Basements and Indoor Air Quality

The basement. Home to a myriad of things we put away for storage, college kids using it a “pad”, and as a not-so-secret “underground lab” for when we need to work on special projects that may or may not be picked up by big business. But it can also be a breeding ground of poor indoor air quality that can make any of us suffer while down there. The basement is often an afterthought for those of us too busy with maintaining cleaner IAQ in our normal living spaces but those areas which we generally do not always go to are equally important. So what dangers do basements present in relation to IAQ?

One of the things we have seen time and time again is the issue of Radon Gas. It is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless radioactive gas that can cause cancer in the residents living over it. Oftentimes we may want to remodel the basement to suit additional needs or wants as the years go by. From creating an additional room for older relatives/loved ones to creating the workshop of our dreams to building a family game room and indoor cinema, the possibilities are nearly limitless. But, as with any redecoration process, the quality of the indoor air should be taken into account and afforded as much, if not more, priority over which color to repaint it. As part of the remodeling process, often done by a professional contractor, the basement should be tested for radon gas exposure and the contractor should, at your behest, install measures to keep your family safe from its clutches.

Since basements are usually below ground, the problems of ventilation and excess moisture present themselves almost immediately. Whether your remodeling efforts are a total re-invention or just to update certain things within, such as windows and paint scheme, it is imperative that you give considerable thought to these two potential problems. As with any new project, you want to upgrade certain aspects to make them safer. One way in which to do this and help with IAQ is to purchase and install new ENERGY STAR® windows. The benefits may be that they may help to lessen condensation which in turn lessens growth of mold and mildew. Another benefit replacing your windows with new ones is, if your old windows were painted and old, that you rid your basement of lead based paint that, when opening and closing the window, would blow lead dust into the air.

As mentioned above, ventilation and excess moisture are clear and present dangers to IAQ and thus must be dealt with. The window replacement is one way to help safeguard against excess moisture, another way is to fix or replace any piping that comes through the basement. With the repairing of the piping, leaks are less likely to happen and thus removes the threat of excess moisture. Ventilation could be taken care of in a number of ways. If your basement has windows, open them frequently to allow outside fresh air in, replacing the stale air trapped inside. As well, during your remodeling, you may want to include mechanical ventilation in your remodel.

Venting the air of your dryer to the outside is another way to help with controlling moisture, which is something that is more reasonable than venting it into the basement. One thing that many of these areas have in common in many homes is that the floor of the basement is that of the earth. As part of your possible remodeling efforts, make sure that the basement floor is made more solid and airtight. Be sure to use materials that are generally free from hazardous chemicals that threaten your basement’s IAQ. Something that you may not have thought of, redirecting rain runoff away from your home’s foundation, helping keep excess moisture from seeping through to your lower level promoting mold growth.

These are but some of the ways in which to improve the IAQ of your basement. While a total refit and remodel of your basement might not be in your plans, simple things as mentioned above as window replacement and pipe fixture will help to improve your lower level’s IAQ and thus the quality of your health.

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