It’s not just poor ventilation that results in that musty smell in your basement, it’s a combination of insufficient ventilation and poor or failing waterproofing. Trapped moisture is the root of musty odors, whether it’s in the air or in carpets and upholstery. To remove the smell, you need to address how water is getting into your basement.

Foundation and Flooring

As much as wall-to-wall carpeting looks nice in a finished basement, it’s not doing you any favors when it comes to ventilation. Stick to area rugs you can air out or forgo rugs altogether. As an option, you could paint the cement floor with specialized paint.

If the basement is not finished and has a dirt floor, the dirt allows moisture to come in. To combat this, make a vapor barrier. Also known as a vapor diffusion retarder, a vapor barrier slows down how fast and how much water vapor moves around. Usually, the barrier is a thin material, but it may include thicker materials as well, such as stainless steel and aluminum. If you’re looking to make a barrier yourself, stick with a thinner material such as polyethylene sheeting.

Air It Out

If the basement has windows, open them and place fans around the area. Take outside anything that smells and is moveable, such as books, boxes, and upholstered furniture. Wash musty clothes and repack them in a fresh container. Steam clean the upholstery. Do not move anything back until you’ve taken care of waterproofing problems. Polish wood furniture with a basic lemon oil. Consult a specialist to determine how to add ventilation to the basement.


Purchase a dehumidifier that is big enough for the basement’s square footage. The more moisture you can draw out of the air, the better. If you can, add more than one dehumidifier, placing each in a different space in the basement.

Musty Mold

Your basement likely smells musty because it has mold in it. It may not be visible on the walls or your storage boxes, but it’s there — somewhere. Mold easily spreads and can be in corners or behind visible wood. Mold is no laughing matter as it also can cause health issues for people with sensitive lungs, such as those with allergies or asthma.

Mold should not be handled by someone without the proper mold remediation certification. You might think you can get it all without disturbing the spores, but unless you’re an expert, you won’t find it all. You also need someone to assess how extensive the mold is so you know what proper steps to take.

Proper Drainage

In addition to the interior, there are things you can do around the exterior of your home to help reduce the amount of water getting in. Make sure you have gutters along the front and back of the house. Gutter downspout extensions should empty at least four feet from the house and be angled away from it. Keep the gutters clear so water follows the channel and doesn’t fall over the sides directly down next to the foundation.

The soil around the foundation should be graded. This means it should be sloping away from the house for several feet at an angle so water seeping into the ground flows away from the foundation.

Acculevel is Certified

The team at Acculevel is certified for mold removal and remediation. We assess how extensive the problem is and come up with a plan to deal with the current mold issue as well as what you can do to prevent moisture problems in the future. We don’t believe in price gouging or taking your hard-earned money for unnecessary repairs. You can trust us. If you live in the Midwest and have a musty basement that needs to be looked at, give us a call at 866-669-3349 or email us at [email protected]

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