Summer heat and humidity can affect our breathing in many ways.  The issue I am most familiar with as a former home inspector is basement mold.  Most basements have higher humidity than the rest of the house, and summer humidity only adds to that.   Mold needs humidity to be greater than 63% to grow.

How does one find out the humidity level in their basement?  A home owner does not necessarily need to know the humidity of their basement.  Being familiar with the signs of mold is more important.

There are three things a home owner should look for that might indicate the presence of elevated levels of mold:

1.        Presence of a “wet animal” smell.  Especially if the smell gets worse in the summer.  If you don’t have a pet and your basement has this smell, that is a big indicator that mold is present.  Like any living thing, mold waste products are methane based and they smell.

2.       Wetness or water seepage in basement corners, and areas that are farthest underground.

3.       Staining on wall board, wood, cardboard or any product that mold can feed on.  These are usually wood and petroleum based products.  Staining is usually black.  Most molds are black, so do not panic and assume black staining is toxic “black mold.”  Testing is the only way to confirm, but toxic molds are less common.

There are two ways to best deal with basement mold during the summer:

1.       Dehumidify.  When doing this make sure the condensation is pumped or drained.  Draining manually will often cause people to forget to do so consistently.

2.       Make sure exterior ground surfaces around the foundation slope away from the home.  Slope the earth away for up to ten feet if possible.  Only sloping the earth for a few feet helps little.  If there is not enough room to slope the earth then adding drain piping several inches below the surface can be a huge help.  This is also a doable DIY project if digging is not an issue for a homeowner.

Mold testing and remediation is always an option, but both can be expensive.  Once remediation is done keeping mold away still involves the steps listed above. I suggest trying them first.