Bad Smell in the Basement
LESLIE: Now we’re going to go to Wisconsin where Diane’s got a stinky problem in the basement.
What happened, Diane?
DIANE: Well, I – this is a condo and I moved into it about one year ago. And I noticed right away that the basement had an odd smell and I thought if I washed the floors enough and keep everything clean down there and not too congested, that the smell would go away. And I’ve got a dehumidifier down there but it doesn’t seem to be doing too much.
LESLIE: What do you have the humidity level set to on your dehumidifier?
LESLIE: Oh gosh, I don’t know.
TOM: Is it filling up with water frequently?
DIANE: I’ve got it going into a drain.
LESLIE: So you never have to empty it.
DIANE: No, I don’t.
TOM: What kind of heating system do you have in the house, Diane; forced air or hot water?
DIANE: Forced air.
TOM: And is the basement connected to the heating system?
DIANE: I don’t think so.
TOM: Well, adding – having a contractor – and I do say a contractor – add a return vent to the basement will help circulate that moist air throughout the house. However – and this is a big however – it’s got to be done by a pro because you can’t put the return vent too close to the furnace. If you do, you could pull carbon monoxide into the house. But if it’s done properly, that’s an old trick of the trade and a way to humidify your entire house, by adding a return vent in the basement, which makes that warm, moist air much more – I should say that warm, dry air much more moist.
OK, the other thing that you can do is try to take the steps to eliminate moisture levels in the basement by looking outside your house.
DIANE: Right. I know to check the drainage.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Make sure your downspouts are depositing anything that comes out about three feet away from the foundation. You also want to check your grading on the exterior of the house; make sure it slants away from the house. And you want to go down about six inches over four feet so that any water that does get there is going away from the house and not towards the foundation.
TOM: Do you have gutters on your home?
TOM: And are they clean?
DIANE: (chuckles) I haven’t checked.
LESLIE: (chuckles) That means they’re not.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK, well that’s – there’s another good place to start. OK, because if they’re blocked they’re going to back up and that water’s going to lay against the foundation. Basically, a lot of it comes down to moisture management, Diane, and if you are to keep the grading adjusted probably so the soil slopes away; if you are to extend your downspouts and make sure they’re really clean, that’s going to reduce the amount of moisture that gets into the basement, which will reduce the humidity, which will reduce the smell. It’s all connected.
DIANE: And you don’t think that there’s any kind of paint that I could use? The floor is painted, the walls are painted.
TOM: You know, you can; but really, if you …
LESLIE: If you don’t fix the moisture problem, it’s just going to happen.
TOM: Yeah. Exactly.
LESLIE: But also, on your dehumidifier that you have in the basement, we keep ours set to around 40 percent. Ideally, you want to be between 40 and 60 percent; on the lower end of that. So make sure you have it set around that setting so you know that it kicks on when it gets above that and it’ll turn off when it’s happy.
TOM: Diane, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.