Basements are damp. Even when they’re clean, fresh-smelling, and well-lit, basements can feel damp. This isn’t because you’re a bad housekeeper; it’s a side effect of being at least partially underground. If the ground outside your basement is wet, your basement is going to be at least a bit damp.
Concrete is a porous material, which means water in the ground can seep into- and through- the foundation into the basement. This water intrusion can damage your foundation and take your basement from damp to wet.
So what does this problem have to do with a dehumidifier? More than you might think! Acculevel is a family-owned and operated company that specializes in both foundation repair and waterproofing. We know how hydrostatic pressure works, how it can allow water to infiltrate your home, and why this is so damaging to your home. Since our start in 1996, we’ve helped more than 35,000 homeowners protect their homes from water damage and preserve the value of their greatest investment.
In this article, we’re going to explain the value that a whole-home dehumidifier brings to you and your house. You can gain better health, lower utility costs, and prevent expensive home repairs.
A Dehumidifier Discourages Biological Growth
Many small organisms have simple and easily-met needs for growth. A little moisture and a food source (like dust, pet dander, etc) are all that’s needed for unwelcome visitors like mold spores to flourish.
This is a serious problem for people with allergies or respiratory problems. Mold, mildew, and fungus are all very common allergens, and they can cause a range of unpleasant side effects. The most common ones are:
- Itchy or runny eyes
- Sinus congestion
- Sore throat
- Chronic, persistent cough
- Hives or rash
Children, especially infants, are also susceptible to the effects of long-term mold exposure. Even healthy people who don’t have any known allergies can develop a sensitivity to mold spores, given enough exposure.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during an in-home appointment. You can see the small dots of black mold that cover this basement wall.
When you install and program a dehumidifier to run regularly in your home, it removes moisture. This lack of moisture deprives biological growth of a fundamental nutrient that it requires for survival.
Removing Moisture Improves Your Air Quality
Regular dehumidifier usage doesn’t just inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. There are other organisms that also enjoy the humidity found in basements- and some of them are a more direct threat to you and your family.
A study published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) demonstrated that the ideal humidity level in a house is around 50%. This is the most prohibitive level for microbes like bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
This chart was developed as part of ASHRAE’s study.
If you install a whole-home dehumidifier in your basement, you can regulate the humidity level throughout your house. This one action could significantly reduce the presence and survival of germs, which translates into fewer sick days and better overall health.
Acculevel installs a dehumidifier that has a capacity of 95 pints (45 liters) and will manage an entire home (up to 5500 square feet in size). It can be programmed to maintain a set humidity level, has a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty, is made in America, and has an average lifespan of 15 years.
A Whole-Home Dehumidifier Reduces Your HVAC’s Workload
If you don’t have a dehumidifier, your HVAC has to compensate by drying the air, as well as cooling/heating it. Too much moisture in the air can be harder to process, especially for air conditioning.
Humid air feels warmer to us, regardless of the actual temperature. If the air in your home is damp, you’ll feel uncomfortable even when your home is at the preset temperature you’ve chosen. This is often what causes homeowners to run fans in addition to the A/C, or set their A/C to increasingly lower temperatures.
If you opt for the lower setting, your HVAC will have to run longer and more often, which increases the wear and tear on the equipment. And regardless of which option you take, you’ll have a higher utility bill.
With a high performing dehumidifier, your HVAC will run more easily and efficiently. If your humidity is being regulated, you may even be able to set the thermostat at a higher (or lower) degree and still feel comfortable. This allows your HVAC to function properly, doing what it’s designed to do, and extends the life of the appliance.
Humidity Can Damage Your Home’s Wooden Structure
Damp air does more than breed biological growth and makes you uncomfortable. It also threatens the durability of the lumber used to build your home. Underneath the tile, carpet, or hardwood floor of your home is a subfloor and supporting structure. All of this is built out of wooden parts, and damp wood softens and decays over time.
This diagram shows you the various wooden components of your flooring structure.
How Do You Know There’s a Problem?
If you have moisture-related damage in your floor, you will notice sagging or sloping on the main floor. Significant creaking or the feeling of “give” or “softness” of the floor is another bad sign.
Essentially, what happens is excess moisture gets absorbed by the wood. This makes it softer, and softer wood is more likely to compress (flatten). This means your now softer flooring components are trying to hold firm, while being loaded down with cabinets, furniture, appliances, etc. Eventually, the weight of your furnishings causes compression, which you notice as sagging floors.
Another major concern is termites. These damaging insects prefer damp, softened wood because it’s easier to tunnel into. If you have termites, you’ll need to start your repairs with an extermination service. There are resources for finding a reputable service here,
What’s the Solution?
You’ll need a good foundation repair company like Acculevel to make repairs to the sill plate, floor joists, or whichever components have been damaged by moisture. Once the defective pieces are repaired or replaced, then you need to address the source of the moisture.
A dehumidifier is an excellent repair option, but it’s not the only one. If you have actual water seeping into the basement, you may need other repairs like epoxy crack repair or water drainage. We’ll talk more about waterproofing in our next section.
Excess Humidity Can Damage Your Foundation
When you’re talking about moisture damaging a home’s foundation, you’re almost always discussing hydrostatic pressure. When there is more water in the soil than the ground can absorb, the excess water exerts pressure on your foundation.
You might be wondering, why does the water have to push on the house? It’s kind of like the water is trapped; it keeps flowing because the soil is fully saturated and can’t stop it. But when excess water reaches your foundation, it finds and fills the tiny gaps in the concrete. Essentially, the excess water will go anywhere it can find room for it.
But water can be seeping into your foundation for a while before you actually see it. Poured concrete walls are dense; It takes time for water to make it all the way through into your basement. Cinder blocks have hollow centers, so water that seeps in can collect inside and pool in place. By the time water is getting into your basement, your concrete wall is holding a significant amount of water.
This illustration was created by the author.
If you have that much water getting into your home, a dehumidifier alone isn’t going to be enough. You’ll need waterproofing installed, which will include water drainage and a sump pump system. Weep holes will also be drilled into the bottom row of blocks, to empty the water out of the blocks’ cores.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel crew member, after installing water drainage in a customer’s home. The wet-looking concrete is the new concrete we poured over the installed drainage system; the weep holes are covered by the dimple board that will direct any water from the blocks into the drainage.
Hydrostatic Pressure Can Also Create Cracks in the Walls
If the pressure is strong enough, it can sometimes create fissures or cracks in the walls. These cracks often allow water to come through, although this doesn’t happen all the time. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing a crack in your foundation, just because it’s still dry. As we described above, the water may be inside the wall, not yet through the wall.
Long horizontal cracks or zig-zag style cracks are both signs that the stability of your basement wall is compromised. Don’t wait until the wall starts actively bowing or leaning inward to contact a pro; take action as soon as you see it happening.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during an in-home estimate. It’s one that I often use in our articles, because it clearly illustrates both horizontal and zig-zag cracks.
If you see these kinds of cracks in your basement, or water getting inside, you should take prompt action. The sooner you have a problem diagnosed and repaired, the less expensive the repairs will be. Fixing a more extreme problem will be more invasive to your property and to your wallet.
Do You Need to Install a Dehumidifier in Your Basement?
If you have a moisture problem in your basement and you live in Indiana or the surrounding areas, call Acculevel at 866-669-3349. We’ll make an appointment for you with one of our project advisors, and they will come to your home to address your concerns.
Our goal is to provide you with a whole-home solution, resolving the current problem you have, and helping you to prevent or avoid future issues as well. If you prefer electronic communications, you’re welcome to complete our online form instead!
Want More Information About Other Services?
I have included links to additional resources throughout this article, to help you learn more about whatever symptoms or problems you may be experiencing in your home. If you have more questions about basement waterproofing or foundation repair, please follow the links to our homeowners’ guides.
These are detailed articles broken down by chapter, addressing all of the topics and questions we hear the most when talking to customers. Both guides are thorough, comprehensive, and detailed; bookmark them for use now and for future reference.