Of all the parts of your home, the basement is the one notorious for poor indoor air quality. This isn’t surprising due to the lack of ventilation. And in some households, the basement is often neglected to the point of extreme air pollution. But if you know how to improve basement air quality, this will not be a big problem.
Improving the air quality in your basement isn’t an easy task. Depending on the state of neglect, you need more than just an air purifier. In this case, the following tips will be a big help:
How To Improve Basement Air Quality
No one wants to deal with a dirty and smelly basement. But before this part of your home turns into a cesspool of allergens, you should start with the following steps:
1. Clean up the clutter
The very first thing you should do is remove all the clutter in your basement. Many of us are guilty of treating our basements as storage rooms until the items are forgotten and left to dust.
Remove old boxes, books, newspapers, and the likes. Aside from harboring molds, these items are also attractants to pests like termites and rodents.
You can donate your old items or call a cleanup service instead if you don’t want to deal with the dirty work. Remember that the rubbish in your basement is the main contributor to poor indoor air quality.
To make it easy, I suggest sectioning your basement then working on each area one by one. You should also set a timeline for each section to prevent getting distracted.
It will help to set up two boxes: one for trash and another for items you can still donate or sell. Make sure you’re wearing a face mask and gloves!
2. Perform an indoor air test
Once you’re done cleaning the clutter, the next step is to conduct an indoor air test. You can use an indoor air quality monitor or hire a professional for a more accurate reading.
Specifically, you’d want to test for radon. This odorless gas forms when the uranium from rocks, soil, and water breaks down and seeps through your basement. Take note that there are over 21,000 annual deaths due to lung cancer caused by radon exposure in household settings.
Aside from radon, you should also test your basement for carbon monoxide, another odorless and deadly gas.
Testing for molds, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, asbestos, PM 2.5, PM 10, and PM 1.0 are also critical. Professional testers have a complete checklist of these pollutants, which makes the process easier and simpler.
The results of these tests will give you an idea of how much work needs to be done to improve your basement’s indoor air quality. But if the tester found dangerous gasses and pollutants, they will suggest professional cleaning to remove all the airborne hazards properly.
3. Fix and dry out water damage
Water damage is one of the most common problems in basements. Since it’s recessed into the ground, basements can become catch basins of floodwater. This why early mitigation is crucial to prevent the growth of molds that will ruin your indoor air quality.
For massive water damage, it’s best to hire a professional water damage mitigation service. These companies have industrial-grade equipment and special testing tools that can map out the moisture underneath your basement walls.
By drying out the sources of moisture, you’re going to eliminate molds and mildew. This is already a massive improvement in your basement’s indoor air quality. Make sure that the molds are also professionally removed to prevent the spores from spreading to other parts of your home.
You can also use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture in your basement. It will help lower the humidity, but make sure that it’s under 50% to prevent molds from surviving.
4. Seal the gaps
After mitigating water damage, the next step is to seal the cracks and gaps in your basement. This will prevent dust and dirt from entering your home.
You can use caulk or expanding foam to seal the gaps on basement foundation walls, doors, and windows if there are any.
To spot the tiny cracks, turn the lights off during the daytime and see where the sunlight is shining through. You can mark the spots with tape before sealing all of them in one go.
5. Don’t fling the windows open!
When it comes to ventilation, the first thing that comes to mind is opening the windows. But let me stop you there!
As much as basement windows will help in ventilation, they can also increase condensation rates. This happens when the warm outdoor air hits the cool surfaces in your basement or vice versa. When this occurs, moisture clings to surfaces and starts mold growth. Before you know it, your basement humidity levels rose past 60%!
Aside from that, the outdoor air can have high pollen and dust levels, especially during summer.
6. Remove sources of VOCs.
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs come from paints, gasoline, lacquers, and stain products. Most of these are stored in the basement. With poor ventilation, the VOCs from these substances will become airborne and reach toxic levels.
VOCs have a very strong smell due to the off-gassing. However, its negative impact on our bodies is much worse.
At first, exposure to VOCs will cause throat irritation, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Meanwhile, prolonged exposure can lead to kidney problems, liver damage, and even problems with the central nervous system.
Take note that volatile organic compounds are the most notorious pollutants in newly constructed homes and offices. It can be easily avoided through proper ventilation and a wise choice of construction materials.
If you’re worried about the VOC levels in your basement, it will help a lot to install an air quality monitor. This will notify you if there are dangerous levels of noxious gasses.
7. Remove plants from the basement.
Potted plants seem to be a great idea to liven up your basement. But before you turn your basement into an indoor garden, you should think twice.
Sure, plants produce oxygen and are believed to reduce airborne pollutants. But when it comes to volatile organic compounds, it has little to no help.
