Install Gutters to End Basement Moisture Problems
LESLIE: Chris in Ohio is up next. And you’ve got a stinky problem. Your basement is smelly. Tell us a little bit about it.
CHRIS: Well, we just moved into this house and it’s got a musty basement. It’s actually a half basement. It’s got cinder block walls. And I guess in the spring we have quite a high water table because there’s a sump pump in the basement. And I was just wondering if there was a way – other than running a dehumidifier down there 24/7 – that we could have a more long-term solution for a musty smelling basement.
LESLIE: Well, the reason why you’re finding that smell in your basement is because you do have a bit of a moisture problem down there. And it doesn’t always have to be contained within the house; there are a couple of things that you can do outside. Because what’s happening is you’re probably getting a large deposit of water around your foundation, which is then being wicked in through the concrete block walls and causing that musty smell. So what you can look at is look at your grading around your property. And make sure that the dirt all slopes away from the house. You want to make sure it goes down about six inches over four feet going away from your foundation. And that’ll do nicely to direct the water away.
You also want to look at your gutters and your downspouts. You want to make sure that the gutters on the house are as clean as often as you can; otherwise, the water, when it gets in there, will just spill up and over and end up going right back into your foundation. And also, make sure that your downspouts are directed at least three feet away from the house. You don’t want anything being deposited right where it can get back in.
TOM: Yeah. And Chris, besides the drainage issues on the outside, addressing the humidity on the inside could be something that you could do, not with a portable dehumidifier – which is, I think, what you’re afraid of; one that’s just down there and has to be dumped of water all the time. But if you have a hot air heating system, if you could incorporate the basement space into the duct system, perhaps by having a professional add a supply or a return duct down there, then you could use a whole home dehumidifier mounted, again, into the HVAC system. And what that will do is really dehumidify that space as well as the …
LESLIE: And the rest of the house.
TOM: Yeah, as well as the house. So …
LESLIE: And you’ll be amazed at how much water it pulls out of your house on a day-to-day basis.
CHRIS: That would actually be really easy because it’s a gas furnace that’s actually in the basement.
TOM: Right. Just make sure have it professionally installed. Aprilaire makes a good whole home dehumidifier. You have it professionally installed and then extending those … the duct system into the basement is, again, something that has to be done by a pro because there could be some common mistakes that you might make if you do it yourself. For example, you don’t want to put a return duct too close to the furnace because it cause the gases from the furnace to be sucked into your house air and that would be a bad thing. So these are improvements that should be done by a professional but if they’re done right, I think you’re going to find that that basement becomes a much more usable space. It’s not going to smell and it’s going to be so dry, you’re going to be calling us back to ask about ways to finish that area off.
CHRIS: Yeah, that’s definitely something that we want to do. But I think the first thing I need to do is gutters because there are not gutters on the house.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s the problem.
TOM: That could be the entire problem, right there.
CHRIS: That could be.
TOM: Yeah, gutters are so important and they’re so inexpensive. Make sure, when you have them installed, that they extend those downspouts out like Leslie said. Because the installers typically like to go out all of like a foot or two and do a splash block. And if you’ve got a moisture issue …
LESLIE: (overlapping) If that. Sometimes they just drop them right against the house.
TOM: Yeah, you’ve got to get them extended out. And you know what? If you could also look for ways to take those downspouts and drop them into, say, solid PVC pipe and route the water like around the property somewhere where you could …
LESLIE: To your neighbor’s yard.
TOM: Yeah, to your neighbor’s yard. That’s it. (laughing) Dump on your neighbor. (laughing) Okay?
CHRIS: Alright. Great. Thank you.
TOM: Just get it away from your house. Thanks so much for calling us 888-MONEY-PIT.