How To Improve Air Quality In Basements (9 Easy Methods)

  • Author: Irene Mills
  • Date: October 27, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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The basement is the one room in the house that seldom gets used to its full potential – but there’s so much you can do with it!  

While it usually gets turned into storage, you have the potential for a home office, a movie room, and a spare guest room.

The biggest problem is that basements tend to be, well, a little on the musty side.

So, what can you do to make your basement more comfortable and livable?

The best ways to improve basement air quality are to remove VOC chemicals, have a radon test, close the windows, install ventilation, find and seal cracks, use an air purifier which is a basement air cleaner, use a dehumidifier for humidity control and lastly do a basement air quality test. 

Below, I will go into more detail on each step of how to improve basement air quality.

Making your basement livable is something that you can do. It’s all about deciding your strategy and then putting it in place.

Since we don’t know what your basement is like, we’re going to give you plenty of suggestions so that you’ll have everything you need to get the job done right!

Let’s take a look at what you can do.

1. Air Purifiers

When it comes to how to improve basement air quality an air purifier can make a huge difference.

You want to look for an Air purifier that states it is HEPA-compliant.

This is a purity standard that is designed to filter out 99.97% of air contaminants, such as pollen, mold, bacteria, dust – you name it.

These air purifiers can make a world of difference, especially while you are working down there to clean up the basement.

Product Overview
LEVOIT Core 300 Air Purifier
  • 100% Ozone-Free
  • Powerful Performance: With a CADR of 130 CFM 
  • Sleep Comfortably: With noise levels as low as 23 decibels
  • Easy to Place
  • Filter Replacements: Depending on usage, the filters should be replaced every 6–8 months. 

2. Dehumidifiers

Moisture and dampness are conducive to mold and so you’ll want to dry out the basement as much as you can.

A dehumidifier can help you to do this, getting the moisture out of the air so that you can get the basement properly dried out and ready for your plans.

3. Remove VOC Chemicals

VOC stands for ‘volatile organic compounds’, which sounds fancy but it basically refers to things like trash or fertilizer that we tend to stick down in the basement when we don’t want to (or we’re not sure how to) deal with them.

These are toxic and tend to smell up the basement anyways, so the VOCs have got to go!

Check out our post on the : Most Popular air purifiers that help with Chemical Sensitivity

4. Radon Test

Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that has been linked to lung cancer and basements are at risk for this gas seeping in.

The EPA recommends testing at least once every 2 years to make sure that Radon is not present in your basement.

5. Close The Windows

While windows sometimes get fresh air flowing in, they also have a nasty habit of blowing in pollen, humid air, and dust.

This means the allergen levels in the basement get raised, mold is encouraged, and the basements going to get dirty again. Not good. We want to control the basement environment as much as possible, so close those windows.

6. Install Ventilation

Consider installing ventilation, especially if you are going to convert the area into a guest space, office, or entertainment area where you’ll be spending a lot of time.

If this is too cost-prohibitive, you can use a bit of a ‘hack’ by installing door fans so that you can control the circulation of fresh air to the basement.

This will mean leaving the basement door open so that the door fan can draw air inside, so it’s not a very elegant solution but it is something that you can do if installing ventilation is simply not in the budget at this time.  

7. Find And Seal Cracks

Inspect your basement for cracks and crevices – you might be surprised how many you will find there.

These can come from several different sources, such as rodents, wall damage, and inefficient installations… you get the idea.

We want to find and seal these so that the environment is more controlled.

Also, if you find any structural damage, for instance from mold, then you’ll want to hire a professional to take a look.

This sort of damage can be quite dangerous and it’s not something that you want to deal with on your own unless you are 100% sure that you know what you’re doing.

8. Consider Your Paint

Some paints have a high VOC content and you won’t notice unless you are around that paint for prolonged periods of time.

Since the basement doesn’t have the same ventilation as the rest of the house, consider repainting it with Zero VOC paint.

These are available retail and you can also ask at your local hardware store.

You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in that ‘chemical’ basement smell!

Check out our post on the: Most Popular Air Purifiers That Help With Paint Fumes

9. Basement Air Quality Test Kit

Finally, the best way to improve air quality in your basement is to get an air quality test kit. This will help you find exactly what is going on with the air quality of your basement.

