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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Powers

What a Musty Odor in Your Basement Really Means

Does a musty odor in a basement indicate a mold problem?

The short answer: Maybe...

  • A musty odor could indicate a mold problem

  • A musty odor could indicate a damp condition that will lead to a mold problem

Mold is a living thing that requires moisture to grow, so a damp basement is a perfect spot for mold spores to activate. But how do you know if you have a damp basement? One easy way to tell is by the smell.

Building materials absorb moisture from the air like a sponge and begin to have an odor that we associate with dampness. Since we often see materials in this environment with mold on them, we associate mold with this odor. However, this odor occurs even if mold is not present. An important concern, though, is that building materials can move quickly from smelling “moldy” because of elevated moisture content to actually being moldy.

Achieving and maintaining a dry environment is essential to avoiding a mold problem and even addressing a musty odor issue. So running a sufficiently-sized, self-emptying dehumidifier is very important in any basement. Plus, if you reduce relative humidity in your basement to around 50-55%, the musty odor will usually go away.

How can you know if the musty odor in your basement (or in the basement of a home you are considering purchasing) is just a damp basement or an indicator of an actual mold condition? You need a thorough assessment by a certified mold assessor.

Powers Environmental LLC is a New York State licensed mold assessment company also providing mold inspections in Connecticut and New Jersy.


Mold Fact No. 2

Mold only grows in a damp environment.

Removing dampness by dehumidification is an important step to prevent mold spores from becoming active. We recommend the use of a self-emptying or gravity-draining dehumidifier in a basement or crawlspace. That way you don’t have to go downstairs (or climb into a crawl space) to empty the bucket frequently. The environment will stay dry, mold will be kept at bay, and the space will actually smell better, too!

Visit our website “Products” page for some recommended dehumidifier options.

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Corporate Member of the IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)


CMI – Certified Mold Inspector with MICRO (Mold Inspection Consulting & Remediation Organization)

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