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Control Moisture and Humidity in the Basement

  • Transcript

    LESLIE:  Anna in New Jersey finds The Money Pit on WABC.  You are on.  How can we help?

    ANNA:  Hi, I have foundation poles in my basement. 

    TOM:  OK.

    ANNA :  And they have some kind of liquid that they sweat.  And somebody’s painted them and the paint bubbles up with the liquid underneath.

    LESLIE:  Is it a finished basement?

    ANNA:  Yes.

    TOM:  Well, what’s happening is those are lolly columns.  Those are the posts that are holding up the main beams of your house. 

    ANNA:  Right.

    TOM:  And they may be filled with concrete.  And those poles are in contact with the slab below and perhaps even part of the earth, depending on how they’re installed.  And what happens is if you get a lot of moisture in the earth, it draws up through the concrete into the column and then actually sometimes rusts through that pole and forms this sort of condensation-like look.

    Now the key here is going to be to take all of the steps possible to reduce humidity and moisture in that basement because if you cut down the volume of water around your house that problem is going to go away.

    LESLIE:  First of all, are you using a dehumidifier in the basement?

    ANNA:  Yes.

    LESLIE:  OK.  Is it constantly running?  Are you emptying that bucket all the time?

    ANNA:  Well, it’s worse in the summertime so I run the dehumidifier in the summer.  In the wintertime it’s kind of dry in the house so I don’t run it during the winter but …

    LESLIE:  Generally you want to run that dehumidifier all year long.  It’s not going to kick on if it doesn’t need to be.  Set it at 30, 40 percent.  It’ll come on when you need it.  Then you want to look at the areas outside of your home where you could be getting a lot of moisture buildup getting that water into the foundation and into the house.  Do you have gutters on the house?

    ANNA:  Yes.

    LESLIE:  You want to make sure that your gutters are clean and that the downspouts are free-flowing.  You want to make sure that there’s not a lot of debris in there so that the water is just flipping up and out and getting right onto the foundation area.  So keep those well maintained.  Then look at your downspouts.  Are they depositing the water right against the foundation?  If they are, extend them as far as you can; three to six feet.  If not, bury them; do it more.  You don’t want to deposit that water along the foundation because it’s just going to find it’s way back into those poles in your basement.

    TOM:  Anna, do you have a forced air heating system?

    ANNA:  Yes.

    TOM:  Well, one of the things you might want to consider is something called a whole-home dehumidifier.  It’s actually installed into the forced air system and dehumidifies, automatically, not only the basement but the entire house.  It can really create that balanced condition where you don’t have excessive moisture anywhere.  You know, improving the grading and the drainage on the outside, like Leslie suggested, and then reducing the volume of moisture on the inside is all going to work together to stop this condition from happening. 

    Now, after you get the humidity under control, what you’re going to need to do is to scrape, sand all of that rust off of those posts and then prime them.  I would recommend an oil-based primer.

    LESLIE:  And make sure it’s something that’s made specifically for concrete adhesion, if that’s what they were filled with or made of.

    TOM:  And then put a topcoat of paint on it and I don’t think it’s going to happen again.

    ANNA:  OK. 

    TOM:  But you have to treat the symptoms; otherwise, it will continue to occur.

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