The best on the market is the VOCs and Active Mold Test – Indoor Air Quality by Home Air Check.

People love that it is easy to use and the Lab Analysis is Included in the Cost.

All you have to do is take a sample and send it off to the AIHA-accredited* laboratory for analysis.

When the test is returned to you it will give you all the information you’ll need to improve the air quality.

The Analysis will also check for harmful VOCs and Active Mold Tests that are in your basement that could be making you sick.

Product Overview
VOCs and Active Mold Test - Indoor Air Quality by Home Air Check
  • **Lab Analysis is Included in Cost**
  • Single-use indoor air quality test measures hundreds of different VOCs and checks for actively growing mold
  • Gives information on what in your home could be making you sick
  • Provides suggestions on how to improve your air quality
  • Easy-to-use test kit; Samples returned to an AIHA-accredited* laboratory for analysis

What Pollutants Are Found In A Basement?

Basements have pollutant concerns that are different from most of the rest of your house.

Below you’ll find some of the most common issues that occur in the basement which you’ll need to deal with:   

  • Mold and mildew – This is often the source of the signature ‘basement smell’. Water can seep in through the concrete or leaks, making the basement damp and thus a ‘happy place’ for mold and mildew. Worse, mold produces spores in the air and anyone down there is getting a noseful.
  • Radon – The EPA recommends that you check for Radon once every 2 years and for good reason – this odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass insulation is sometimes present in crawlspaces, ductwork, and other areas, and worse, it’s generally overlooked.
  • Chemical fumes – We tend to store solvents, gas, lacquer, and other chemicals in the basement. Even stored equipment can produce fumes and they tend to get concentrated down in the basement, severely reducing the air quality.
  • Volatile organic compounds – Sometimes we store things that we can’t easily dump in the basement, such as fertilizer or other organic compounds. Not only do they make the basement smell, but they can be quite toxic.

When To Call A Professional

Sometimes it’s best to hire a professional and here are some good examples of when that might be a good idea:

  • You are unable to locate the source of smells in the basement
  • Time in the basement makes you feel sickly or fatigued
  • If you locate structural damage related to mold

These are just a few examples and you don’t even need these. If you aren’t comfortable with your basement air quality or feel that it’s going to be a chore to deal with, then why not hire a pro?

They can get it done fast, and right, and they can inspect it afterward so that you know that everything is golden!

Final Thoughts- Improving Air Quality In Basement

Improving the air quality in your basement takes a little time, but if you make a strategy with the tips that we’ve provided today then you should be able to reclaim that space in no time!

A good start is a HEPA-compliant Air Purifier and a thorough inspection so that you know exactly what you are dealing with.

A dehumidifier can help to dry out the area to deal with and help to prevent mold and you’ll want to get those VOCS out – they aren’t doing you any favors.

Seal up cracks and close the windows and if at all possible, install ventilation. It costs a little now, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Finally, if the basement still smells… consider a professional inspection. It’s easy to overlook a thing or two and their input or services can be invaluable.

Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your new home office or watching movies with the kids. Your basement will be yours to do whatever you want to do with it!

I hope this gave you a good insight on how to improve basement air quality. Keep reading below for frequently asked questions.

How To Improve Air Quality In Basement

FAQ

Is basement air bad to breathe?

With the lack of air circulation and mold being a common component of basements, allergies may be triggered or you might even experience headaches.
If this happens, consider hiring a professional or at least putting an air purifier down there, and consider wearing a facemask while you work.
Finally, work in small time sessions so that you aren’t overly exposed to the air if you believe that it is toxic. It’s always better to be on the safe side.

Can living in a basement cause health problems?

Depending on the air quality of the basement, health problems are certainly a concern. If you will be using the basement as a living space, a professional inspection is recommended to ensure that health concerns will not be an issue.

How can I check the air quality of my basement?

There are a few things that you can do to test the air quality and here are some of the most common to get you started:
Install a carbon monoxide detector
Purchase a retail AQM/Air Quality Monitor
Inspect for mold
Test for Radon
Get the basement professionally tested

irene mills author of freshairdevices

(writer & chief editor)

Irene Mills is eager to help others create an indoor allergen-free home. She has years of experience testing out air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and other products designed to help with indoor air quality. Learn more about me.