Categories
Home Improvement

Why Does My Finished Basement Smell Musty?

Most homes in Toronto are older and have unfinished basements.  Due to the age of homes, the weather and the massive amounts of underwater rivers running under Toronto, having a dry basement is a challenge.  Most basements, unless they have been fully waterproofed from the exterior, will have some sort of dampness or moisture issues.  These chronic moisture issues in the basement will lead to that ugly musty smell you often find in basements and sometimes even to mold formation.

In addition, the cost of hiring a water damage repair company in Toronto is expensive, so best to fix the problems early.

Why Basements Get a Musty Odour

Even a finished basement can contain high pollution levels and since these pollutants rise due to their buoyancy they can often invade the living space on the upper floors. Basements often have a bit of a musty smell to them and this is because certain types of wallboard and carpeting absorb moisture through the home’s foundation via a process known as capillary action.

This results in excess humidity and moisture which can be absorbed by the insulation. In some instances, excess moisture can lead to visible or invisible mold in the basement.

If a basement suffers water damage it can result in mold which releases pollutants into the air and can keep growing even after the room has dried. This, in turn, will result in a musty smell, especially if the basement has poor ventilation. Unfinished basements also become musty since they usually contain a certain amount of dirt, dust, and debris which can encourage the growth of mold and bacteria. To make matters worse, invisible particulate matter or debris in the air can damage your lungs and enter your bloodstream and are certainly unhealthy.

Other pollutant causes of a musty basement could include things such as fiberglass insulation, dank crawl spaces, Radon gas, and volatile organic compounds such as fertilizer bags and paint cans. If you notice a musty odour from the basement it’s recommended you have the air tested by a mold professional or specialist. Professionals can identify the cause of the moisture and smell and come up with a solution to eliminate it, resulting in a healthier and fresher smelling basement.

The aim is to eliminate the moisture from the basement and increase its airflow

If your basement is unfinished with a dirt floor the floor should be covered with a plastic sheet and wire mesh before covering it with a thin layer of concrete. If the basement has a concrete floor you may need a waterproofing solution if water or moisture is seeping into it. If the basement is filled with mold you may need to have it removed by a professional mold removal company.

If mold is left to grow it could eat through basement insulation, wood framing and other structures and materials. A good ventilation system is also needed as it removes the musty air and replaces it with fresh air. You may need to install an exhaust fan along with a dehumidifier/air purifier and open any windows to increase airflow. If you hire a professional to find and eliminate the source of your musty basement there are a few steps you can take to keep the area as fresh as possible once the job has been completed.

Make sure your downspouts and gutters aren’t clogged as water that pools around your home can start to smell unpleasant. You might also want to send the water further away from your home by installing extensions on the downspouts. This will help keep water from seeping into your basement from the ground near the house. You can also keep the basement air fresh by cleaning it out and throwing away all unneeded items which could absorb moisture, mold and mildew. If the basement is unfinished you can then clean the surfaces with soap and water as well as bleach, white vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide.

Some unpleasant odours can be absorbed by items such as baking soda, white vinegar, zeolite, charcoal bricks, and cat litter. If you place one or a combination of these items in the basement the air should stay fresher. Just be sure to replace them every two or three months. Another option is to place an ionizer downstairs. These devices are designed to remove bad odours by releasing ions in the air.  If you plan on hiring a general contractor or a design build contractor to finish your basement, then you must ensure the damp issues are cleared up before installing your drywall and flooring.

Categories
Home Improvement

How Does a Hot Water Radiant Floor Heating System Work

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems can create heat in different and specified areas of a home by sending warm water through something called PEX tubing, which is made out of flexible plastic. The tubing is located within the building’s floors or underneath them with PEX standing for cross-linked polyethylene. Along with PEX tubing, the radiant floor heating systems also consists of a heat source, manifolds, pumps, and controls. There are no joints in the PEX tubing used therefore uncut lengths of the tube are designed to snake through the floor and they both start and end at a manifold.

Whereas forced-air heating systems work by blowing warm air through ducts, the hot water radiant systems use a boiler or water heater as their source of heat. However, high-efficient solar and geothermal sources may also be used to provide heat. Since the radiant floor system can heat specific rooms and areas of a home you can have different temperature settings for each one. This makes it a highly energy-efficient system since you can lower the heat settings on unoccupied rooms and those that are less-frequently used.

The radiant floor heating system works when the circulating pump sends hot water flowing through the tubing and then returns it to the heater. The manifold is designed to balance the water in individual lengths of tubing which are known as loops and this vents the heating system. When the water makes it back to the water heater or heat source it is approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it was when it left. When the PEX tubing is installed it goes down in long loops which are placed approximately nine inches apart and it’s attached to the floor via a staple gun. Mortar or concrete is then poured on top of the PEX tubing.

For the most even heat, it’s recommended that the hot water is circulated through PEX tubing and is also covered over in a layer of material and ceramic tile flooring. This material could be dry-tampered mortar, Gypcrete or lightweight concrete. When the tiling is combined with this cement-type layer, it is able to store heat in it for quite some time and it can still radiate the heat even when the hot water is no longer circulating through the system. This makes a radiant floor heating system an ideal heating source in areas with colder climates.

