10 Steps to Prevent Mold in Your Basement
Throughout the winter months, your basement is especially susceptible to mold growth. Melted snow and increased condensation create a moist and humid environment, the ideal conditions for mold.
Not only does mold have an unpleasant, musty smell, it also can be difficult to remove once it starts growing. Especially for allergy sufferers, the sooner you get rid of mold, the better. But how can you prevent mold from growing in the first place? Try out these steps for preventing mold from growing in your home.
1. Maintain Proper Humidity Levels
According to the EPA, controlling moisture is the key to mold prevention. The EPA recommends keeping your humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, which are available at an affordable price at many hardware stores.
2. Use Air Conditioners and/or a Dehumidifier
If you see condensation on your basement windows, walls, or pipes, make sure to dry the surface and reduce moisture in the area with your air conditioning system or dehumidifier. Clean your air conditioner’s drip pans and replace your dehumidifier filter regularly. If you don't want to install a permanent dehumidifier in your basement, portable units are available.
3. Keep up With Maintenance
Clean and repair roof gutters on a regular basis and be sure to fix any cracks that may be causing leaks. Fallen leaves and other debris in your gutters obstruct the flow of water, leading to gutter spillover, which may seep into your basement. To help prevent water from entering or pooling around your home, make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation. If your basement is wet, inspect the outside drainage system — you may need to replace cracked or defective mortar in the basement walls.
4. Take Care of Spills Right Away
The longer water sits, the more likely it is that mold will begin to sprout. According to the EPA, if wet surfaces or items are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill happens, mold will most likely not grow.
5. Insulate Your Basement Water Pipes
Condensation dripping from cold water pipes can add to basement mold problems. By insulating your pipes, you can reduce water buildup and also prevent freezing. If pipes start leaking after a hard freeze, cut off your water supply immediately and call a professional if other drainage issues occur.
6. Keep Your Basement Clean and Clutter-free
By vacuuming and cleaning your basement regularly, you can reduce sources of mold growth. Too much clutter obstructs the natural flow of air and reduces ventilation, so try to declutter as much as possible. Avoid storing wood in your basement because it is a main target for mold and mildew. Make sure to store clothes, books, and other mold-attracting items away from the floor and walls. Also, leave your wet laundry to dry upstairs instead of in the basement.
7. Improve Ventilation
Use an exhaust fan to air out stale, humid air, and take in fresh air. Routinely open doors and windows to the basement to promote air movement. Make sure dryers, heaters, and air conditioners exhaust to the outside. If you have ceiling fans in your basement, set them in reverse. Operating ceiling fans overnight will help increase air circulation, preventing condensation and moisture.
8. Avoid Growing Plants in Your Basement
Growing plants in the basement provides the perfect diet and conditions for mold. It is better to cultivate plants in sunny, airy, upper-level rooms in your home.
9. Opt for Mold Resistant Flooring and Walls
If possible, avoid installing carpets or wood flooring in the basement because these materials are mold-friendly. Never install carpet directly onto the concrete basement floor — wet carpet is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The most mold resistant flooring options are PVC, porcelain, ceramic tile, and rubberized flooring. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adding mold inhibitors to your paints to prevent your walls from growing mold.
10. Get Your Basement Checked by a Professional
Basement inspections never hurt. If you are experiencing water or mold problems that you aren’t sure how to handle, calling a professional is a good solution.