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 Tips for a Healthier Basement
  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 condensation.

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. 

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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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