No one should live in the basement. No
matter what you do to the basement it’s not going to be a healthy place
to live in. No one should have a bedroom, office or living space in a
basement. The ultimate scenario if you have to make the basement a
livable space is to have a radon mitigation system installed under he
slab and pressurize the air in the basement with fresh air from the
outdoors that is HEPA filtered and if necessary de-humidified. This is
assuming that there is not already mold growth on the walls or surfaces
in the basements. The resulting air in the basement had better be good
because by pressurizing the basement you keep the soil gases and odors
out, but the cause air in the basement to flow upstairs. You could try
to engineer the home or office such that the upstairs is also
pressurized with fresh air at a slightly higher pressure than the
basement but this gets tricky. Easier not to live in basements and to
keep the door to the basement closed.
Healthy Basements Essentials
- Monitor the relative humidity and
use a dehumidifier to keep it less than 50%.
- Heat the basement in the wintertime
to 65º F using an electric space heater or electric baseboard heat.
Avoid the use of gas.
- Ideally the furnace to heat the
house should not be in the basement. Furnaces and duct work leak.
Air from the basement will get sucked into the furnace and
distributed throughout the house. If there are ducts have them leak
tested and sealed with mastic.
- Store as little contents as possible
in the basement. Don’t store items especially cardboard boxes in
direct contact with the floor.
- Don’t put carpeting in basements.
Tile or paint the floor.
- Don’t finish the basement walls with
fiberglass insulation. Use rigid foam.
- Insulate the pipes to prevent
Keeping Hazards Down-under
Usually the bulk of any odor and hazardous or allergenic particulates
are finding their way into the living space via gaps around floor vents,
plumbing under kitchen and bathroom sinks, and electrical outlets in the
walls. The walls may look solid but a lot of air moves through them.
Electrical outlets are basically holes in the wall. Get some expanding
foam in an aerosol can used for insulating around doors and windows.
Seal the gaps around the holes cut out for the heating and cooling
supply vents in the floor.
From inside the basement, seal the gaps around kitchen and bath
plumbing, water supply lines and waste plumbing.
Sometimes there are vents in the floor. If you look down into you can
see the dirt in the crawlspace or basement. This is common in closets
where the gas furnace or hot water heater is. The vent is installed to
provide air for the gas appliance. Without air the gas appliances
wouldn’t work properly and might cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Unfortunately for your health, this vent also allows air from the
crawlspace or basement to come into the home. Air may also be sucked
into the heating and air-conditioning system. There are other ways to
ensure the gas appliances get enough air. One way is to cut a hole in
the closet door and put a vent cover there. Air will come from the rest
of the home instead of the crawlspace. Another is to replace gas
appliances with electric ones. See the chapter “Natural and Propane Gas”
for more ideas on this.