Keeping the air in your basement clean and fresh can present extra challenges for homeowners. Many basements don’t have windows or patio doors that can be opened to let in fresh air, and we usually don’t want to open them in winter anyway.
So when you walk downstairs and smell something not quite right, it’s tempting to shrug it off. Resist that temptation, and do what you need to do to find the source of the odor. It could be something simple − or a sign of damage about to begin.
Basement odors usually come from two sources: sewer gas or mold.
If you have a “rotten egg” smell in the basement, it’s probably sewer gas, or hydrogen sulfide. It comes from decaying sewage or other organic matter in your plumbing lines, according to The Scottish Plumber on Angie’s List.
“When the home’s plumbing system is working properly, the naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide is directed up and out of the building through a vent system, which exits through the roof. No smell should be present,” The Scottish Plumber says.
The odor can indicate a small problem, like a dried-out water seal in a floor drain. It can also be a sign of a bigger problem, like a broken sewer line or vent stack.
Don’t ignore the smell — it can cause health problems for you and your family. “Hydrogen sulfide is dangerous even at low levels. Prolonged exposure to sewer gas can cause irritability, headaches, fatigue, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, loss of appetite, poor memory and dizziness,” The Scottish Plumber says. “It affects people and pets that are exposed to it over a long period of time.”
Mold can easily grow in basements, especially if you don’t have a sump pump or use a dehumidifier. Those whose basements were flooded last summer, like our neighbors in the Fremont area, may still be watching to see if mold has started to grow in carpets and padding that got soaked and weren’t quite dried out, or baseboards and drywall that got soaked.
If you think mold may be the smelly culprit, you’ll need to pull back carpets to check for pink, black or other discolored spots. You may also need to cut open some drywall to check the backing and insulation as well.
Small areas of mold growth can probably be handled with safe and appropriate home-cleaning procedures. For large areas, however, some experts recommend calling in professional help.
“While rare, it is possible for mold (especially “black mold”) to be harmful, toxic, and/or carcinogenic to humans,” according to Basement Systems in Seymour, CT. “Other molds are allergenic and may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.”
Homeowners also need to be careful about the fumes created during the cleaning process, and be wary of combining cleaning products.
If you need help pinning down the source of odors in your home, call AmeriSpec at 402-393-3696 in Omaha or 402-483-2010 in Lincoln. Our InstaScope system can assess the mold and air quality levels in your home, room by room, to pinpoint the source and cause of the problem.
- On March 3, 2017