There are some times when adding humidity to your indoor air is a good thing. A bit of strategically managed humidity can improve your health, ease the signs of aging skin, fight off static and keep home furnishings in good repair.
But too much humidity or humidity in the wrong places can be damaging. Your basement is one of those places where you just don’t want to have overly humid air.
According to the Basement Health Association, overly humid air is the number one cause of mould, mildew and major basement repairs.
If your basement space always seems overly humid compared to your above-ground environment, it’s time to take action. In this post, we discuss what can cause basement humidity, what it means and how to fix it.
Aiming for the Ideal Humidity Range
Natural Resources Canada strongly recommends maintaining an indoor air humidity level of 30 to 50 percent year-round.
When humidity rises above 50 percent, this creates conditions ripe for mould and mildew to colonize and spread. Similarly, when humidity drops below 30 percent, the extreme dryness can cause respiratory distress for you and creaks and cracks for your wood furnishings.
Because outdoor air humidity levels can fluctuate outside of this range seasonally, sometimes it can be difficult at first to diagnose a problem with basement air humidity.
Why Basements Become Chronically Humid
How does a basement become too humid? The most obvious reason is the presence of a water leak. When moisture seeps into your basement, this naturally raises the moisture content inside the space.
But what many homeowners don’t realize is that often basement leaks are too small to be easily seen. Most basements are made from poured concrete or concrete blocks. Concrete is a naturally porous material that will continue to settle over time.
With shifting soil, storms, changing water table levels and other natural factors, micro-fissures and tiny cracks can begin to form and let in water.
If you never see standing water in your basement but the air is continually humid, you may have one or several of these tiny micro-fissures allowing water to slowly infiltrate your basement space.
Of course, leaks can get much bigger, and sometimes outright cracks will form and you can see water coming in.
Clogs or drainage blocks
Clogged gutters, blocked window wells, malfunctioning downspouts or shifting landscaping can compound the issue and create a situation where water enters with increasing ease.
Another way water come in is when the sump pump system begins to wear out. This can happen due to old age or increasing demand that the sump system was never designed to handle.
What Happens When Your Basement Is Chronically Humid
Why be concerned about a chronically humid basement?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites a number of concerning health and structural issues that can arise when your basement is overly humid or damp.
Over time, a chronically humid basement may cause warped, bowed or sagging walls and floors, mould and mildew, bacteria growth, damage and destruction of stored materials or basement furnishings, windows and doors that won’t open or close and similar structural issues.
Similarly, basement humidity can cause issues with your above-ground structure as well, especially once mould and mildew take hold and begin to spread, leading to extensive and costly remediation work.
How to Fix a Humid Basement
Having a basement can increase your resale value by adding useable space. But it can also become a headache when maintenance needs arise.
There are two ways to approach fixing a chronically humid or damp basement space.
Put a band-aid on it
The first is what we call a “band-aid” approach. You can install a portable dehumidifier to pull moisture out of the air. For minor issues with basement humidity, sometimes this is all that’s needed for a time.
But this isn’t what we recommend for a long-term solution. You can be pretty sure that your basement humidity issues are not going to resolve on their own!
Even if you don’t have any desire to sell your home right now, not properly fixing the issue can be a liability when you do want to put your home on the market. More importantly, ignoring or band-aiding chronic basement moisture issues can cause structural issues with your whole home over time.
Waterproof your basement
Affordable basement waterproofing is one of the hands-down best ways to fix a humid basement permanently. There are two methods for how to fix a leaky basement: exterior waterproofing and interior waterproofing.
From a basement waterproofing cost perspective, we typically recommend the latter.
In fact, waterproofing your basement from the outside is typically financially feasible only as a preventative approach to protect new basement construction. For existing homes with humid or leaking basements, interior basement waterproofing works just as well and is vastly more affordable!
For micro-fissures that are permitting a bit of extra moisture to seep in, interior basement waterproofing alone is often sufficient to solve the problem permanently.
If your basement has developed a larger crack that is letting in more water, or if you have blocked window wells or issues with your above-ground drainage or landscaping, we may recommend a combination approach that includes repairs and interior basement waterproofing to protect your home and basement from humidity over the long term.
The good news is, interior waterproofing can be done on a finished or an unfinished basement space. If your basement is unfinished, the interior waterproofing treatment will not impact the option for finishing your basement at a later date.
Get in Touch
Are you concerned because your basement always seems uncomfortably humid? We can help!
Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.