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Keep Your Basement Dry
A wet basement is like a pebble in your shoe: an irritant that you can never really ignore. The difference is that the pebble problem is easily solved, while the wet basement problem isn't.
And the wet-basement problem builds and compounds. Water and dampness ruin furnishings, but that's only the beginning. Excessive indoor moisture promotes dust mites and sometimes causes furnishings and building materials to emit chemicals into the air, and standing water supports cockroach and rodent infestations. Yick!
Unless your house is poorly built, your site is improperly graded, or you are hit by the effects of a disastrous storm, it is not difficult to keep your basement dry.
Most importantly, maintain, drain, and watch the rain to make sure that rain and runoff stay outside your home.
If you live in a humid region, air out the basement whenever possible. Or use a portable dehumidifier to control the humidity. They aren't too expensive, and an ENERGY STAR dehumidifier will not add much to your electric bill. Often, the waste heat from a dehumidifier will be all the heat you need if it's not too cold outside, which is usually the case if humidity is a problem. When your air conditioner is operating, use it in the recirculation mode (damper or vent "closed") to efficiently dry your basement air while cooling your basement.
When you make plans to finish your basement or otherwise remodel it, treat the basement as a system. Remember that in any system a change in one part can have a dramatic effect on the whole. Try to anticipate these interactions.
For instance if you insulate your basement, make sure that you won't be trapping moisture within the insulation. Insulating a basement is much trickier than insulating an above-ground space. Find some useful basement insulating guidelines in this article from Professional Remodeler.
If you see a problem, fix it. There are some systems that detect a leak and automatically shut down your domestic water to minimize the flood damage.
For more information visit PATH's Site Work Rehab Guide and Foundation Rehab Guide. Also see PATH's previous Tips of the Month on Weatherizing Your Home, and Moisture and Mold.
Other Related Resources
Durability By Design: A Guide for Residential Builders and Designers
Content updated on 8/3/2006
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