Problem: Moldy basement. Despite best efforts, mold can creep into a dark, wet corner of the basement.
Solution: In order to understand how your basement got moldy in the first place, you need to understand mold.
Mold needs a few things to thrive:
- food (primarily wood, like drywall, but also some adhesives and paints)
- a temperature between 40-100ºF
Superficially, a little bit of mold can be cleaned using soap and water (don’t do this if you have allergies), but it’s more important to think about where the mold is coming from.
Mold primarily needs water to spread. So if your basement is moldy, you have a water problem. If you fix your water problem, you fix your mold problem. It’s important to consult an energy auditor to confirm where your water damage is coming from, but there are a few common culprits in basements.
Wet spots on the ceiling of your basement generally indicate a water leak (from a shower, toilet, or bathtub, perhaps?). A plumber can fix these leaks which will control the moisture.
You may also find standing water in your basement. This tends to mean a leak in the foundation. Control this by cleaning and redirecting your rain gutter, and making sure that your sump pump is working correctly - if you have one, that is.
High humidity in your home can also lead to mold formation. Everyday activities such as cooking, showering, or drying your clothes can contribute to high humidity, which leads to moisture. Proper ventilation (e.g. ventilation fans in the kitchen and bathroom) can control this moisture.
A dirt-floor basement should be covered with plastic to slow water vapor, and a dehumidifier might be helpful during the summer. However, there may be a bigger problem with your heating/cooling system that an energy auditor can detect.