The Inside Outside Guys: Basement Ventilation is the Key to Clearing the Air

By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, August 26, 2021 ~ Ask anyone to describe basement air and you will hear terms like “dank,” “musty,” “moldy” and other adjectives that generally apply to moist, stagnant and unhealthy air.

The air we described can cause sinus conditions, stimulate asthma reactions and worse. Radon, accounting for 20,000 deaths a year from lung cancer, generally originates in the soils below the foundation system and, because it is heavier than air, can accumulate in high concentrations at the floor level.

Our tendency to store solvent based products in the basement can lead to further air contamination along with the possible accumulation of carbon monoxide from gas fired appliances like furnaces and water heaters.

We need to move, condition and filter that air while removing potential contaminants.

Molds that create the musty smell are everywhere. They require temperature, oxygen, food and moisture to thrive. The only one of these we can reasonably control is moisture. If we can avoid high concentrations of humidity, we can effectively stop mold and fungus growth and the accumulation of mildew.

One cause of high humidity in the basement air is vapor diffusion. High concentrations of moisture “seek” lower concentrations and so move through foundation walls and floors from the damp earth surrounding the home. A related issue is capillarity where moisture is drawn through porous foundation materials. This capillary pressure can draw moisture through 20 feet or more of surrounding soils.

How can we reduce humidity and the concentration of other contaminants?

For more housing advice, listen to the “Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News / Talk 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at