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Basements, Crawl Spaces & Indoor Air Quality

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Published on Nov 13, 2014

Depending on where you live, your home is likely either built on a slab, above a crawl space or over a basement. The type of foundation used to build a home can create various situations that could impact the indoor air quality of the overlying property.

Some homes with crawl spaces and basements suffer from moisture problems. Often the first tell-tale sign is a musty odor. Damp parts of the home can promote the growth of mold which can cause health concerns for people that range from triggering asthma to causing allergies and even infections in some people.

Radon is another concern. The EPA recommends testing for radon on the lowest lived-in level of a home as radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into a home through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

Good ventilation protects both people’s health and their home. The basement should be included in the home's ventilation system. Crawl spaces also need to have adequate ventilation to allow moisture to escape and the exchange of air under the home.

Many basements and some crawl spaces also contain combustion appliances. These may include furnaces, hot water heaters and clothes dryers. It is important that these are exhausted properly to outside of the house to prevent dangers associated with carbon monoxide. It is also important that clothes dryers are vented to outside of the home and not into the surrounding area or just into the wall or attic.

In older homes, basements and crawl spaces may also have asbestos insulation or other asbestos containing materials. These materials can become a health concern if they have become friable or are disturbed during renovation or remodeling activities. Lead-based paints are another potential hazard in older properties.




In some areas, homes may be built where there is contaminated soil or ground water present. Volatile chemicals can emit vapors that may migrate through subsurface soils and into indoor air spaces of buildings in ways similar to that of radon gas seeping into homes. This process is known as vapor intrusion.

Many basements and some crawl spaces are also used to store cleaning chemicals, pesticides, paints, solvents, fuels and other materials. Off-gassing from any of these could create indoor air quality issues.

These are just a few things to know about basements, crawl spaces and indoor air quality issues. To learn more about this or other health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown in the video.

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