A dry, clean basement can be adapted as usable, healthy living space for many different purposes. Although dampness in basements is a very common condition, it's not a healthy living space. Damp air in any basement is an invitation for mold, mildew and insects, and may cause health issues. It can also be a destructive environment for furniture, books, tools, equipment or stored goods of any kind.
To dry the air in your basement, you need to correctly identify the source of the problem. Following are common causes of excessive moisture and suggested remedies.
If circulation in the basement is poor, allow more heat in by adjusting, balancing, and opening hot air ducts to the basement. Operate the circulating fan on the furnace to improve air circulation. Opening windows regularly for fresh air may be helpful under some conditions.
Concrete walls may not have been sealed properly on the exterior at the time of construction, or the waterproofing may have deteriorated or been detached from the walls. If walls are damp but no leaks are visible, it may be necessary to excavate the exterior walls and install a waterproof membrane or waterproof the concrete with appropriate commercial foundation waterproofing products. Ensure that weeping tiles are properly placed, and in good condition. Repair the cracks and waterproof the concrete using a waterproof membrane or other method. Also backfill the concrete wall with porous, clean gravel fill.
Cracks in the concrete foundation of older homes are usually caused by settling or movement of the soil. If the leaks are major and have high hydraulic water pressure with visible water leakage, as from a high groundwater table, special repair techniques may be required using fast-setting hydraulic cement or other repair compounds.
Dripping from uninsulated cold water pipes is caused by warm, moist air contacting the cold surface of the water pipes . Condensation is a common problem, even resulting in puddles of water on the floor. Insulate all water pipes to prevents warm moist air from condensing on the cold pipes.
Even seemingly small, minor leaks, or water seeps from pipes, water tanks, or water closets can contribute a substantial amount of water moisture into the air by evaporation. Repair all water leaks, however tiny they may be. Go green, repair all pipe leaks and insulate all water tanks including the inside of the water closet tank to help dry out the air in the basement and save energy at the same time.
Keep the sump pit covered. Sump pumps are installed in a "pit" in the floor of the basement to collect and pump water from beneath the concrete floor and from weeping tile if no grade drainage is available. Ensure the sump pump is covered and operating properly at all times.
By taking some of these essential steps, and subsequently doing any additional upgrading, you may be able to transform that damp, cold basement into warm, dry, usable living space. In some instances, you may substantially increase the total area of comfortable living space in your home.