Unventilated basements seem to harbour the most unpleasantness compared to other rooms in your house, from moisture problems to foul smells to mould growth. This is partly because many households use their basements to store cleaning products, auto supplies, paints, solvents, and other chemicals that slowly release fumes into the air. And with no air circulation, these fumes build up to produce a highly polluted indoor environment.
But improving your basement ventilation and making it healthier is still the more cost-effective option for adding space to your house compared to investing in a room addition. There are a few ways to achieve this, but first, you should do an air quality test.
Testing the air quality
You can ask a professional to come and assess the air quality and possible contaminates in the basement or simply get a DIY kit. You should also consider testing for radon – an odourless gas responsible for most cases of lung cancer among non-smokers. Once you get the results, you can take the necessary steps to improve air quality, which typically include eliminating pollutants allowing for air circulation and improving the cleanliness of the air.
If you cannot remove all the sources of pollution, then consider reducing the quantity of pollution emission by activating your heating system or some other high-emission device to improve the air quality.
Adequate ventilation is necessary for achieving good air quality. It involves eliminating musty air and letting in fresh air from outside, which can be accomplished by:
- Adding in new windows
Windows and doors installation provides natural ventilation. When opened, natural air currents allow cool, fresh air to get into the room through the openings while the polluted air is exhausted. The initial cost of window installation may be high, but it might be the only investment you need to make to improve your basement’s ventilation.
That said, windows will only be effective if they are strategically positioned in a place where they can be easily opened and closed. The windows should also be protected from extreme weather, especially severe precipitation, to reduce the risk of flooding. Whenever possible, multiple windows should be installed to allow air to flow in and out naturally.
Common options include:
- Custom glass block windows for basements: You can install glass block windows that feature vinyl hopper window vents to allow for air circulation. They can be custom made for any size of opening. Moreover, they add privacy and security, require no maintenance, are cost-effective, and are as energy efficient as thermal pane windows.
- Awning or hopper-style vinyl windows: These windows can also be custom made for each opening. They feature an operable opening switch that lets you open the entire window. They also feature an easy-to-remove screen. Awning windows open outwards, while hopper windows open inwards.
- Adding egress windows
Egress windows refer to openings in the wall that are large enough for someone to pass through in the event of an emergency. The installation of egress windows is a bit tasking as you will need to prepare the foundation by digging out a large opening and even cutting into your home’s foundation.
- Installing a forced air system
If you have a wet basement, natural ventilation may not be enough to maintain a high level of air quality. Forced air systems include fans and dehumidifiers that use electrical power to remove stale air from the basement, supply dry, fresh air from outside, and regulate moisture in the space. These systems vary in size, from small window fans placed in a small opening to huge exhaust fans with ventilation pipes. The best mechanical systems feature humidity sensors for automation, so you can easily keep humidity below 60 percent to prevent the growth of mould and mildew.
If you are concerned about opening and closing your windows, simply shop for window frames that are fitted with ventilators. These will provide a constant supply of fresh air without requiring your input.
Which ventilation system is right for you?
While installing windows is the most energy-efficient option, mechanical ventilation systems offer a high level of flexibility and automation that appeals to many homeowners. Moreover, homes that test positive for radon are required to install mechanical systems to reduce the risk for cancer.
Whether you choose to add new windows, install a mechanical ventilation system, or both, the first step should be planning the design. Your ventilation requirements depend primarily on the size of your basement, as well as what you want to use the space for. Windows are great for adding natural light as well, and can be easily complemented with a ventilation and exhaust fan placed on either side of the basement.
Improving air cleanliness
With your new window and doors installation, you can now work on improving the air quality in your basement. Common options include installing an air ioniser, adding household plants from your local garden centre, and installing a HEPA filter.