Aside from that, the soil of potted plants can introduce added humidity to your basement. If your home is prone to molds, this is something you have to avoid. In the long run, potted plants may create more problems than solutions for your indoor air.
If you want to clean your basement’s indoor air, you’re better off using an air purifier. It works faster than plants with guaranteed results. Below, I discussed this option in length together with actual options you can consider.
8. Maintain proper air circulation
Air circulation is a must on every part of your house, much so a secluded basement. Sometimes, it’s quite impossible to circulate air in a basement, but there are options you can try.
First, you can install exhaust fans on the air vents to boost air circulation. You can also use portable electric fans to circulate the air inside while keeping the basement door open.
Another thing that will help is installing a ceiling fan near the entrance to your basement. This will force air into the basement to prevent stagnation.
9. Control the humidity levels
I’ve said this once, and I’m going to say it again: humidity can both be your friend and foe in your basement. Excessive humidity levels will wreak havoc on the indoor air as it allows molds to thrive.
However, very low humidity will make your eye itch and throat scratchy. This is why the right balance is crucial, especially if you’re planning to convert your basement into a living space.
A dehumidifier will help eliminate the excess moisture, but you shouldn’t turn it on all the time. Generally, you should aim for a relative humidity within the 30% to 50% range. This means that the indoor air only holds 30% to 50% of the maximum moisture amount it can possibly contain.
It can be challenging to manage humidity levels, especially during winter and summer as temperatures go extreme. Never shy away from professional help if your efforts aren’t working.
10. Invest in a high-powered air purifier
Lastly, invest in a durable and high-powered air purifier. This will help remove all the particulates, gasses, odors, and allergens in your basement, depending on the filter used.
Moreover, air purifiers work hand-in-hand with dehumidifiers. This way, you can remove excess moisture while cleaning the air.
Take note that air purifiers are rated based on the floor area they can efficiently clean. Make sure that you get one that matches the size of your basement.
Always check the unit’s CADR or clean air delivery rate. The bigger your basement is, the higher the CADR of the air purifier should be.
Based on my experience, the following are some of the best air purifiers to use on basements:
- Blueair Classic 605 Air Purifier. This air purifier is perfect for basements up to 775 sq. ft. in size. It has a True HEPA filter that can remove dander, pollen, dust, mold, and more irritants out of your basement. With a CADR of 500 CFM, this is a champ for highly polluted households.
- Rabbit Air Minus A2 Air Purifier. This is a wall-mounted air purifier suitable for up to 815 sq. ft. of basement size. It has a maximum CADR of 200, aside from its six filtration stages, including an advanced HEPA filter. The bonus part is you can get the panel customized with your desired print.
- NuWave OxyPure Air Purifier. The NuWave Air Purifier has five filtration stages suitable for basements up to 515 sq. ft. in size. It has a CADR ranging from 332 to 369 CFM. Aside from that, this air purifier has Wi-Fi capabilities that make it easy to control from a distance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can sleeping in a basement make you sick?
A: Many individuals living in their basement get sick because of the poor indoor air quality. Since basements don’t have the same ventilation as your living space, it’s notorious for molds and mildew. This can cause allergies, coughs, headaches, and other respiratory symptoms. If not addressed right away, the allergens can spread all over your house.
Q: How do I make my basement safe to live in?
A: The first step to making your basement livable is ensuring that it’s up to code. You should also perform an indoor air quality test to known if there are abnormally high levels of ambient air pollution. Aside from that, you should check for water damage and fire hazards.
Q: How do I keep my basement smelling fresh?
A: To keep your basement smelling fresh, you should control the humidity and remove moisture that could harbor molds. You should also clean the dryer vents and repair all leaks. An air purifier with carbon and activated charcoal filters will also help neutralize nasty odors in your basement.
Q: Is it normal for a basement to smell musty?
A: A musty smell is an indication that your basement is brewing molds and mildew. This is a common problem in basement walls since it’s cold, moist, and often dark. The musty smell is more than just a scent. If not addressed right away, it can cause respiratory problems.
Q: Will a fan reduce humidity in a basement?
A: A fan alone won’t remove excessive humidity in your basement. Still, it will improve airflow and potentially dry some moisture. However, you should still take other steps to fix the unbalanced humidity in your basement to prevent the proliferation of molds.
Your basement can harbor the nastiest pollutants you can imagine. The indoor air in this part of your home can even be worse than in the outdoor setting. The good thing is that there are ways on how to improve basement air quality that will make this area safe and livable.
Do you have other tips to add here? Share it with us in the comment section!
Home Air Quality is founded by Bernard K to provide information on Indoor Air Quality in Homes and enlighten people about what they need to know about creating and maintaining a comfortable and healthy home environment.
We believe that “Quality air brings a healthy life.”