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Preventing Basement Mold

preventing and treating basement mold

This article is part 2 of a series regarding Basement Mold. To learn more, read part 1 on treating basement mold

If you own a home with a basement, chances are you’ve experienced mold in your basement.  Some basement mold is treatable through at-home do-it-yourself remedies, and other cases are more severe and may require the help of a professional.  Since basements are often damp, dark, and have poor ventilation, it’s the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow.  Still, there are steps you can take to prevent basement mold before the problem gets out of hand.

  1. Reduce humidity levels – like any plant or fungus, mold needs a humid environment to grow.  Basements tend to be humid because of their poor ventilation.  You can monitor humidity levels using a tool called a “hygrometer.”  Hygrometers cost anywhere from $20 to $40.  Any humidity reading above 45% is prime for basement mold to grow.  You can lower the humidity in your basement using a high quality dehumidifier.  Dehumidifiers range anywhere from $150 to $11,500, depending on the quality and the size. Not all dehumidifiers are effective in pulling the necessary moisture out of the cooler air temperatures that are typically in a basement. Do your research, an average basement likely won’t need a commercial-sized dehumidifier, and you’ll be able to find a cost-effective option.
  2. Keep indoor plants upstairs – you may have indoor plants at home to improve its air quality or because you like the look.  If you want to grow indoor plants, keep them upstairs in sunny locations with good airflow, like near a window.  Growing plants in your basement will increase your risk of basement mold.  If you like the look – go for silk plants downstairs!
  3. Keep it clean – our basements tend to become our underground storage lockers.  Between holiday decorations, unused furniture, clothes, books, and all of the other things we collect, they fill up really quick.  All of your basement clutter restricts air flow and reduces ventilation.  If you have a need to keep the items in the basement look into space saving storage techniques that can allow air to flow freely.  (It could also be time to just Marie Kondo the whole place too!)
  4. Don’t store firewood in the basement – you may know basement mold can grow in the wood framing the walls and floors of your home, but firewood is at risk too.  Wood is a natural habitat for mold because it is porous and retains water.  Store firewood in an open, airy location whenever possible.
  5. Direct outdoor water flow away from your basement – mold needs moisture to grow and that moisture may come from rain and snowmelt.  Clean your gutters regularly and make sure you know what direction water is flowing when it does rain.  If you see that water is regularly pooling around the perimeter of your home, that water is also seeping into your basement and feeding mold growth.  Preventing basement mold can be as easy as diverting the water by adding a sloped boundary around your home or fixing gutter direction or leakage.
  6. Clean up after spills or leaks – if you notice a pipe leaking in your basement, have it fixed right away and dry the area thoroughly.  You may be able to prevent basement mold growth if you stay on top of any spills or leaks.  Once you’ve cleaned the water, you can use your dehumidifier or even a household hair dryer to dry up any wetness.  The longer the wetness sits, the more likely you will get basement mold.
  7. Insulate basement pipes – especially cold water pipes that get condensation on the outside.  Basement mold can form around these pipes if it has room to grow.  You can insulate your pipes directly with strips of pipe wrap or foam pipe sleeves.  If your pipes run through the walls or ceiling, adding wall insulation can also insulate the pipes.  For pipes that come out of the walls, insulate the gaps in the wall.
  8. Use an exhaust fan – to dry out humid air and improve air flow.  Like dehumidifiers, exhaust fans range in price, anywhere from $75 to $300 or more depending on the size and needs of your space.  Running your exhaust fan after a wet event like a rain or snow storm or an indoor leak will keep things dry and reduce your risk of basement mold.
  9. Waterproof your basement – on the inside and the outside.  You’re probably not going to make things airtight, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of accumulated moisture in your basement.  Fill in any cracks and holes in the walls and floor.  If you have carpet or wood flooring in your basement, consider replacing with a less porous surface.  You can add waterproof paint or skin shielding to your basement’s exterior, or use a water sock.  A water sock is an absorbent material wrapped in mesh that is buried around your home.

Most homeowners with a basement will have to get rid of basement mold at one point or another.  Take these preventative tips to reduce your risk of basement mold.

Kelly Kater

Over her thirty-year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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