If houses were perfect, the basement,crawl space or concrete slab would be desert dry. There would be no wet walls or damp moisture. Fungal growth, wood rot and smelly mildew would not exist. Many people in New Jersey don’t pay enough attention to mold prevention or don’t think that damp walls can cause serious problems because a great part of the year their weather is dry. One of the first detections of a water problem is the smell of the air in that area. If you have a finished basement, it is not immune to moisture even if the walls are dry walled or paneled. Moisture has no limits and is a natural by-product of underground spaces. Painted walls can start to peel over time and the wallpaper that you so carefully put on matching up seams can begin to stain. Not only can it stain, but the edges will start to peel.
Putting a wood floor over concrete can be very tricky with a high probability that the wood will warp, lift, and shrink. Put another way, you just aren’t sure what the effects of water and dampness can do to anything in an underground space.
How Concrete Channels water
To find out how moisture and dampness creates problems, you need to know how concrete and water interact. As strong as concrete walls and floors look, they are actually a very porous surface. A cinderblock doesn’t necessarily have to be visibly wet to be emitting moisture. Moisture in the concrete foundations and floors can start to absorb wat
er at a slow rate until a saturation point is reach. This is when you will visibly begin to see the water on the walls. When the dampness begins to come out of concrete (of any sort) it will damage anything it comes in contact with. Carpets will become wet and wood will begin to rot. Now that you have wet carpets and a rotting wood a smell, mildew and mold have a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and you should consider exploring a system to help you get rid of the mold and bacteria.
Many homeowners do not realize that water is forced upwards from poured concrete. The dirt the slab is poured on is very moist because of the depth of the deep excavation of the foundation. The sun will never see basements simply because they are underground. Since the dry out process of any damage will take extremely long, if it happens at all, the best prevention is to remove the moisture as much as you can and keep the air dry. At the very least, if you discover wet floors or carpets, put a box fan in that area.
Most basements have an area designated for storage in addition to the finished section. In the finished section, any material (carpets, furniture, walls, etc.) are fair targets for damage. The smell is the first indicator that you have issues at hand. If your basement is unfinished and you can see your foundation walls, you WILL have moisture issues to immunize yourself to. As described above, anything that is directly in contact with the cement floor will begin to be damaged without your knowledge. That being said, put some thought to your storage strategy. Try to put things on the floor where air can flow between the floor and the storage items. The air passage will allow dry air (assuming you have taken steps to get the air dry). A table is a good example of taking pro-active steps to reduce moisture damage. Use the table top to stack things on. Be very careful if you plan on storing clothes in a basement. If you do not have the clothes in garment bags, make sure there is space between each article of clothing so air can flow through them. It is common for mold and mildew to form on unprotected clothing. If that happens, bring in a large garbage can to start filling it up with clothes. You won’t always see the mold and mildew even though it’s there. You do see the evidence when the situation is out of control so don’t let it get to that point!