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Does your basement have a distinctive smell? Many basements do. It’s a musty, wet smell, like a wet sock or a wet dog. Sometimes, it can smell earthy, like rotting wood or mushrooms, often with a tangy or sweet tinge. Does this sound familiar? This smell can have a few different causes, but it all means you need to do something to rectify the situation. Odors like this are an indication of a bigger problem, and the first step in eliminating them is determining what that problem could be.

  • The main culprits are mold and mildew. People sometimes get these two things confused, which is understandable. Mildew is a type of mold, though it’s not as hazardous as other types. Mold can be thick and high, and sometimes even fuzzy, and comes in a wide array of colors. Mildew is flat and only seen in brown or grey. Eventually, it can turn to a white powder. While both mold and mildew can cause respiratory issues in some people, some types of mold can be much more dangerous than mildew.
  • Even if you don’t have mold or mildew, a damp basement can be bad news. Water that’s making its way into the basement can eventually compromise the structural integrity of your home. In the meantime, damp wood, drywall, fiberglass, and insulation can all contribute to a musty smelling basement.
  • Waste, both animal and human, can make your basement smell bad. Sometimes, a sewage line running through the basement can cause a problem. It could be that the pipes are improperly fitted and allow odors to escape, or liquid sewage could be spilling from a pipe. Sewage is not the only type of waste that can be a problem in your basement, though. Rodent droppings, which look like dark grains of rice, can cause a sour smell in the basement. However, odor isn’t the only problem rodent feces can cause. They can also spread diseases like hantavirus and salmonella.
  • Iron ochre may be unfamiliar to you, but you may know its smell all too well. Vibrant red-brown in color, this slimy looking substance is a type of bacteria that feeds off iron. It looks like mud and gives off a rotten egg smell.

At the heart of most of these problems is an insecure or leaky basement. Either it’s allowing entry to vermin, in which case it’s probably letting water in as well, or moisture is causing the issues. But what is causing excessive moisture?

  • It could be the basement’s position itself. Because they’re in the lowest part of your house, basements are typically cooler than the rest of the home. Unfortunately, when the cool air from the basement meets the warm air from upstairs, the result can be condensation that forms on surfaces like the walls, furniture, and pipes. This condensation can cause moisture issues and can be especially problematic if you have pipes that aren’t properly insulated. Then, too, if your basement windows have leaky frames, water may be coming in through the windows.
  • A leaky pipe is a common cause of moisture in the basement. In addition to “sweating” with condensation, sometimes pipes simply spring a leak. Keeping an eye out for leaks and repairing them as soon as they appear can go a long way towards preventing musty smells in your basement.
  • Your landscaping may be to blame. If your yard is incorrectly graded, it could be directing water back towards your foundation. When this happens, that water can seep into the basement, making it moist and musty.

What can be done to rid your basement of musty odors? The only way to eradicate the smell is to find and fix the root of the problem. This could mean lowering the moisture level in your basement using a sump pump or dehumidifier. Ideally, you should try to keep the humidity under 60 percent. Other solutions to basement odor issues include calling a pest control service to deal with rodents, regrading your property, installing drains inside or outside, or fixing leaking plumbing. It’s wise to call in a professional to identify and fix your issues. Once the source of the odor has been eliminated, clean your basement thoroughly, getting rid of any damp or moldy items, including cardboard boxes, carpets, and furniture. Clean mold and mildew stains with household bleach or, in the case of a serious mold infestation, call in a mold remediation specialist.

When you need basement or air quality services, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing, mold remediation, mold cleaning, and crawl space encapsulation, we provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. We also offer installation of the EZ Breathe home ventilation system, to clean the air inside your home. At Budget Waterproofing, we’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all of our technicians are fully licensed and insured. Whether you need foundation repair, basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. For more information, contact us today.