What Is That Basement Smell?

What Is That Basement Smell?

Basement Smell

When you walk down the stairs into your basement, are you hit with a musty smell? This common basement smell can make spending time in this part of your house unbearable. It can also feel embarrassing, keeping you from taking guests into this part of your home. After all, who wants other people to know their basement odor smells like a wet dog or wet sock? What causes this basement smell and what can you do about it?

What is that basement smell?

The first thing to know is that a basement smell can be a sign of a bigger problem. Whether the odor is sweet, tangy, like rotting wood or earthy, it is not a positive sign. It means you have some things you need to do and should not ignore. Having a professional waterproofing company inspect your space and offer a problem diagnosis is the first step in solving your stinky problem.

Below are some potential sources of your basement smell.

Mold and Mildew

As far as basement smells go, mold and mildew are common causes. 

Mold is a rapidly damaging problem caused by moisture in your basement. Mold comes in many forms, ranging from a thick, high or fuzzy carpet-like growth to low-lying black spotting on your walls and other surfaces. This growth can lead to mold poisoning characterized by symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Sneezing
  • Eye itching
  • Skin redness or rash
  • Chronic respiratory ailments
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Appetite and digestive changes
  • Fungal nails
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vision problems
  • Cancers
  • Major organ failure
  • Blindness

Obviously, mold is a bigger issue than just a bad basement smell. In many cases, your nose is one of the last ways to detect mold, long after it has grown out of control and damaged your home. Mold growth typically means your home is not adequately protected by basement waterproofing or other moisture control measures.

Mildew is one type of mold that is not as dangerous as other types, like black mold. Still, it has a powerful smell. It is a flat brown or grey growth often seen on walls or other surfaces. It can also look like a white powder. This growth is generally caused by a damp basement or water leeching through basement walls, compromising your home’s structure. This moisture and the growing mildew are signs of damp drywall, wood, insulation and fiberglass, causing the telltale basement smell and possibly even respiratory problems for your family.

Iron Ochre

Iron ochre is a familiar basement smell, yet few people know what it means. This is a slimy bacterial growth that is reddish-brown in color. It looks like a red mud but its odor makes it clear that it is something more sinister. Your basement smell will be that of rotten eggs if you have an iron ochre problem. As with mold and mildew, bacterial growth like this is the result of moisture getting into your basement.

Problem Pipes

Improperly fitted or leaking pipes can also quickly cause a basement smell. Pipes that do not connect or contain their fluids as they should can allow odors to escape, such as from sewage or other water waste. Again, this is a problem relating to excess moisture in your basement. But instead of just coming through the walls or from other structural sources, this moisture is also a plumbing problem.

Vermin Coming In

If your basement is not secure, vermin like mice and rats can easily gain entry. They love making homes and passageways in various parts of your basement. Their body odor, nesting materials and waste all smell terrible, leading to a telltale basement smell. Even worse, if these critters are getting into this space, moisture is too.

What do I do about a basement smell?

A simple bad basement smell of any of the types listed above relates to your basement being insecure or leaky. Moisture comes from a variety of sources beneath the ground level, whether manmade or natural. Some common causes of basement moisture and resulting basement smells include:

  • Condensation forming from basement positioning below grade, leaky structures or inadequate pipe insulation
  • Moisture related to leaky pipes that sweat, drip or drain
  • Improper drainage seeping into the basement from landscaping because of incorrect yard grading

These issues can cause any of the basement smells explored above as well as related health problems. 

Waterproofing Is a Big Part of Fixing Bad Basement Smells

When your basement smells badly because of any of these issues, the only way to fix the problem is by getting rid of the excess moisture. This could require a sump pump or dehumidifier to lower the moisture level to under 60 percent humidity. You might need a French drain or other methods designed to redirect water away from your foundation. Of course, if you have rodents, that also means securing your basement and calling an exterminator. You also need to eradicate any mold or mildew problems and get rid of damp and moldy belongings. 

All of these solutions start with a call to a waterproofing expert. Raleigh Waterproofing provides a full array of services designed to keep your basement dry and free of telltale basement smells. Call Raleigh Waterproofing today at 919-877-9969 for problem diagnosis and waterproofing solutions.

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