Learn how to get rid of a musty smell in a vacation home. Find out how cleaning your gutters and extending your downspouts can prevent your summer house from smelling damp and musty.
LESLIE: Betty in Massachusetts, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
BETTY: I had a question regarding a summer home  that we have. It’s near the ocean. It has – it’s an older home . There’s no basement at all. There’s dirt below the summer home. And there is a smell of mildew . We don’t heat it during the winter. We shut it all down. And what I’ve been doing is putting those little packets that absorb the moisture in the summertime. And I notice that there is some mold  that’s beginning to develop on the – you know, near the floor and kind of starting up on the baseboard. So I’m just wondering what we could do to minimize that or to …
TOM: OK, well there’s a couple things you can do.
First of all, you want to take a number of steps to minimize the moisture that’s getting into that space. So the first thing you do is you look at the gutter system  outside the house. You make sure that you have a gutter system, that the downspouts are clean and free flowing and that they’re diverted away from the foundation by at least four to six feet.
The second thing that you want to do is look at the grading . The angle of the soil around the house is really critical. You want it to slope away about six inches over four feet so you have a slight slope. You also want to make sure that the soil is not very organic. It’s not topsoil. You want clean fill dirt so any water that lands is going to move away from the foundation area.
And next, you should go in the crawl space – and I don’t know how much room you have to work in there but if at all possible, what you want to do is cover the dirt surface of the crawl space with viscuine; with plastic sheeting.
LESLIE: And that’s a vapor barrier.
TOM: Use as large of a piece as you possibly can with as few seams as you possibly can and get it across the entire surface. This stops …
LESLIE: Tom, to seam it do you sort of meet both seams and then roll it over and staple it or do you just overlap them?
TOM: Well, what you can do is you can overlap them by maybe three or four feet. And this stops the evaporation of soil moisture up into the air into the crawl space and that stops the moisture from getting up into the house. Yeah, because the house is unoccupied, you’re always going to have that sort of damp smell . But if you reduce the volume of moisture that’s getting up there, then it’s going to be a lot less likely that this house will develop any sort of a problem as a result of it. Those packets that you’re throwing down – waste of money. (Betty chuckles)
LESLIE: Yeah, they don’t really do anything. And I can’t tell you how many times we’ve almost accidentally eaten them thinking it’s candy.
TOM: Betty, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.