6 Ways to Improve Basement Ventilation

Marwa Hasan
Written by Marwa Hasan
Updated December 14, 2021
Finished basement for a family
Photo: PhotoSerg / Adobe Stock

Imagine what you can do with your basement once that lingering musty odor is gone

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If your basement feels stuffy or musty, it's likely because of poor ventilation. But there are ways you can resolve this problem, from reducing humidity to installing new vents. The following tips can help you improve your basement space and its air quality, so that activities like hosting game day watch parties and endless ping pong tournaments can resume. 

Why Should You Ventilate Your Basement?

Mildew and musty odors are just a few culprits that can pop up in unventilated basements. With small windows in the basement, ventilation doesn't just happen on its own. Rain, running the clothes dryer, or moisture coming through the concrete can cause the basement air to become more humid. If left unchecked, poor air circulation can potentially lead to radon gas accumulation or cause carbon monoxide to build-up. 

But don’t panic. With a few easy steps, you can turn your beautifully finished basement into a place that’s pleasant to spend time in again.

1. Utilize Natural Ventilation

If your basement is humid and filled with stale air, natural ventilation is one solution for creating fresh airflow. This method reduces moisture and saves energy. Just open up your windows and doors to let in some fresh air. 

If you don’t have any windows in your basement, consider installing new windows—the more windows you install, the better the airflow. The process may be a bit of an investment, but windows are a necessary ventilation component. They will also help when installing additional ventilation tools, such as exhaust fans. Install new egress windows in a location where they are protected from extreme weather conditions.

2. Install Vents 

Vents help your space breathe—they exchange stale air with fresh air and allow circulation between rooms.

If leaving your basement door or window open all the time is not an option, a vent by the basement door will aid in more airflow. An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) whole-house ventilation system works well for areas of the home that benefit from outdoor air, like a basement. The system preheats or precools incoming air while also managing water vapor. The result is better air quality with less humidity.

3. Invest in an Air Purifier

Girl sitting at table near air purifier
Photo: Andrey Popove / Adobe Stock

Air purifiers suck in stagnant air and pass it through a series of filters. These filters catch dust particles, mold spores, and allergens, before pushing out clean air into your basement.

4. Dehumidify

The EPA suggests that homeowners should maintain humidity under 60% to control the growth of mold and mildew in their basements.

If your basement air is humid, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier effectively reduces moisture accumulation to ensure a more livable and comfortable environment that isn’t a haven for mold. Just be sure to pick a dehumidifier that fits the size of your basement, which can cost between $800 to $2,000

5. Use Fans

A high-performance exhaust fan in the basement bathroom will get rid of moisture. An exhaust fan works by pushing stale air out of your basement and forcing fresh air to come in.

You must vent your basement into an open outdoor space (a crawl space or an attic won't be effective for this project type). Fans can be installed in a vent pipe, windows, or might require cutting through a basement wall.

If you can’t install an exhaust fan, you can use a box fan to improve ventilation. They're small, portable, and only cost around $50 to $250.

6. Extend the HVAC System to the Basement

Extending the HVAC system to the basement could be a good idea to consider if you're remodeling your basement. A central AC system draws in air from inside the home, passing it through a filter and cooling it until the air reaches the desired temperature.

This system benefits basement ventilation by creating more airflow, making it ideal throughout the year. In addition, forced air systems contain dehumidifiers, which means that the air pumped into your home is relatively free from any moisture. The cost of installing a central air conditioning system in your home ranges between $5,000 to $12,500.

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