There are several ways to keep your basement dry without using a humidifier. In this article, we’re going to recommend three proven DIY alternatives, as well as a bunch of preventative measures you can employ to keep your basement dry.
Prevention is better than cure. Yeah, we know that sounds like a tired cliche, but in this instance, it happens to be true! With chronic dampness in your basement, you’ll eventually be looking at expensive cleanup and repair costs.
So, the best way to prevent the nightmare is to take action now. And that action needn’t be expensive or cumbersome.
Keep reading for top prevention tips, and a couple of cures too.
How to get rid of humidity in the basement without dehumidifiers?
Many homeowners face an ongoing battle against excess moisture in their basements. If this is you, statistics say you’re not alone! The American Society of Home Inspectors estimates that more than 60% of homes in the United States have wet basements.
While the problem is common, it doesn’t mean it’s not serious. But there are a few common precautions you can take to prevent recurring dampness.
Lead water away from your foundation
The number one cause for damp basements is water seepage along the foundation. Modern homes are designed with defenses against this, but these need to be maintained to stay effective.
Step one is always to keep your gutters and downspouts free from obstructions. A free flow of water here is imperative to keep the water away from your foundation. If they become blocked, water spills over the sides right next to the house.
The result is seepage into your foundation, and then into your basement.
Also, create a gradient away from the walls in your landscaping against the house. It’s possible this wasn’t done when the home was built, or that it wore away with time. This slope is particularly important when you live in high snowfall areas.
The moment the snow starts melting against your house, the lack of a proper slope can (will) spell disaster for your basement in the medium and long term.
Make sure your basement’s interior walls and floors are sealed
This is the next important step – waterproof sealant, even on bare concrete or masonry.
These sealants cover the walls and floors with a waterproof membrane and go a long way towards preventing small leaks.
When you apply sealant, make sure to give everything a thick coat. Don’t hold back. The sealant needs to fill every pore and crevasse of the masonry to form a protective barrier.
Here is an important note – only apply the sealant when your basement is NOT leaking. Sealant is not a quick fix for existing leaks.
Make sure the cold-water pipes in your basement are insulated
Insulating water pipes in winter is pretty much a given. It prevents heat loss and freezing. But come summer, this insulation fulfills another, equally important purpose – it prevents sweating.
When the days are long, hot, and humid, cold water pipes collect condensation. This condensation builds up throughout the season and contributes to the overall humidity in your basement.
The best, most cost-effective route is foam insulation. It’s dirt cheap and easy to install. The foam will eliminate the drip factor around the pipes in your basement, and in the winter, it will keep the cold air off the pipes to prevent freezing.
The few minutes it takes to wrap the pipes with foam could be a huge money-saver in the long run.
Make sure you patch cracks and holes when they first appear
Even the smallest crack will allow seepage into your basement. Identify the source of moisture on the interior walls immediately. Decide if it is possible to fix it yourself, or if you need to call in professionals (or at the very least, professional advice).
Homes develop cracks as they age. This is a given. Do a walkthrough of your basement to check the floors and the walls. Don’t forget to look under rugs, and behind shelves. The sooner you locate the tiny cracks and crevasses, the cheaper they are to fix.
Your inspection list
1. Signs of water damage – this is not only holes or cracks. Peeling paint is a dead giveaway for dampness. Also, pay attention to the smells. A musty or damp odor is a sure sign of excess moisture too.
2. Find the source – this is not always easy. A good place to start is to tape a patch of aluminum foil to a wall in the basement. Leave it for a day. If the foil has moisture on the exposed side after a day or so, your damp issue is most likely humidity. If the foil is damp on the wall side, the foundation is probably letting the moisture in.
3. Mold is a huge clue – mold can’t grow in dry conditions, so if you have mold patches in your basement, you can take that as a given that some seepage is taking place. Removing the visible mold will often reveal the source of the leak. If you can’t fix it, immediately call a specialist. The mold will keep returning until the water source is removed.
4. Nature will also give you warnings – don’t ignore the insect life in your basement. They can also be a telltale sign of moisture. Cool, damp basements are favorite neighborhoods for all kinds of critters. If you have a bug infestation, it’s worth checking for seepage.
Best Alternatives to basement dehumidifiers?
If you pick up the telltale signs of a burgeoning humidity issue in your basement, there are a few DIY solutions that will dry out the air. They may not be as effective as a mechanical dehumidifier, but they’re low-cost, and if you implement them year round, they will go a long way towards keeping your basement moisture free.
This is the most popular DIY dehumidifier. And it works like a charm.
You’ll need a large bag of rock salt (stores often sell it as sodium chloride, but it’s the same thing). You will also require two 5-gallon containers.
- Drill small holes along the sides and bottom of one bucket
- Put that bucket inside the other one
- Fill the inside bucket to the brim with the rock salt
- Place the contraption in the space you want to dehumidify
- As the bucket starts to collect moisture from the atmosphere, water will drip through the holes into the outer bucket
This is another easy and cheap DIY option. It works best for small areas, though larger spaces can also be catered to with multiple setups.
- Use a small bowl
- Fill it with baking soda
- Place it where you need to remove moisture from
- The baking soda will harden as it removes moisture from the air. As soon as it becomes rocky, replace it with a fresh bowl and repeat
Charcoal is great at absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. Again, like with baking soda, it is better suited to smaller areas, although you can create a few charcoal dehumidifiers and place them around your basement.
- Use a large can – a coffee container works well, but make sure it has a lid
- Punch holes in the sides with a screwdriver or awl
- Fill it up with charcoal and replace the lid
- Place your dehumidifier/s around the problem areas
- Replace your charcoal after sixty days, and repeat
First off, put together your inspection list and make sure any sources of water seepage are identified and fixed.
Next, create a gradient in the landscaping next to your home, seal the floors and interior walls of your basement, and wrap the pipes in foam.
Then, decide on your preferred method of dehumidifying, and give the basement a chance to dry out.
Once you’ve done all of this, you should be moisture-proof, at least for a couple of seasons. But, as a rule of thumb, make sure to return to your basement with your checklist in hand at least once every six months!