Advice on Properly Ventilating a Basement

8 posts in this topic

Hello All!

We live in a somewhat older house (built in 1914) and its constructed like many of the older homes in RLP, out of the red-Sandstone bricks.  The basement is unfinished, but one side is considered a "dry basement" and the other is not.  The basement is divided into three rooms, all without doors, and each has two to three small windows.  They're the rectangular types that look like they used to be coal chutes back in the day.  We have always had problems controlling the climate in the basement and keeping the moisture levels down, especially on the rooms that are not considered a dry basement.  Everything smells like mildew and feels a bit damp.  I haven't seen mold, but its probably there.  Regarding the windows, should I open them or keep them closed to help with moisture?  I've tried googling, but the answers are all over the place and none had specific instructions for sandstone houses.  I'm sure that depending on the season, I should have them open or closed, but I'm not sure which.  Looking to see if anyone else has experience with this and could provide some advice.

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I feel your pain.  My cellar has a WC and two rooms, but thankfully doors and a heater.  One room is my bedroom and the other a storage room.  I purchased a dehumidifier and hygrometer last year, which has helped.  I also removed the old crap aluminium windows in 2018 and replaced them with insulated windows.  There is no real secret to this, but hit and miss.  I will also run the heater on occasion to help dry out the room.

When I wake, I 'kip' the windows.  Mostly to circulate the air and get fresh air in.  On rainy days the humidity might be 70% while the windows are open and sometimes 55%.  I simply watch the humidity levels and when it's above 65%, I'll run the dehumidifier for a couple of hours.  One does need to watch this as mould can develop and is a health hazard.  If the mould becomes really bad, it can cost a large sum.

If you are doing laundry in the cellar, I highly recommend you do not leave the wet clothes to dry out down there.  This does not help the situation.  Also, do not keep anything directly against the walls.  Air needs to circulate around the room as much as possible.

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You may be fighting a battle against damp walls which cannot win unless you invest into a barrier against rising dampness. However, you can prevent mold by painting the walls with a high-ph paint ( at least 10, the higher, the better).

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4 minutes ago, Fietsrad said:

Would it be worth trying to ventilate as much as possible?

No, it might make the situation worse, especially in summer as warm air can hold a lot of water which will condensate at cooler walls.

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On 19/09/2022, 14:31:14, Fietsrad said:

Would it be worth trying to ventilate as much as possible?

 

If you can heat the cellar and it is cooler outside then ventilation will help.  Cold air cannot store as much water as warm air, so you will definitely be removing moisture.  Key is to ventilate for short periods so that you only cool the air down and not the cellar itself.  A de-humidifier is another option.

 

And buy a couple of hygrometers so you can check if moisture is too high and if what you are doing is having an effect.   You can get simple ones for about 10-20 Euro, e.g., on Amazon.

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Thanks for the tips everyone.  I'm definitely looking to get the dehumidifier to help out.  I should add, while there are water pipes in the ceiling that lead to the radiators on the main floor, there is no heating in the basement.  Since I made this post, I have been opening the windows and the door leading into the basement for about 1-2 hours a day and it has helped significantly.  The musty smell went away quickly.  Now we have at least 10 days of rain in the upcoming forecast, so I'm not sure I'll be able to open the windows as much as the air will be too moist.  After doing some research, it appears that I should be doing this type of ventilation throughout the year.  During Spring and Summer, it must be done in the early morning or night hours when the outside air is cooler than the inside (hopefully).  Otherwise, as others have pointed out, it can cause moisture to build up.  Fall and Winter are a bit easier, as long as the air is dry, it is usually cooler outside than inside and it shouldn't cause a moisture issue.

 

I'm also renting the place, so I'm not about to pay 80 grand myself to dig out the basement and make it all dry.  Thats on the landlord.  I think I'm on the right track though, if anything changes I'll re-visit the post and let everyone know.

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Just providing an update.  Looks like I found a solution with daily ventilation.  Since my last post, it has become noticeably drier and less musty smelling.  It is a bit annoying having to go down there and open the windows each day, but it seems like it does the trick.  When it rains or if its damp outside, I leave them closed, but when I go to open the windows as soon as its dry, I can see condensation gathering on all the windows.  The key is to keep the air flowing.  Its a bit easier now in the fall weather, but we'll see how it goes come Winter and Summer.

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