The Healthy Basement
What to Do: Inside
Water vapor in the air can lead to mold growth, which impacts your family’s health, and can damage furniture and building materials.
• Dehumidifiers are a key element to the healthy basement, as they remove significant amounts of moisture from the air.
When purchasing, look for an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier, which consumes the least electricity. (The old brown units draw as much electricity as water, and cost a lot to operate.) Also get a unit with a built-in humidistat, which allows you to set the relative humidity and the dehumidifier will shut off at that level.
In the basement, ideal comfort is between 35 and 45 per cent relative humidity. Above that is ideal for mold growth. (FYI, below that is ideal for virus growth, so too dry is not wise.)
Another good feature is a built-in hose bib. This allows you to run a hose from the dehumidifier to the floor drain eliminating emptying the bucket. Dehumidifiers are designed to fit specific square footage areas, so make sure you purchase one large enough for your space.
• My advice is to get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting in the basement, as it acts like a sponge, absorbing water that moves through the air and concrete. That promotes mold growth. Switch to a tile floor (ceramic, slate, porcelain or cork with a proper underlay) or stain the concrete (which can create stunning floors). Add area rugs, which are easy to have cleaned and can be taken outside in the sunshine to freshen up.
• If you can afford it, start new basement flooring with a sub-floor of plastic-backed dimple board (available at home renovation stores). This acts as a barrier to moisture seeping up through the concrete. A basement’s level of dampness will determine whether other moisture solutions are necessary. One common example is a sump pump system to reduce groundwater pressure. Most people will need a contractor for installation.
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