They were not meant to be lived in. The modern evolution of what we call basements began as a convenient way to store and access canned goods, especially during the harsh winter months.
In a pinch, it could also serve as a storm shelter when high winds threatened the roof; but live down there? Think about it.
A hole was excavated into the native soils on your lot. These soils are statistically likely to be clay.
Into that hole was placed a concrete construction. Like a box without a lid. Then the soils were pushed back against the walls to forever wick moisture from the earth into the now empty space beneath your home.
We needed to do something like this since foundations in the Midwest must extend down into the ground below frost potential.
Stagnant, moist, air fills the basement and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, highly polluted air — up to 100 times more contaminated than the air outside the home.
The moisture in the soils can be a transport mechanism for radon, which enters the space through gaps and cracks in the floor and walls.
We typically further contaminate the downstairs air by storing paints, varnishes and cleaners that contain VOCs, volatile organic compounds.
The carpeted floor and the fabric-coated furniture down there may contain hundreds of thousands of mites, dust from the detritus of human and pet existence, and lint.
Oh, and that moisture we mentioned earlier? It is the key ingredient for the growth of molds in the basement, the smell of which we take for granted. Who doesn’t describe the air in that below ground space as “dank”, “musty”, and “mildewy”? That smell is air filled with mold and mold spores.
Because of the way we construct our homes, air tends to move upward through the space, drawing air from the basement, or crawl space into the living space above.
All these things can contribute to what we call “sick building syndrome” where we are unwitting victims of malaise in our own homes experiencing everything from sinusitis to runny nose to headaches, nausea and more.
The good news is that we live in great times where we don’t have to settle for these living conditions.
The Guys have professionals available to you that can improve that environment such that it becomes a healthy place to inhabit.
Sharon’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Westland can install a system called Reme-Halo in your ductwork that uses ultra-violet to kill organisms circulating through your home.
And the Guys always say you must move air to clean it, so we look to strategies like those used by Steve Iverson at Basements Plus in Commerce Township.
When they encapsulate a crawl space, they include a system that dehumidifies and filters the air through a MERV 8 filter. A professional crawl space encapsulation will improve the air quality in that space. When you add mechanical dehumidification and air filtration, it makes a huge difference.
When Basements Plus finishes a lower-level space, it includes a system dedicated to high performance air purification.
The Aspen system provides three-stage air filtration. An allergy filter removes pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mite droppings and more. An activated carbon filter removes VOCs, odors, chemicals, and tobacco smoke. A microparticle HEPA filter then removes particles down to 0.1 micron including bacteria, viruses, ultra-fine dust and soot.
Iverson is adamant that they will not finish a space that has a high moisture or water potential. His perspective reflects the true professionals in the industry: “Let’s make certain that space is water free, and moisture controlled before we provide interior finishes.”
So, the advice from the Guys to first go down for additional living space rather than up or out still holds as a value-driven proposition.
Just make certain that space is going to be a healthy environment for everyone using it.
For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at insideoutsideguys.com.