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Your basement can have a large effect on the durability of the entire house structure and on IAQ in the home.  The fact the most basements are completely below grade means that it must be treated and maintained differently than the rest of the house.  Basements house the foundation that your home sits on and compromising the integrity of the basement can be a hazard.   Preventative maintenance is key because once structural damage starts, it is extremely expensive to repair if left too long.

An unfinished basement is fairly easy to maintain, as any problems are visible to the naked eye.  A finished basement is much more difficult to detect problems as the foundation and floor is covered.  If you are ever considering finishing a basement in your home, ensure that a professional contractor does the work to alleviate any small mistakes the average person may make which could be costly later on to remedy.  Never finish a basement that has signs of any water damage unless a professional makes the repair first.  There is nothing worse than having to tear down an expensive project to make repairs and then have to rebuild.  If purchasing or building a brand new home, it is advisable that the basement not be finished for a year or so, as it takes this time for the house to 'settle'.  Foundation or floor cracks may appear over this time, possibly causing water leakage and can result in damage to the building materials, let alone you items and furniture down there.

Water is your home's Number One Enemy.  Always keep your basement dry.  Just because you 'don't go down there', does not mean that you do not need to maintain it.  Proper ventilation, climate control and cleanliness are three important parts of your basement's maintenance.  As you have probably learned throughout this website, the duct system of your home is the 'respiratory system' of your home and although the basement door may be closed to the upstairs, odours, mould, dust and humidity in the basement are distributed throughout the home via the furnace and duct system.  It is considered part of your indoor living space and should be treated as such.

The following are some tips on keeping your basement healthy:

  • Keep basements ventilated and climate controlled (all doors open, all vents open)
  • Keep humidity levels throughout home AND basement consistent and within 35-50% relative humidity
  • A dehumidifier in the basement along with central air conditioning can keep humidity levels down during the summer months when outdoor levels are extremely high
  • Keep your cold cellar (if you have one) dry and never block vents to the outdoors.  Note: cold cellars are considered 'outdoor space' and should not be treated as part of the home (i.e. climate controlled, etc.).  Weather stripping and an exterior style door must be used.
  • Do not store firewood inside the basement (especially on the floor).  Moisture can get into it and cause mould to grow (wood / paper / cardboard products are a favorite breeding ground for mould).
  • Although a basement floor may be concrete with no cracks and possibly sealed, moisture will come through naturally in small amounts, which is normal and usually poses no problems.  Items stored (especially in cardboard boxes) for long periods of time, however, will eventually absorb enough moisture to develop mould, degrading the box and contaminating all of its items.  Keep all stored belongings in plastic bins and preferably up on shelves.
  • A working floor drain is needed at the lowest point of the floor just in case of a flood from the outdoors or a leak from indoors occurs.  
  • Some homes require a sump pump if their property is at a certain elevation from storm sewers or a rural area with no sewers. Regularly check that your sump pump is in good working condition for those emergency situations.  Flood remediation is very costly and an inexpensive sump pump can save a lot of money in these situations.
  • Grading around the house is an important way of keeping leaking to a minimum.  Ensure that the property slopes away from the home (check after a thaw or rainstorm that there is no 'puddling' against the foundation).  Even the most solid and perfect foundation will leak under saturated circumstances.
  • Concrete floors are much preferred over dirt floors and should be sealed to prevent concrete dust from becoming airborne.

  • All cold water pipes should be insulated to avoid condensation which over time may drip causing mould growth or structural damage. 
  • Proper dryer ventilation to the outdoors made from safety recommended material is important to get the damp air to the outside, keep the lint out of the home and prevent fire hazards.  Cleaning out your dryer vent by a professional at least every 3 years is also recommended to prevent fire hazards.
  • If you have a washroom or kitchen in the basement, it is mandatory that there be an exhaust fan in these areas to exhaust damp air from showers or cooking.
  • Musty smells are a good indication of moisture problems and should be investigated by a professional for mould
  • When planning to renovate in the basement, the area must be dry and clean to avoid problems down the road.
  • Seal and repair any openings in the foundation to prevent moisture, pests, or radon from invading the basement, and therefore the rest of the house. 
  • Never put carpet directly on a concrete floor (or any style of floor for that matter).  A subfloor, sealant and/or vapour barrier is necessary to avoid mould growth over a long period of time as moisture naturally seeps through concrete in small amounts.
If you are concerned about the integrity of your basement, or have concerns about odours, dampness or mould, call Home Heroes today for recommendations specific to your home's needs!
 
 
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