A musty smell from one room or area in the basement can make to whole house smell musty. A musty basement smell can trigger allergies and diminish the apparent value of the house. A musty smell often arises when a basement room has been closed up too long. The musty smell is largely caused by humidity in a room or area, and the lack of circulation. The source of the humidity is most likely caused by cracks in walls or in the foundation. This trapped moisture can lead to mold or mildew, a fungus that grows in dark damp conditions, and that makes itself noticeable by it’s musty smell. When air flow in a basement area is increased by the operation of heating or air conditioning systems, the musty smell and evidence of mold or mildew can be hidden, as the musty smell is not allowed to sit around, collect, become noticeable.
To get rid of a “musty smell” initiate the following steps.
1. clean out the basement – fixtures, walls, all hard surfaces need to be wiped down with warm water and a disinfectant; launder washables in the washing machine; on a sunny day place what is practical out in the yard or on the deck – the sun provides natural disinfection; fabric furniture and flooring may have to be steam cleaned; recycle where possible, or dispose of unused or unneeded items such as old papers, etc. If you encounter mold or mildew, wear protective equipment including particle masks and disposable latex gloves.
2. check pipes and the floor drain – condensation is humidity which can produce mildew; wrap pipe insulation around basement pipes; fix leaking pipes or faucets (get professional help as necessary) check that the floor drain in your basement floor is clean and clear; make sure that outside, the ground slopes away from the building and that downspouts extend six feet away from the building.
3. reduce high humidity – if humidity in a basement is typical, consider installing a de-humidifier; or, increase ventilation for example with air vent fans.
4. correct perspiring walls – if condensation builds up on basement walls, first, get the walls dry with open windows, fans and dehumidifiers; then wash the walls with trisodium phosphate (also known as TSP available at paint stores and hardware stores). Then seal the walls with latex concrete sealer.
5. repair cracks in the walls – try using ready-made concrete that can be purchased in smaller amounts. Choose a sunny day so that areas worked on are dry;
6. refresh the air – spray the basement with air freshener; you can also put down charcoal briquettes to absorb lingering odors.