First of all…
What is a Basement?
A basement is a hole in the ground.
The ground is made of soil, and almost all soil carries moisture.
Moisture is a basement’s worst enemy.
Why is Moisture Bad for Basements?
Where there is moisture, there is mold.
And if you want a desirable, long-lasting basement, and a clean, safe living environment – you definitely don’t want mold.
Mold exposure can cause congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy throat, eye and skin irritation and more. About 10-20% of people worldwide are allergic to mold, as are 25% of people with allergies, and for those who are allergic, mold can cause even more severe reactions and lead to larger health problems. Prolonged exposure to indoor molds can lead to upper respiratory tract infections and exacerbate asthma. Young children and older people are especially susceptible to the effects of mold. Mold exposure or dampness may even cause people to develop asthma, according to the CDC.
Besides the array of health issues mold can cause, and the nasty smell it can leave in your home and on your things, it can lead to extensive home damage requiring lengthy and costly repairs.
Mold removal in itself can be quite expensive, requiring anything from cleaning and disinfecting walls, carpet and personal items to removing drywall to repairing structural damage and refinishing your entire basement. These costs could end up $30,000 or more.
So What Exactly Is Mold, Anyway?
- Mold is a fungus that releases microscopic spores into the air
- Mold spores love moisture
- Mold needs four things to grow: moisture, food, air and room temperature
Organic materials such as dust, fabric, wallpaper, wood, drywall, carpet and paint provide the perfect food and lots of nourishment for mold to grow and to reproduce
- One square inch of drywall can contain up to 10 million mold spores
- Mold can be growing even when you can’t see it
- Mold grows year-round — in any kind of home with the right conditions
- As molds grow and reproduce, the spores are sent out into the air
- Just as heat rises, so does mold. The spores will be drawn upward and throughout your home, finding and landing on any organic materials it finds in your home
- Whenever the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the spores will start to spread, landing and growing throughout your home
How Does Mold Get In To Your Home in the First Place?
It’s everywhere. And once things get wet, it has a chance to grow. All basements get wet at some point – if not from outside water, then from a plumbing leak, roof leak or even from a central air conditioner problem.
When water enters your basement it creates dampness, and dampness creates the opportunity for mold to grow.
Mold can grow in your basement even without a leak.
Because basements are in the ground, they tend to be cooler, and when the external air enters the house through water diffusion, the humidity goes up. When humidity goes up, the air gets damp and becomes the perfect condition for spores to grow and reproduce.
What can I do to Protect My Basement and Home from Mold?
There are several things you can do to prevent mold from finding food and a place to live in your home.
1. Start with the Right Construction When Finishing or Refinishing Your Basement
- Avoid organic materials such as fiberglass, wood, wood products and paint. These materials are a buffet for mold. When exposed to water, they absorb it and swell, warp and distort…and then grow mold. Wood studs, fiberglass installation and drywall are the most common materials used in basements in America, and they are also the biggest sources of food for mold. (One sheet of ½ inch drywall can absorb as much as 8 lbs. — one gallon! — of water weight when exposed to water. Once water damage occurs, these materials will need to be replaced, causing the need to get your basement finished all over again.)
- Instead of wood framing, plywood and drywall, opt for inorganic materials such as steel studs or luxury vinyl flooring. These inorganic materials do not provide food for mold to grow. In addition, if they do get wet, they don’t swell or warp, making them more durable in your basement.
- Even moisture & mold-resistant drywall absorb shocking amounts of water. Mold grows on drywall.
- Using the right materials means your basement will be durable. Even if it gets wet, you won’t be paying to redo it.
One of the smartest things you can do to defend your home is to waterproof your basement before finishing it.
Although there are many techniques, one of the most effective is to combine an interior foundation drain with an impermeable membrane along the exterior walls.
These systems prevent ground water or rain water from entering your basement through the foundation.
3. Check the Exteriors
Check to make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean, and always try to keep them that way.
Ideally, you want the land sloped away from your house. Check the slope grading near the foundation of your house and make yard grading changes if necessary.
Make sure window wells are properly installed and can drain.
4. Keep Your Basement Dry
Once your basement is complete, maintaining a dry atmosphere is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against mold.
Installing a SaniDry™ dehumidifier from Bluestem Total Basement Finishing can help you eliminate moisture while also cleaning the air in your basement.
By using the right materials to finish your basement, waterproofing before finishing, checking your exteriors and maintaining a dry atmosphere, you can create a safe and clean environment for you and your family and keep your basement feeling fresh and new for years to come.
Basement remodels can also contribute greatly to the resale value of your home. (Read more about The ROI of a Basement Remodel here).
For more information, or to have a conversation about creating a better basement for you and your family, contact us by phone or email and we’d be happy to discuss your home and see how we may be able to help you.
For more information about mold allergies and the effects of mold, visit these websites:
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Mold Sensitivity vs. Mold Allergy: What You Need to Know
- Mold growing in flooded basements or other damp spots can cause allergic reactions