For many American homeowners, the basement serves a multitude of functions: it can be a place to store excess equipment, do your laundry, or spend time with friends and family. In order to qualify as a finished living space, your basement has to meet legal egress requirements for safe escape or entry of rescue personnel during an emergency. But aside from those logistics, your basement also needs to stay dry in order to be totally functional and to protect your valuables.
Unfortunately, homeowners across the country are finding out that their basements are in no way immune from damage related to moisture — or worse. While homes in the southern part of the U.S. may not even have basements due to excess humidity, the ones that do may be prone to flooding. As weather becomes more extreme and floods become more common, it’s important to know how to safeguard your basement from damage. Here are a few basic tips you’ll want to follow if you suspect your basement may be wetter than it should be.
Get a Dehumidifier
Residential humidity levels should generally be kept between 30% and 55% indoor humidity to maintain optimal air quality. If your basement has higher humidity levels than that, this environment could be susceptible to mold growth — and that can present a major health hazard to your family. A dehumidifier can improve the air quality of your basement and even protect any electronic equipment kept there. Not sure if your basement is damp enough for a dehumidifier? Install a smart thermostat that can detect humidity, get a humidity meter, or look for window or wall condensation. Of course, the smell of mildew will also serve as a tell-tale sign that this area of your home is too humid. Dehumidifiers can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 a pop, but remember that the cost of mold remediation and water damage repairs will certainly exceed that, making these units a solid investment.
Prioritize Proper Ventilation
To protect your home from dampness and mold, it needs consistent ventilation. So if you’ve closed air vents in the past in the hopes that doing so would have a positive effect on your energy bills, you might be in for an unwelcome surprise. When moisture becomes trapped in your air ducts, mold can grow and health problems can result. You’ll need even air flow throughout your home, but especially in areas prone to dampness (like basements and bathrooms). It’s also a good idea to have your vents and ducts cleaned on a regular basis to address any possible signs of mold growth and other issues.
Address Floods and Leaks
In addition to obtaining regular inspections and repairs, you’ll need to be proactive about addressing potential leaks and flooding. With a small leak, it’s not nearly enough to dry off the area or to catch water in a bucket. If the problem isn’t fixed within a day or two, mold can start to develop. Not only does that mean costly repairs, but leaky pipes can also result in high utility bills. For flooding, you’ll need to spring into action. Whether it’s a sewer line backup problem or due to a natural disaster, you’ll need to assess the immediate damage, suction up the water, and do whatever’s necessary to fix the basement (like sealing your basement or investing in a sump pump) to prevent problems in the future. In serious cases, you may have to rent equipment or contact the professionals to ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk during the clean-up.
Dealing with a flooded or damp basement is on every homeowner’s list of potential nightmares. But if you know how to prevent these problems and take the right steps when they occur, you’ll be able to turn a potential disaster into a little blip that won’t cause excessive damage.