is not something to take lightly.
Let’s take a look at the causes of basement odor and how it can be eliminated.
Water can seep into a Chicago basement in a number of ways. Hydrostatic pressure can force it in through floor cracks or the cove joint. Wall cracks can admit surprising amounts of water. Porous foundation materials, like mortar joints and cement block can allow water to seep through. Leaking window wells and unsealed utility openings are also frequent culprits.
However, water is only one of the elements leading to mold growth but, unfortunately, basements readily provide the other two. Mold needs warmth to develop and basements are generally conditioned spaces if only due to the presence of HVAC systems there. Food, defined as any organic material, is the other requirement and basements are full of organics – wood, drywall, cardboard boxes, even rugs and furniture.
Mold spores are found almost everywhere and can lay dormant until their surroundings provide the ideal conditions for growth. In a typical basement, the warmth and food are already there and once water enters the picture the mold begins to grow and spread.
Of course, basement odor is not the only consequence of mold. Mold spores can be easily spread throughout a home by HVAC systems located in the basement and can cause or aggravate health conditions in the home’s residents. Anyone who suffers from respiratory ailments such as asthma can find their health compromised by mold and anyone with low resistance such as small children or adults with immune system diseases can suffer as well.
So, the key to eliminating basement odor and the attendant health risks is to get rid of mold and the best way to get rid of mold is to keep the basement dry.
When your basement shows signs of seepage – water on the floor, wet stains on the wall or yes, that musty basement smell -- have the problem evaluated by a basement waterproofing professional. A reputable contractor will offer free advice on how to repair the problem and repairs can often be done in less than one day depending, of course, on the extent of the seepage and the required repair method.
If you don’t see signs of seepage and you still experience basement odor, your basement may have high humidity levels. A consistent high level of humidity can spawn mold growth along with other problems. Installing a basement dehumidifier will lower the humidity to a comfortable level and eliminate basement odor.
At U.S. Waterproofing, we are well aware of the consequences of both water seepage and high humidity in a Chicago basement and we have been helping homeowners avoid those consequences since 1957. We diagnose seepage problems and recommend repairs that are permanent, cost-effective and accomplished with a minimum of inconvenience to you and your family. To remedy high humidity in your basement, we sell and install April Aire basement dehumidifiers that we believe are the finest available. Why not ask for our free advice?
If you’d like to know more about the causes and elimination of basement odor in Chicago homes, please post your questions in the Comments box below.
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