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Basement humidity can be monitored and maintained safely and healthily with little effort and homeowner attention. However, with summer soon upon us, we may notice that our basement air is slightly heavier.  Whether your basement is finished or unfinished, humidity is an issue that must be addressed. Moisture and humidity, primarily when basements are used for spare bedrooms and entertainment areas, can lead to significant health problems. 

Why is my basement so humid?

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, To correct basement moisture problems, it’s necessary to understand where the water is coming from and what mechanisms permit it to enter the basement. There are just three sources of moisture:

  1. Liquid water from rain or groundwater.
  2. Interior moisture sources such as humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, bathrooms, and cooking, as well as the moisture in concrete after construction.
  3. Exterior humid air enters the basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.

Moisture is transferred from the outside of the building to the basement interior by four mechanisms:

  1. Liquid water flows.
  2. Capillary suction.
  3. Vapor diffusion.
  4. Air movement.

Sometimes problems are traced to poor construction with cracking and settling foundations. In many cases, however, houses and basements can be structurally sound but must be properly built to handle water drainage. Failure to slope the ground surface away from the foundation or lack of a good gutter and downspout system is common. Missing or nonfunctioning subsurface drainage systems are also found relatively frequently. These problems can all be addressed and corrected if a systematic approach is used. 

Uncovering the issues with your basement, humidity, and possible foundation problems, can be addressed with a simple inspection. The findings from the inspection will help determine the best course of action.

What should your basement humidity be?

Basement humidity levels vary by seasonal change, climate, and geographic location. The ideal basement humidity level ranges from 30-50 percent. However, 60% can lead to very high moisture and mold, and 70% can affect drywall and flooring, causing them to bow and display mold outright.

Basement Humidity in the Summer

During the summer months, the air outside is hotter and more humid. Unfortunately, that air can enter your basement, increasing your humidity to around 60 percent. Because of this, homeowners must work to adjust those levels back to the ideal humidity level between 30 and 50 percent or risk mold, mildew, and bacteria buildup. American Family Insurance.

Basement Humidity in the Winter

In the winter, cold air from outside can make the humidity levels in your basement drop. And if that cold air is making its way inside, it’s probably having a negative impact on your heating bills, too. During the winter months, you’ll want to keep your in-home humidity levels around 25 – 40 percent when outdoor temps range from 20° F to 0° F, with the lower percentages reserved for, the colder temps. Low humidity levels can adversely affect your health, causing things like nosebleeds and dry skin and making you more vulnerable to common winter-time sicknesses. American Family Insurance.

How to remove humidity from your basement?

The sooner you begin to address the humidity levels in your basement, the easier the fix will be. Unfortunately, most homeowners are unaware they have humidity in the basement until they feel the floor is damp or begin to find mold. Here are some tips that can keep humidity down in your basement:

  • Buy a dehumidifier. Putting a dehumidifier in the dampest part of your basement can dramatically reduce humidity levels. Even a small dehumidifier has a fan that draws in the air — that air then runs into cooled coils that remove its moisture and deposit it in an attached tank or down a drain. Make sure to check and empty the reservoir regularly or talk to a plumber about having your dehumidifier attached to a floor drain.
  • Exhaust fans. Will a fan help reduce humidity in a basement? YES! Another way to reduce moisture downstairs is to install basement fans to control humidity. Similar in function to a bathroom fan, these high-capacity vents push moist air away from the basement and into the outside air. If used sparingly, you can also run your bathroom fans to reduce humidity in the house.
  • Open the windows! (…if it’s not raining). Fresh air can work wonders and make the basement less humid, especially on these spring evenings when the temperature is cooler outside than inside.

What does humidity do to your basement and home?

How can I control basement humidity in my home?

Basements are connected to the main living area in most homes built using ductwork for heat and air conditioning. Mold and mildew can grow in basements on carpeting, drywall, and storage areas filled with cardboard boxes and other materials that can attract mold. Mold is a fungus that can be highly concentrated in areas with poor ventilation.

According to the CDC, Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery. Some people are sensitive to mold. For these people, mold exposure can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of mold in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.

Damp Basement Solution and Resources to Keep Humidity Levels Low

The presence of basement humidity does not necessarily mean that you have a water issue or mold. However, basement humidity comes from somewhere, and a no-cost inspection and estimate are well worth your time. Contact us to learn more and keep your family and home healthy and mold-free.

Aardvark Basement Proz LLC

Resources: American Family Insurance, University of Minnesota Extension, CDC