Problem Signs: Why You Should Worry About the Musty Basement Smell in Your Home
A musty basement smell can be confusing and worrying, especially if it persists after cleaning. It might even cause the rest of your home to have an unpleasant smell, but this is the least of your worries. A musty smell is indicative of a deeper problem with dampness which could stem from a number of causes, big or small.
The Cause of Your Musty Basement Smell
It can be hard to identify the precise cause of a musty smell in the basement of a property, partly because there are a number of potential causes. Generally speaking, there are three main ingredients needed for a musty smell to take root.
1. Organic Material
Whether it’s wood, cloth, or organic insulation, organic material is a necessary component. This could mean floor joists, ceiling beams, or just things that you are storing in your basement. Cleaning up organic material where possible or treating exposed wood to ensure rot does not take hold, is a great way to avoid a musty smell taking hold in your basement.
2. High Relative Humidity
Humidity is the second key component in creating that musty smell in your basement. Relative humidity has to do with how much moisture the air can hold. For example, 75% humidity on any given day means the air is holding three-quarters of its maximum capacity for moisture. At 100%, the moisture has to go somewhere, and it usually becomes condensation. Moisture and organic material have to come together for the final component of a musty-smelling basement.
Most of the time, what’s actually causing the musty smell in your basement is mold and mildew, which form when organic material and dampness come into contact. This may seem like a small, easy-to-fix issue, but mold is very damaging to your health. Certain kinds of mold can be harmful to your respiratory system and skin, sometimes causing lasting damage. Furthermore, cleaning up the mold rarely fixes the underlying problem that is causing it to form.
4. Recognizing the Causes of Mold
Mold grows on organic material and is caused by dampness, so if you are having recurring problems with mold in your basement, it is likely there is an underlying problem. The causes of dampness can be as small as worn sealant around windows and basement access points letting in water from outside, or as big as rising dampness.
How to Get Rid of That Musty Basement Smell
Of course, once you identify that your basement has a mold problem, it’s only natural that you will want to get rid of it. There are many ways in which you can try to remove mold by yourself, but you should keep in mind that removing mold can be a dangerous process.
- Bleach the Basement
Bleaching the basement is a simple yet effective way to kill mold in your basement (in fact, bleach can kill almost everything). However, there are many things you need to consider when using bleach to remove mold and mildew from your basement. First and foremost, keep in mind that bleach fumes and mold are both damaging to your health, so take precautions. Of course, bleaching alone will not permanently remove mold, however.
As dampness is one of the main causes of mold formation, dehumidification is integral to removing and preventing recurrence. It is important to note, however, that a dehumidifier is only part of a mold removal process. You should only use a dehumidifier in conjunction with other mold removal and basement waterproofing methods.
It’s important to note that it’s best to work with mold removal specialists for complete removal, and basement waterproofing experts for preventing the formation of mold in the first place.
Removing the Musty Basement Smell (and Preventing Spread)
Once you have removed the mold, you may still find that there is a smell in your basement. You may even find that the smell spreads into the rest of your house. If you get experts in to handle the mold and musty smell in your basement, further repairs can follow.
- The Removal of Existing Debris
This can mean removing covering sheets, wooden furniture, or even an old vapor sheet that was torn or otherwise damaged. This debris is likely to be covered with mold, which means that it won’t be safe to remove it by hand. Removing the debris will significantly reduce the smell and also remove a major source of mold in the air. Professionals will be able to remove all infected debris without putting you, your family or themselves in danger.
If there are any holes in your walls, this may mean removing contaminated insulation. As such, you may need to replace it and have your wall repaired following the treatment of mold. In this case, it would also be wise to have someone check the walls closest to the spot where you found the damage and infection.
- The Addition of a Vapor Barrier
Once all debris and mold have been removed from your basement, you can choose to have a proper vapor barrier installed that really works. Vapor barriers are typically used for crawl space encapsulations, but they have other practical uses such as on basement walls, as well. Unlike the flimsy 6-mil barriers commonly sold at hardware stores, or pieces of plastic sheeting, basement professionals will install a strong, thick vapor barrier that keeps moisture out and stands up to wear and tear. It’s best to use a durable 20-mil vapor barrier like CrawlSeal™ to give you the best result.
- Closing Crawl Space Vents
Though they’re called crawl space vents, these vents are sometimes found in basements too. They were installed when older homes were built because they were considered helpful. These days, however, we know they do far more harm than good. This is why vent covers will be an essential part of the process if you do not already have them. If you do, you should check to make sure they fit properly and that the sealant around the vents is in good condition.
The final stage of mold removal will generally be dehumidification. If you decide to handle your musty basement smell alone, many companies will allow you to hire fans and dehumidifiers to finish the process off. It also pays to have a dehumidifier in your basement all the time; an energy-efficient dehumidifier may cost a fair amount of money to install, but it could save you thousands of dollars in repairs going forward.
Once your basement is mold-free and dry, the smell should not persist. If, however, it has managed to cling to wooden fixtures in your basement, treating the wood with a mold-resistant varnish should help. In fact, it could help you to guard against mold taking hold again in the future.
Consider Basement Waterproofing to Fix Your Musty Basement Smell
Whether you treat the mold yourself or choose to bring in professional help, it is important that you take steps to prevent damp and mold taking root again. A professional will help you to do this by looking for sources of dampness in your home and basement, but you can do your part too. Try to keep your basement clean and tidy, remove any debris that could attract and hold moisture, and make sure the subterranean drains around your home are not clogged. Clogged underground drains could funnel water toward your foundation and basement, rather than away.
Most importantly, you should consider waterproofing your basement as a long-term solution to mold and dampness. There are many ways to waterproof a basement that has recurring problems with dampness and mold. From installing interior drains and a sump pump or having an energy-efficient dehumidifier installed, there are many options. When you call Groundworks, they can help you to decide on the best possible solution for your specific situation. All you need to do is request a free inspection.
Let the Professionals Deal with Musty Basement Smell
Even if you have some experience in removing mold, it is usually best to contact professionals to make sure it is removed effectively and safely. Furthermore, even if you successfully remove the mold and the musty smell it causes, you may not be able to identify what caused it to form in the first place. This means that unless it was caused by a one-time issue, it could form and spread again. This could land you in a cycle of removal and dehumidification, which could be costly in both time and money.
Groundworks experts offer quality, affordable basement waterproofing, dehumidification, and mold prevention services, as well as a free inspection. These experts have the necessary knowledge and skills to identify underlying causes and problems. They will also be able to offer you advice as to how you can prevent mold recurrence.