Why Does My Basement Smell Musty?

Have you noticed a damp, musty smell in your basement recently? Although your basement is as close to the ground as can get, this is not normal. There are reasons as to why this is happening, and they must be addressed immediately as you notice the smell.

Basement Dampness

That musty smell you notice when you descend into your basement is a result two things — organic material and dampness. The dampness is quite common to most residential basements because of vapour pressure against the foundation floor and walls. Outdoor moisture percolates through the soils and migrates under your home, exerting a pressure on the concrete floor and walls. This is especially common to cities like Ottawa that get a lot of snow in the winter and frequent rainfalls in the warmer months.

Organic Material in Your Home

The second part of the equation, organic material, is any type of material made by Mother Nature that comes in contact with the damp environment. It can be wood framing, common dust, paper, skin cells, or cardboard — all things present in your home. When organic material and dampness are joined together in your basement, the moisture is absorbed by the organic material providing the ingredients suitable for mould growth. The musty odour we notice is the mould spores secreting an enzyme into the organic material to break it down for digestion. This activity creates the musty odour we recognize in our basements. The longer you leave the musty smell in your basement, the more mould can grow and not only affect the air quality you breathe but also slowly eat at your home and belongings.

Improving Your Basement’s Air Quality

The way to a healthy basement begins by reducing the air dampness with quality eavestrough, positive soil grading, or basement dehumidification, followed by identification of the organic material location, and eventually, its removal. Once these areas have been cleaned, the application of a natural fungistat spray and soap, or fog treatment will keep the mould from returning. It is also crucial to get a home inspection before you buy a new home to ensure you are not inheriting any mould problems. Make sure to maintain good air quality in your entire home but especially your basement, since air contaminated with mould can lead to health problems for your entire family. Mould can also eat into your drywall and flooring, so it is best to address immediately as you notice a musty smell. Better to be safe than sorry!

If you are concerned with your home’s air quality and want to get to the bottom of what’s causing a musty smell in your basement, contact us at Indoor Air Quality Ottawa for an inspection of your home.