Posts Tagged ‘Basements’

Home as microbiology experiment? Moisture, keep it reasonable and stay safe

June 29, 2012

Candida albicans PHIL 3192 lores
There are many sources of moisture in the home.  Cooking, showering, houseplants, and people are some expected sources.  Crawlspaces and basements can add to the humidity as well. And no matter where it comes from, too much humidity can promote the growth of unwanted microbes, mold, mildew and bacteria.  It should be a healthy home, not a lab experiment.

Consider some steps to avoid high humidity in the home:

  • Gutters and good grading can help divert water away from the foundation.
  • Cover dirt floors in crawl spaces and basements with heavy duty plastic, it reduces odors and moisture
  • Ensure that clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors.
  • Use ventilation fans to remove moisture generated by showering, bathing, and cooking.
  • Reduce the number of plants in humid areas.
  • If you burn wood, don’t store it in the basement.
  • Do not open basement windows and doors in the summer to dry out the basement. This can make the problem worse by allowing moist outdoor air into your cool basement, causing increased condensation. Crawlspaces (and basements) may not need venting, sometimes it makes it worse. I’ve talked about this here

Most of the time we know we have too much moisture only after it’s too late.  Wet stains on walls and ceilings, rotten wood, condensation on the windows, and musty smells let us know something is wrong.  Clearly indoor air quality suffers, so it’s best to keep your eye out for trouble.   Suffer from allergies?  You might be creating an ideal situation for the growth of the bacteria and mold that cause them.  Our homes are made of mold food: wood, sheetrock, paper.  It should be a palace not a Petri dish!



Frozen Turkeys and Frozen Pipes

November 23, 2011

With Thanksgiving on the horizon and football on TV, many of us stand ready to pack it on like a linebacker for the colder months ahead, well at least in some parts of the country.  I think it’s going to be a cold one this year, I’ve witnessed doublewide squirrels around the yard big enough to take on the neighborhood cats.  By cold I’m not talking 50 degrees at night, I mean freezing, like broken pipes cold. 

Many of you across the nation know what I’m talking about, and unfortunately I’m sure many know about frozen pipes too!

Pipes freeze because we leave them exposed to the cold. Pretty simple, but why do they freeze when they run in our basement or crawlspace?  Are they really inside or outside?

The real problem is usually not the pipes, it’s often the home.  Ductwork and plumbing that runs through spaces that can freeze leads to inefficiencies, discomfort and headache.  When hot water heaters, boilers and furnaces exist in these same spaces, they work double time trying to deliver something warm to the rest of the home.  This is definitely a home performance issue.  

We could leave it to a plumber to fix it by moving the pipes, but since they were put where they are for a reason, this often won’t work.  And that heat tape you had wrapped on the pipes and forget to plug in now, is either expensive (when you turn it on), unreliable (when you forget to turn it on), or both!  The better option:  apply a little home performance and fix your home.  As with every other part of the home a trained eye will help define how to make it work best.   Insulation air sealing and you can enjoy the game instead of spending the night in the basement with a hairdryer feeling like a frozen turkey or worse with a mop after the pipes burst. 

Stay warm…and dry! 


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Cleaning up those basements after the flood

April 28, 2011

Something we may have to get used to:  Heavy rains in the Northeast are causing flooding like we saw in California earlier in the year.

And many people whose basements never flood are taking on water.

This might be a good time to touch on flood cleanup.  Water from flooding can create real problems.  When things get wet for more than a couple of days they usually get moldy. Add that to bugs and other microbes that come in during flooding or that thrive on moist conditions, and you’ve got a problem.

So if you’ve had flooding in the house, it’s important to clean and dry your house and everything in it as quickly as possible.  First, get the water out.  Throw away anything that was wet with flood water and can’t be rapidly dried and cleaned.  This includes not only belongings, but things like insulation and drywall, too.  And use fans (if the air is dry) or a dehumidifier to speed drying.

Clean and dry hard surfaces such as floors, walls, furnishings, etc.  Use a detergent or use a cleaner that kills germs.  Do not mix cleaning products together or add bleach to other cleaning products—this may generate and release toxic chemicals that can hurt or even kill you.

If you’ve got mold, you can clean it up—however if there is more than 10 square feet (about a 3 foot by 3 foot area), you may want to hire a professional to clean up the mold.  [See EPA’s mold cleanup recommendations.]

After you’ve solved the immediate cleanup, you’ll want to think about long-term prevention—keeping the water out—so you don’t have to do this again.  We’ll touch on that in another post later.

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