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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    6 years ago I bought a 2 story, 1200 sq ft home that was built around 1890, in south central Pennsylvania. The rear half of the house which is an addition has a crawlspace. The original front half of the home has a basement with stone foundation and a dirt floor covered with a layer of stone. There are two windows in the basement which are normally covered over. During this time of year the humidity levels reach 70-80% and the basement gives off a horrible odor that rises up into the 1st and 2nd floors of the home. I run a small dehumidifier that I empty once a day, and it makes a difference but does not eliminate the odor completely. The smell is sometimes unbearable and i'm sure it cannot be healthy. i am looking for a more permanent solution. I was thinking of lining the whole basement and crawlspace with a vapor barrier but i am not sure if that is recommended especially since when it rains heavily, the basement floor is covered in a few inches of water. I was also thinking of removing the roll insulation in the basement ceiling, installing a vapor barrier over the ceiling and and then installing foam insulation over top. Does anyone have any advice?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    235

    Default Re: Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    You need to start removing the water from the equation. Proper gutters and drainage of water away from the house, proper slope of your yard etc. If that does not eliminate water getting in to the basement, you will have to consider french drains, sealing the outside and repairing cracks.
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    Regardless of how you insulate the floor, you certainly need a vapor barrier under the first floor and you need some ventilation for the basement.

    What you describe is I believe a "root cellar". It originally had some ventilation and was used to store food from the farm or garden for winter use. Check my post at this thread.

    https://advice.thisoldhouse.com/show...n-2-story-home

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Portland, Oregon, formerly of Chicago
    Posts
    1,583

    Default Re: Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    If your basement literally floods during rainy periods, the ground water level under your home has to be lowered through use of perimeter drain tiles dumping into a sump pump well. A vapor barrier must then cover all exposed earth and a concrete floor added if you intend to use this space

    You can either ventilate the space to the outside as if it were a crawl space , or you can treat the area as part of the house envelope. If you choose to treat it as part of the house living space, heating and air-conditioning ducting would be extended to condition the air. This would go a long way to drying out the space and getting rid of the smell.

    At this point, any insulation under the floor would be unneccesary. It could be removed. My guess is that the old insulation is holding some of that musty odor. Any exposed wood down there will also be permiated with that moldy smell. I coat of oil primer, or better yet BIN shellac primer, would seal in that odor. Spraying down the walls with a bleach solution would go a long way to controlling odor also.
    Last edited by ordjen; 05-16-2013 at 12:17 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Fairfax, VA
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    Quote Originally Posted by function View Post
    You need to start removing the water from the equation. Proper gutters and drainage of water away from the house, proper slope of your yard etc. If that does not eliminate water getting in to the basement, you will have to consider french drains, sealing the outside and repairing cracks.
    Agree. Moisture is affecting your home sorely. At this point just based on what you said I would start looking for mold and mildew culprits. Mold and mildew spores are very bad for your health. You need to start by trying to remove excess moisture to improve your indoor air quality.
    Don't kill the dream, execute it.

    Retroloco-LJ
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Damp, Smelly Basement affecting the entire house.

    Thank you everyone for your feedback. I'm going to spend the next few months trying many of your solutions. Again, I appreciate help!

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