There is something instantly recognisable and unpleasant about the smell of damp. Then there’s the fact that it indicates a problem in the house that none of us wants to have to handle. But if you do notice you have that damp basement smell around the house, it is important to take steps to handle it – and the underlying causes of the problem. So here’s our step by step process to tackling the problem.
Clear the water away from the house
If you have a damp problem, this means something has changed at the property and is causing it. Top of the list is some kind of weak spot that allows the water to build up around the house. Such as problems with your guttering or downpipe that means water isn’t going into the drains but pooling around the house. So checking the guttering is the first step to take.
You might also want to look if there are any changes to the ground level around the perimeter of the property. If there has been, this could be discharging water towards the house where it once flowed away.
Clean up the basement
Once you have an idea of what is causing the problems in the basement, you can start looking at dealing with the water. Most of the time, the cause of the damp smell will be things in the basement that are wet or have mould growth on them. Newspapers, cardboard and furniture with upholstery on it will be the first things to check as these are most likely to retain water and smell.
Move items around to see if there are signs of mould or mildew growth. These can set in quickly and will add to the unpleasant damp smell. Once you know what needs throwing out and what needs cleaning, you can start. Warm soapy water and a little bleach is the best way to tackle damp and mould as this will kill the spores.
Absorb the damp smell
Cleaning up the cause of the damp is one thing, but the smell can often linger. Luckily there are some simple and clever ways to absorb those smells. One way is to take a couple of coffee jars and add some charcoal briquettes, the kind used on barbecues. Charcoal is great for absorbing smells and it will help purify the air in the basement.
Cat litter is another cheap way to solve the problem. Put down a tray of cat litter and replace every 2 weeks (unless the cat decides the use it). Finally, baking soda is a common household item that is also good for the job. Open a box and leave it in the basement then replace every three months.
Prevent repeat problems
Once you have a clean, dry and smell-free basement, the key is to keep it that way. There are two things to do here. One is to look at having a dehumidifier in the basement to remove excess moisture from the air and stop a damp problem from occurring.
However, the best option is to have a damp proof expert take a look at the cause of damp and put measures in place to permanently prevent repeat problems. This might be coating the walls, called tanking, which stops water being absorbed by brickwork. Or it might involve adding a sump pump and drainage with membranes on the walls to capture and direct the moisture.
By taking action to prevent the damp problem coming back, you can enjoy a musty smell-free home and not need to worry about the damp spreading to other parts of the house.