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How to Fix a Dry Basement That Still Smells Musty

Do you have a dry basement that still has a musty smell? That usually means there is (or was) too much moisture present. This excess moisture caused mold and mildew to grow on walls or floors, and this is what’s causing the smell. In other words, while your basement may be dry now, at one point it wasn’t, and that is why it smells musty.

In this blog post, we’ll review the causes of moisture in a basement, how to get rid of the smell, and offer advice on how you can keep moisture from returning. 

Why Do Basements Often Smell Musty?

Basements often smell musty because they’re underground and tend to be damp, and the moisture can lead to mold growth if not properly controlled. Mold thrives in moisture-rich environments, and releases unpleasant odors as it goes. 

Another reason for a musty basement smell can be old, stagnant air. The air can become stale and musty over time because basements are often closed off and don’t get as much ventilation as the rest of the house. 

For more information, see Water In The Basement.

But My Basement Is Dry and It Still Smells Musty. What’s Going On?

If there’s a musty smell in your dry basement, it means either your basement isn’t as dry as you think it is, or it was damp at one time, and this caused mold to grow – mold which is still there even though the basement is now dry.

Even though you don’t see visible moisture in the basement, it could still be there. Perhaps you have open basement windows that allow warm, humid air to flow in and condense on cooler surfaces. This can lead to excess humidity that promotes the growth of mold and mildew. 

Another possibility is you’ve recently had flooding or water damage in your basement, and even though you’ve dried the basement out, residual moisture is still there. Even if you’ve cleaned up the visible water, dampness can remain in carpeting, walls, and other items, which can cause a persistent musty smell. In this case, you may need to bring in a professional to help with drying out the space.

Finally, there may be hidden sources of mold or mildew in your basement causing the smell. This could be due to a leak somewhere, such as in pipes or around windows, or poor insulation that allows moisture to seep in. If you suspect this might be the case, it’s best to have a professional inspect your basement.

Why Moisture in a Basement Is Not a Good Thing

Mold loves moist environments and can grow quickly in a damp basement, releasing spores that can cause respiratory problems and other health issues. This is a problem because some of the air from the basement flows upstairs into your home’s living area. In other words, if the air in the basement is full of mold, the air upstairs will be too. 

Moisture can also seep into foundation walls (i.e., basement walls), causing damage and potentially leading to expensive repairs.

A damp basement can also attract pests like termites and rodents. So, it’s definitely not something you want to ignore or brush off as a minor issue.

How to Fix a Dry Basement That Still Smells Musty

The best way to combat that musty smell is to ensure the basement stays dry. The best way to do that is to make sure there’s no excess moisture in the ground around the foundation. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Regrade your yard, if necessary, so that it slopes away from the house. This will ensure groundwater flows away from your foundation rather than towards it. It’s a bit of work, but absolutely worth it in the long run.
  • Install downspout extensions. These are just little bits of pipe that attach to your downspouts to carry water further away from your house before release. Simple, yet effective!
  • Clean your gutters regularly so they aren’t clogged with leaves and other debris. You want water to flow through them properly and into the downspouts.
  • Consider installing a drain tile system. This is basically a network of buried drainage pipes installed around your foundation to help carry water away from your house. This one is a bit more involved and definitely requires a professional, but it’s worth considering if you’re dealing with serious moisture issues.

In addition to the above, also consider basement waterproofing, which can require excavation if done from the outside. Also, a vapor barrier can help stop moisture from entering the basement through the foundation wall. Of course, any cracks in the basement wall – even tiny ones – should be sealed. A foundation repair contractor should inspect larger cracks to ensure they don’t affect your home’s structural integrity. 

For more information, see 6 Ways to Fix Basement Wall Leaks.

But My Basement Stinks Now. How Can I Get Rid of The Musty Smell That’s Already There?

If there’s mold or mildew present, you’ll need to clean and disinfect the affected areas. Use a solution of bleach and water to kill spores and remove stains. Be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear, and keep the area well-ventilated while you work. If there’s a lot of mold, or the musty smell is very strong, consider a professional mold remediation service.   

If you’re concerned about a musty smell in your basement, contact Ohio Basement Systems today to schedule a free inspection. If we find a problem, we’ll provide a repair estimate. 

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