The cost of the radiant heating system typically goes by square foot and generally depends on the size of the job and where you reside. It’s important to work with an experienced flooring contractor that knows that they are doing since this is not a typical flooring project.  Installation of radiant floor heating systems includes the all of the necessary tubing as well as the water heater, manifold, and the pump. The tubing will need to be embedded, usually with dry-tampered mortar, and the floor is then finished with ceramic tiling being the best option. Many Bay Area area homeowners install radiant floor heating systems in additions to their homes since the operating costs are lower than a furnace. In addition, the water heater takes up less space than a furnace and the ductwork.

Categories
Home Improvement

8 Wet Basement Solutions To Keep Your Basement Dry

Where I live in Toronto, basements can get wet quickly due to the age of the homes as well as the crazy weather we experience. A damp or wet basement can certainly lower the value of your home as well as pose health and danger risks to those living in it. If left unattended, moisture can easily destroy the walls and floors as well as lead to destructive mold.

Some wet basements are simply the result of clogged gutters, but it could be a more serious problem such as surface or underground water seeping into the building or water entering from storm drains. Water can cause severe damage to a home and the longer you leave it the more damage it will cause.  It is important to seek out a high quality home renovation contractor to make sure the water issue gets fixed.

Here are eight ways of helping keep your basement as dry as possible.

 

  1. Installing Gutter Extensions
    If the downspouts of your gutters are emptying rainwater within a five-foot radius of your home you should install metal or plastic gutter extensions to guide the water further away. You can also solve this problem by installing a drain pipe under the ground. This can be done by digging a sloping trench which will direct the water away from the home.
  2. Plugging all Cracks and Gaps
    Water can seep into a basement through cracks and gaps around the plumbing pipes. These can typically be filled in with polyurethane caulk or hydraulic cement. Plugging holes is an effective way of stopping runoff from wet soil or the surface. However, if water is entering the basement at the joint where the walls and floor meet or through the floor then plugs won’t be effective since the problem is being caused by groundwater.
  3. Restoring the Home’s Crown
    If you’ve plugged any cracks and your gutters are fine, but you’re still seeing water seep into the home from the top of foundation walls it means the surface water isn’t properly draining away from the home. The house should be sitting on a ‘crown’ of soil which slopes a minimum of six inches in all directions over the first 10 feet. The soil around a building’s foundation settles over time, but it can be built back up with dirt and a shovel.
  4. Reshaping the Home’s Landscape
    The home’s siding should overlap the foundation slightly. If the crown is built up you could feel the soil is too close to the siding if it’s not at least six inches away. In this case, you can create a mound of dirt, known as a berm, or a shallow, wide ditch called a swale. These options are both designed to redirect any water before it can reach the home. Swales are typically used for larger properties since a great deal of soil would be needed for a berm.
  5. Cleaning Footing Drains
    If water is seeping into the basement where the walls and floor meet or low down on the walls it’s usually because of hydrostatic pressure which pushes the water upward from the ground. If this is the case you should check to see if you have any footing drains installed. These are underground pipes which are used to carry water away from the home’s foundation and were installed during construction. You should be looking for a cleanout pipe that has been capped several inches above the basement floor or a drain or manhole in the floor. If these are clogged, the pipes can be flushed out with a garden hose. An augur may be needed though if the hose isn’t strong enough to do the job.
  6. Use a Curtain Drain
    If the home doesn’t have footing drains or you can’t get them to work, you can divert the underground water by installing a curtain drain. This is similar to a French drain as it is a shallow trench which is one-and-a-half feet across and two feet deep. It’s filled with perforated piping and gravel. The piping is designed to intercept any water uphill of the home and it carries it down the slope and away from the building. If the drain has to navigate through bushes or trees you can use solid piping to keep any roots from growing and clogging it up.
  7. Pumping the Water from the Inside
    If you can’t keep water out of the basement it will need to be pumped out from the inside. An indoor drain system can be created by digging a channel around the floor’s perimeter, otherwise known as an interior weeping tile system. The concrete can then be chipped out and perforated pipe is installed. This piping will drain the water to a collection tank at the low spot of the basement and it can be sent outside via a sump pump. This is often an ideal solution for an unfinished basement that is easy to access. It’s also recommended for landscaped yards which may be ruined by an outdoor drainage system.
  8.  Waterproofing the Walls
    The water may be removed from the home via an indoor drainage system, but the walls won’t be waterproofed. You’ll need an exterior waterproofing system to achieve this such as a French drain and exterior waterproofing. This involves excavating around the home and is often the best method if the foundation has numerous cracks. Everything is kept to the outside of the home and it won’t disrupt a finished basement.

Damp and wet basements are caused by indoor humidity and/or water which seeps in from the outside. The methods of keeping your basement dry will depend on the cause of the damp/wet basement and how serious it is.