New Buyers: Damp Basement Creeping You Out? Deal with It!
Like any homeowner, I want to use every square inch of home I pay for in my monthly mortgage. If there are mice, radon problems, pet smells left behind by previous occupants, or dampness issues, I’m unlikely to enjoy—if I even use at all—the space the basement offers. Now that I own a home that has a basement, Im learning to deal with all of these issues. Today though. I’ll only write about dealing with damp cellars. One thing at a time is the way we all stay sane in this adventure they call first-time home ownership!
A basement, to me, is a whole new dimension. I grew up in a ranch house in California, spent my 20’s in various apartments in San Francisco, then married and moved to Portland, OR to buy a home. Basements, a thing I’d only read about before, are very much a part of life here, and many of the single-family homes available for purchase offer this subterranean space (See for yourself: search homes for sale in Portland, OR). But what to do with a basement that’s not totally dry, particularly in a wet climate?
Even if you plan to use your basement for a Bikram Yoga studio, you can’t afford to let moisture linger too long on the floor, walls, and shelves. Moisture causes rot, rust, mold and eats away at paint. These issues can affect air quality and, logically, your health.
But how to deal with moisture in a basement? The online resources number in the thousands, so I opted to speak to an expert, Kaya Construction here in Portland. They offered several ideas, running full spectrum from expensive professional measures to simply DIY projects. Here’s the short-list.
- A) Insulate the pipes around your hot water heater.
- B) Consider flooring options like Dricor which can be floated over a basement floor, absorbing moisture and leveling the floor so it’s ready for tile or carpet if you’re shooting for a total makeover. The photo on the left shows people installing Dricor, which according to its website can be done DIY style or via professional help. On my budget, I always like to have that option.
2. Circulate air:
This may mean you install an exhaust fan, use a dehumidifier, open windows whenever possible (cutting in windows if none exist). Note though that dehumidifiers aren’t indicated all year round. In winter months when the air is cold, sucking moisture from the basement can cause walls to dry too much, risking cracks/crumbling of sheetrock and/or cement. Be sure to read all the literature on these machines so you don’t make the problem worse.
3. Check dryer vent:
You may need to move things around if your vent currently runs into the basement. This means you might have to cut a new exit for the air from the dryer to escape, but think about it. You’d much prefer all that steamy air outside your house, not collecting in your already damp basement.
4. Check the rainfall drainage:
- A) Check how water around your home pools up after heavy rains. Is it just sitting there? This could be a drainage issue, meaning you might want to regrade the earth nearest your home to force water away from it, down into the street. Make sure water doesn't pool around your house.
- B) Gutters need constant clearing, particularly in windy winter months. You could also think about installing a rain barrel under the gutter spout to catch and store the water for later use, an ecological and economical option.
5. Moisture absorbers:
Use a substance like Damp Rid in your home: this product absorbs moisture through crystals. It comes in a tub and you have to replace it periodically, but it works for large areas like basements and can be placed on any flat surface (so in other words, easy!), including up high and out of the way of curious kid hands and puppy noses.
6. Paint on Sealants:
You can actually help waterproof walls by painting on moisture absorbing basement sealers. They come in tubs like paint, and also like paint, offer several colors, so can function both to help with dampness and to jazz the space up a bit. My husband and I purchased DampLock at Home Depot for less than $30 (though we may need more. We have yet to paint it on so I’ll check back with you on how applying it actually goes.)
Though I put it last, it may be most important. Cracks and leaks are the enemy of dry, solid basements. Above all, those need finding and fixing. Hopefully you had a good home inspector who found them pre-buying the house. But if not, contact a good contractor or employ some fairly advanced DIY well in advance of the rainy season.
A final word of advice: good local Realtors® often know excellent construction workers experienced with issues like these, specific to the area you’re buying in; some are in fact also contractors. Discuss your basement issues (or any issues!) with your real estate agent before and after the sale of your home.
More DIY for Your New Home
Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert.