Author Topic: Stopping Musty Basement Smell? (Read 95381 times)

oldtoyota

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Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« on: October 15, 2013, 06:38:39 PM »
I've been running the dehumidifier in the hopes that the basement smell would get better. I read websites with articles on this topic.

Is there anything else I should be doing in addition to that or will the musty smell eventually be entirely gone once I reduce the air's moisture?


Norrie

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 07:04:18 PM »
Have you ever seen those Arm & Hammer baking soda boxes that have the tear-away sides? I think that they're meant for fridges and freezers. Buy about eight of them (I think that they're usually $0.50-1.00 each, depending where you get them), rip the sides off, and use them all at once. Spread them out around the room.

Wait a day.

Behold the miracle.

Be forever in my debt.

They'll work like gangbusters for the first few months, then you may notice the smell creep back in. Replace with new ones, and you'll be just fine. I also love stashing one under the seat in my husband's car. Soaks up all kinds of badness.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2013, 07:35:37 PM »
Awwwwwesome! Thank you.

Norrie

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2013, 07:42:49 PM »
You're welcome!
A friend of mine lived in a basement apartment under a crepe shop. The crepes smelled awesome, but there was some sort of musty funk down there that the Arm & Hammer tear away things totally killed off.

Here's what I'm talking about. Amazon sells them in packs of six, but you can find them way, way cheaper.

http://amazon.com/Arm-Hammer-Fridge-N-Freezer-Baking-Absorber/dp/B00BRYJ702/ref=sr_1_3?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1381887718&sr=1-3&keywords=arm+and+hammer+baking+soda

GuitarStv

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2013, 06:36:26 AM »
Musty smell often means mold. Is your basement finished?

Greg

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2013, 08:41:58 AM »
No matter how dry it is, if it's dusty and dirty the smell and moisture will hang around. Cleaning, especially vacuuming, really helps. Dirt and dust absorb and hold moisture and also provide food for mold.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 09:48:37 AM »
How much water are you soaking up a day? I run a dehumidifier in my basement garage and get about 3 gallons every other day.

Zaga

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 10:34:35 AM »
The dehumidifiers in our basement did the trick for us, but they did take several months initially to knock down the smell. That plus removing things from the floor that were harboring mold/mildew, such as the nasty carpet in the one corner.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 02:19:50 PM »
How much water are you soaking up a day? I run a dehumidifier in my basement garage and get about 3 gallons every other day.

I am not sure how much the container holds, and I emptied it a few times the first day before it was even empty. I'd say I personally have tossed around 5 gallons over 2-3 days. That is my best guess.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2013, 02:20:27 PM »
Musty smell often means mold. Is your basement finished?

Yep. It is.

GuitarStv

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 06:38:04 AM »
That's potentially a big problem. If you have humidity/dampness problems in a finished basement accompanied by a musty smell, I'd put some pretty high odds on the basement not being finished properly. It's quite likely that behind the walls in your basement there are large patches of mold growing. Dehumidifying will help as a stop gap measure, but there may not be a way of getting rid of the musty smell without tearing apart the basement walls.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 08:15:08 AM »
That's potentially a big problem. If you have humidity/dampness problems in a finished basement accompanied by a musty smell, I'd put some pretty high odds on the basement not being finished properly. It's quite likely that behind the walls in your basement there are large patches of mold growing. Dehumidifying will help as a stop gap measure, but there may not be a way of getting rid of the musty smell without tearing apart the basement walls.

Ugh. Not good news. The wallboard may be easy to remove. It's pressed wood instead of being sheet rock. I'll see if I can remove a few and look behind them.

Norrie

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2013, 08:17:54 AM »
Yeah, I hadn't even thought to ask if it's a finished basement. I would definitely check for mold, as it is nasty, nasty stuff that is potentially fatal. And there's my death and doom statement for the day.

galaxie

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2013, 08:44:21 AM »
Check how your yard is slanted. Basements aren't built to be watertight, and moisture will slowly seep through if the dirt outside your basement is wet. Make sure your yard slopes away from the house and there are no puddles next to it.

Also check for leaks in your basement appliances. I recently had a musty basement smell that turned out to be a leaky water heater. Replaced it and the mustiness was gone.

Kazimieras

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2013, 11:13:23 AM »
My basement is over 100 years old and is field stone, so I am not unfamiliar with stone or musty smelling basements. Damp rock just smells.

I will echo what Galaxie said and check your grading outside to keep water away from your house. Good drainage is worth it entirely. I improved the drainage around my house and after running the dehumidifier for 3 months my basement is now dry enough that I don't need to run one.

Another thing to help the smell (in addition to what has been suggested) is turn on your furnace blower. This will help with the airflow in the house and push the damper air out of the basement and return dryer air from upstairs. I've found it helps with any smell and with this completely eliminates any need for a dehumidifier.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2013, 03:40:02 PM »
My basement is over 100 years old and is field stone, so I am not unfamiliar with stone or musty smelling basements. Damp rock just smells.

I will echo what Galaxie said and check your grading outside to keep water away from your house. Good drainage is worth it entirely. I improved the drainage around my house and after running the dehumidifier for 3 months my basement is now dry enough that I don't need to run one.

Another thing to help the smell (in addition to what has been suggested) is turn on your furnace blower. This will help with the airflow in the house and push the damper air out of the basement and return dryer air from upstairs. I've found it helps with any smell and with this completely eliminates any need for a dehumidifier.

If the above is the case, it would be a point for the problem *not* being mold growing on the original walls. I am curious how you could have that moisture problem and not have any mold?

I am eager to take a wall off, but we're going to have guests--and they like sleeping in our musty basement for some reason. =-)

We used to have a slight water issue years ago. The water would come up in the center of the basement, which made it hard to tell what was going on. We ended up adding dirt around most of the house. On one side, a cement area was slanted slightly toward the house and water would puddle there. On a dry day, we mixed cement and made a "ramp" that slopes away from the house and prevents that from happening. The situation got a LOT better. I can't recall the last time we had water on the floor in the basement, and we've had many heavy rains since then.


oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2013, 04:00:49 PM »
I was so focused on the finished area and getting it ready for guests that I temporarily forgot I could check a few areas in a storage room that are not finished. I see no signs of mold and one of the areas is where we may have had some dampness due to the puddled water on a cement area outside (mentioned above).

And then, I remembered this: The humidifier's water receptacle has mold in it. I have done my best to scrub it out but there's only 5-inch-wide opening at the top to pour out the water and I can't get down into it to scrub the bottom and sides. I mixed water with bleach and let it sit in the receptacle several times, and I still see what I figure is mold (a reddish color).

I am allergic to mold, so I can only spend so much time scrubbing at it.

Could the dehumidifier be contributing to the smell? I am going to move it outside and see if the basement smells better as a result.

For 6-7 years, we never had a smell this bad (even when we had mild water problems, which we cleaned up asap).




lentilman

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2013, 06:40:56 PM »
There are some dehumidifiers that have an active carbon filter on the air passing through designed to kill odors.

If you have a drain on your dehumidifier you can hook up a hose, run it continuously, and never have to empty the pan.
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oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2013, 06:57:41 PM »
Have you thought of/tried a product called Dri-Z-Air or DampRid? They should be available at Home Depot / Lowe's.

I just picked up a new dehumidifier and moved the old moldy one out today. If that doesn't have the desired result, I will look into the products above. Thank you!

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2013, 06:59:36 PM »
You might also try putting out some pans of charcoal - like the kind you put in your grill. Friend of mine used to do this for removing smoke smell (her basement and a smoker's basement had some airflow exchange) and it worked pretty well on that, so it might work on other smells as well.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2013, 06:59:55 PM »
There are some dehumidifiers that have an active carbon filter on the air passing through designed to kill odors.

If you have a drain on your dehumidifier you can hook up a hose, run it continuously, and never have to empty the pan.

Thank you! I saw those mentioned when I was shopping for a new dehumidifier online. They appeared to add quite a bit to the price. In the end, I decided against it because it would entail running a hose across an area where people walk. I bet it would work wonderfully if someone had the right set up though!




oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2013, 07:01:04 PM »
You might also try putting out some pans of charcoal - like the kind you put in your grill. Friend of mine used to do this for removing smoke smell (her basement and a smoker's basement had some airflow exchange) and it worked pretty well on that, so it might work on other smells as well.

Thank you. I am up for trying it. I am going to do that and the 8 boxes of baking soda mentioned above. Hopefully, I can get this smelling better before the guests arrive!


jawisco

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2013, 07:07:58 PM »
The charcoal and baking soda will help with the smell. That is good, but you need to fix your moisture problem or you are going to be replacing your finished area soon. Fix the moisture problem and then worry about the smell.

Seriously, run 2 dehumidifiers until you can figure out what is causing your moisture problem and work on fixing it. Moisture can really wreck an area. Good luck!

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2013, 07:17:41 PM »
The charcoal and baking soda will help with the smell. That is good, but you need to fix your moisture problem or you are going to be replacing your finished area soon. Fix the moisture problem and then worry about the smell.

Seriously, run 2 dehumidifiers until you can figure out what is causing your moisture problem and work on fixing it. Moisture can really wreck an area. Good luck!

You are right. I plan to take off the walls to look for mold. I can't do that until after the house guests leave, so I have to hold off a bit.

Isn't there a certain amount of moisture in the air in basements though? Isn't that why there are so many dehumidifiers for sale?



GuitarStv

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2013, 07:03:56 AM »
Couple of reasons for moisture in basements:

Basements are lower in the ground than the rest of your house. The temperatures of the ground is much cooler than air temperature in a house. Air can hold different air levels depending on temperature. What happens when a basement is not properly insulated is that the warm, humid air from the house comes into contact with cool walls/floor from the basement and can condense, causing mold and musty smells. If this is the problem, you need to insulate the basement (insulated subfloor, insulated walls, etc) to prevent the warm air from ever touching anything cool and forming moisture.

External water penetration happens for a variety of reasons . . . clogged french drains, drain spouts not moving water far enough from the foundation, sewer back up, grade around the house sloping the wrong direction, high water table, etc. If this is the problem, you want to look into getting any surface water as far away from the house as possible, and putting one way valves on your drains to prevent backflow. (Sounds like you've already addressed most of these issues with your re-grading.)

There is no reason for a properly finished basement to ever smell musty. Your basement should not be more humid than the rest of your house.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2013, 07:25:10 AM »
Couple of reasons for moisture in basements:

Basements are lower in the ground than the rest of your house. The temperatures of the ground is much cooler than air temperature in a house. Air can hold different air levels depending on temperature. What happens when a basement is not properly insulated is that the warm, humid air from the house comes into contact with cool walls/floor from the basement and can condense, causing mold and musty smells. If this is the problem, you need to insulate the basement (insulated subfloor, insulated walls, etc) to prevent the warm air from ever touching anything cool and forming moisture.

External water penetration happens for a variety of reasons . . . clogged french drains, drain spouts not moving water far enough from the foundation, sewer back up, grade around the house sloping the wrong direction, high water table, etc. If this is the problem, you want to look into getting any surface water as far away from the house as possible, and putting one way valves on your drains to prevent backflow. (Sounds like you've already addressed most of these issues with your re-grading.)

There is no reason for a properly finished basement to ever smell musty. Your basement should not be more humid than the rest of your house.

Thank you. I never knew it was not normal to have a slightly humid basement.

After reading many articles about basements, I made a list of every potential problem and started to go through it to determine what is going on.

Then, I fired up the new dehumidifier last night. In 12 hours, it had pulled around 10 gallons out of the air.

After listing out every problem, I returned to a problem I had thought was temporarily resolved. It turns out we have a slight moisture problem due to leaking from the upstairs bathtub. I had known about that, but the problem resolved with caulking. I didn't really forget it, but I got busy getting quotes for a bathroom re-do upstairs that will fix the problem permanently. (Then, the spouse crunched the car and I got focused on that expense...) Well, the problem is happening again. And I found mold!

So, now we're on a mission to get the upstairs bathtub replaced, etc. We actually want to gut the bathroom. Since our house is old, I am slightly terrified as to what we'll find.

Also, I have not yet had the time to save up to for what looks like will be an expensive repair. So, this should be interesting! I will have to move money around and we'll have to be tighter than normal with our funds.

Oh, one other thing. I was able to remove one wall panel. It is a "secret door" to the water shut-off valve. This is a panel I can remove and put back easily. Since I don't want to remove a more permanent panel right before guests arrive, I used this secret door panel to see what I could see. I spotted R13 insulation, which sounded good to me. If they used that on all of the walls, wouldn't that be enough?

Maybe this bathroom water problem is the real culprit?

To check for condensation, I read I could hang a mirror on the wall and come back to check it for droplets. I will do that too.

This post is all over the place. If you read this far, many thanks to you.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2013, 07:34:12 AM by oldtoyota »

Kazimieras

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2013, 09:43:53 AM »
If the above is the case, it would be a point for the problem *not* being mold growing on the original walls. I am curious how you could have that moisture problem and not have any mold?

Mold doesn't grow well on rock or on sand/lime and that is what most of my basement is. There isn't a food source for it to consume to grow, which helps significantly. Remember mold loves concrete because it is porous, mine is granite which is about as non-porous as you can get. The other part is that the house is very leaky (air-wise), compared to modern houses. The result is very good ventilation, which helps also prevent mold problems. There are some very distinct advantages of not having a house made with modern building techniques. The trade-off being is my heating costs are slightly higher.

GuitarStv

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2013, 10:21:59 AM »
Couple of reasons for moisture in basements:

Basements are lower in the ground than the rest of your house. The temperatures of the ground is much cooler than air temperature in a house. Air can hold different air levels depending on temperature. What happens when a basement is not properly insulated is that the warm, humid air from the house comes into contact with cool walls/floor from the basement and can condense, causing mold and musty smells. If this is the problem, you need to insulate the basement (insulated subfloor, insulated walls, etc) to prevent the warm air from ever touching anything cool and forming moisture.

External water penetration happens for a variety of reasons . . . clogged french drains, drain spouts not moving water far enough from the foundation, sewer back up, grade around the house sloping the wrong direction, high water table, etc. If this is the problem, you want to look into getting any surface water as far away from the house as possible, and putting one way valves on your drains to prevent backflow. (Sounds like you've already addressed most of these issues with your re-grading.)

There is no reason for a properly finished basement to ever smell musty. Your basement should not be more humid than the rest of your house.

Thank you. I never knew it was not normal to have a slightly humid basement.

After reading many articles about basements, I made a list of every potential problem and started to go through it to determine what is going on.

Then, I fired up the new dehumidifier last night. In 12 hours, it had pulled around 10 gallons out of the air.

After listing out every problem, I returned to a problem I had thought was temporarily resolved. It turns out we have a slight moisture problem due to leaking from the upstairs bathtub. I had known about that, but the problem resolved with caulking. I didn't really forget it, but I got busy getting quotes for a bathroom re-do upstairs that will fix the problem permanently. (Then, the spouse crunched the car and I got focused on that expense...) Well, the problem is happening again. And I found mold!

So, now we're on a mission to get the upstairs bathtub replaced, etc. We actually want to gut the bathroom. Since our house is old, I am slightly terrified as to what we'll find.

Also, I have not yet had the time to save up to for what looks like will be an expensive repair. So, this should be interesting! I will have to move money around and we'll have to be tighter than normal with our funds.

Oh, one other thing. I was able to remove one wall panel. It is a "secret door" to the water shut-off valve. This is a panel I can remove and put back easily. Since I don't want to remove a more permanent panel right before guests arrive, I used this secret door panel to see what I could see. I spotted R13 insulation, which sounded good to me. If they used that on all of the walls, wouldn't that be enough?

Maybe this bathroom water problem is the real culprit?

To check for condensation, I read I could hang a mirror on the wall and come back to check it for droplets. I will do that too.

This post is all over the place. If you read this far, many thanks to you.


It sounds like the bathtub may be the main source of your basement problems. That's a good place to start.

Fiberglass on the walls is a lot better than nothing, but is not the best solution. The issue with using pink fluffy stuff in basements is that the material needs to completely cover a wall, top to bottom to prevent the warm air from touching the cold wall. Your typical pink insulation will not contact the wall 100% . . . it bumps out a bit in places, and will sag over time. Air currents will work through the gaps behind the insulation and uncovered concrete can condense, and run down the wall. When it does the pink fluffy stuff absorbs this water and sags further . . . and it's R value goes to just about 0 when it's wet. Any old home that I've seen with fiberglass insulation against the walls will show water damage when you pull the insulation down. For this reason I'm a big fan of spray foam insulation and XPS insulation for use in basements.

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2013, 12:14:35 PM »
Good info. MANY THANKS!! I feel like I am getting somewhere after hearing what you all have to say, making my list, investigating things with flashlights, etc.


jawisco

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2013, 06:25:58 PM »
Sounds like you are on the right track.

I myself wouldn't go ripping out any walls searching for mold. I would get the humidity down as fast as possible, and as low as possible, and then find the issue.

After you fix the issue, just let it be, unless you have some symptoms or see some mold. Since you are sensitive to it, you will be able to tell if some is around. Only then would I start looking into walls for mold. If it isn't causing you a problem, don't go looking for it. I know others may disagree....

Mr. Minsc

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #30 on: October 30, 2013, 01:04:06 PM »
Quick story.

About five years ago my cousin raised his house and put it on a new foundation. Prior to putting down the foam insulation and vapor barrier on the floor the basement was quite damp. As we laid down the foam you could feel the air changing. Initially we were in coats, by the end we were in T-Shirts. My fathers basement has no insulation under the cement floor and they always had to use dehumidifiers to keep the moisture down.

Will it may not be a solution for you one could sacrifice some headroom and create and insulated floor over the existing cement floor. A little bit of insulation can make quite a difference. :)
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oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #31 on: October 30, 2013, 03:04:58 PM »
My fathers basement has no insulation under the cement floor and they always had to use dehumidifiers to keep the moisture down.

This is something to think about. Thanks!

oldtoyota

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #32 on: October 30, 2013, 03:06:41 PM »
Sounds like you are on the right track.

I myself wouldn't go ripping out any walls searching for mold. I would get the humidity down as fast as possible, and as low as possible, and then find the issue.

After you fix the issue, just let it be, unless you have some symptoms or see some mold. Since you are sensitive to it, you will be able to tell if some is around. Only then would I start looking into walls for mold. If it isn't causing you a problem, don't go looking for it. I know others may disagree....

I will consider this. Taking off a wall would not be so hard though. The wall is just paneling nailed into the studs so not as bad as removing sheetrock.

I am also allergic to dust, so I am not sure my mold allergy "alert system" will function 100% well. I'll give it a shot.

The amount of water collected by the dehumidifier does not seem to be slowing down! Wow. Whatever is causing the humidity is just continuing to cause it.


GuitarStv

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Re: Stopping Musty Basement Smell?
« Reply #33 on: October 31, 2013, 06:18:54 AM »
It might well be worth removing the walls, removing moldy insulation and redoing the basement walls with a proper moisture barrier (and ideally waterproof foam insulation). If it's relatively easy to pull the paneling off, you could do this slowly over a long period . . . one section of the wall at a time.