How to Improve Home Air Quality
LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.
LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.
TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?
LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture. It seems like in the air, we’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.
LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.
TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.
TOM: And this is in the basement.
LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.
TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.
What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?
LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.
LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.
So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.
TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.
So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.
Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?
LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.
TOM: So, is it a hot-water heated house?
LAURIE: No, it’s electric.
TOM: It’s all electric?
TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.
But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.
LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.