Alas, musty basements
Have you noticed a musty odor in certain areas of your home? That’s a sign of concrete moisture vapor transmission. It’s a common problem in musty basements. The moisture source, typically the earth itself, provides a continuous flow of humidity that passes through your concrete slab. Over time, the infiltration of moisture may lead to efflorescence (visible white salts). If left unresolved, it may lead to concrete failure. More importantly, this moisture may be the source of Sick Building Syndrome and other indoor air quality (IAQ) issues.
But moisture vapor isn’t the only culprit. Radon, an invisible, odorless and radioactive gas, can also seep through concrete. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and elevated levels of radon have been found in homes all across the country. So how do you find out if you have a radon problem? Because it’s odorless, the only way is with a test kit that you buy at a home hardware store or online.
How does this happen?
It happens because a house acts like a vacuum for underground gases. The air pressure inside your house is lower than in the soil surrounding the foundation. This difference in pressure is caused by air exchangers, exhaust fans, clothes dryers and the like. When air is pushed out of the house, outside air is pulled in to replace it. Much of this replacement air comes from the ground surrounding the house…bringing gases with it.
How can I mitigate this?
Well, if you’ve confirmed the presence of radon, don’t mess around. Your first step is to hire a radon specialist to discuss the possibility of installing a removal system: a “sub slab” or “active soil” depressurization system (http://www.radonawareness.org/how-to-fix.php). These systems work by reversing the pressure differential between the soil and lower part of your house. But according to RadonAwareness.Org, there is a secondary measure you can take…seal your floor. Sealing the cracks and other openings of the interior substructure provides an additional level of radon protection.
So what’s the best way to do this? Have an epoxy floor coating installed in your basement. Not only will the coating assist as a valuable radon mitigation strategy, it’ll also prevent air quality issues associated with concrete moisture vapor emission. A two-fer!
Test for radon. If present, hire a radon specialist. In either case, hire a contractor specializing in the application of professional epoxy floor coatings. These coating systems will help that musty basement and provide a healthier environment by forming an added layer of protection against indoor air quality threats.
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