musty smell in dry basement

catbOctober 21, 2006

We have a musty smell in our otherwise dry basement. When I hang anything in the basement, either wet or dry, everything always seem to smell musty. Will a dehumidifier help eliminate this musty smell. When we purchased our home, we installed a reverse osmosis system in the basement along with a water softner. The RO system had water waste and this drains into our stantionary tub. This is the only water, except for the washing machine draining into tub, that is in the basement. All the walls and cement floor are dry. Any ideas?????

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When you watch your weather report you will note that they report both the present temperature and the dewpoint. Dewpoint is determined by the percentage of moisture in the atmosphere and the dewpoint temperature is the temperature at which precipitation would occur if the ambient temperature was to drop.

Example, your temperature may be 75degF with a dewpoint of 65degF. This means that if the air temp was to drop to 65degF moisture, usually in the form of dew, fog or rain will occur.

The lower portion of your basement walls and the floor are well below the point where surface air temps effect soil temperature so the soil under the floor will generally remain fairly constant at the earths surface geothermal temp of 50 to 60degF. Concrete conducts heat so as the air in the basement contacts the concrete floor some of the heat energy in the air is absorbed into the concrete and on into the soil underneath which means the air at floor temperature will generally remain just slightly warmer than the floor temp. The end result is moisture in the air will condensate on the concrete. Normally it is not noticable in open areas where the air might remain in motion but in areas where air movement is restricted such as in and around boxes or other materials stored directly on the floor moisture will occur. The effects of condensate are generally most noticable on cold water pipes, which form droplets on the underside of the pipe and often lead people to believe there are pinholes in the pipe.

To find the source of the musty smell check under any rubber floor matting or cardboard items that are in direct contact with the concrete floor. If you notice that the concrete appears darker under those items it is a result of condensate moisture.

The solution.

1. use open weave type floor matts.
2. keep stored materials slightly elevated on pallets or shelves.
3. increase air flow by means of powered ventilation or a dehumidifier unit.

When you locate damp areas treat them to kill the odor causing bacteria by mopping the area with a solution of bleach and water or a lysol type disinfectant and keep the area open until it dries thoroughly. You can decrease the drying time by directing a fan over the area.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 1:54PM
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thanks for responding lazypup. From past experience, when we purchased this house I went and bought a large qty of shelves. Only a few plastic containers too large for a shelve unit are sitting on floor. Dehumidifer unit is probably the way I will go. Hopefully that will work. thanks again

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 9:23PM
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You may want to try ordinary fans first; there's a small chance that will solve the problem, especially during cold winter months. Sometimes simply circulating the air will help decrease a slight musty smell. Even if the fans don't solve the problem alone, you may want to runs them along with the dehumidifier. They are cheap to buy, cheap to run and will aid the work of the dehumifier.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 11:00PM
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