Spring basement joys

After getting weeks of rain here, our basement has been feeling quite humid.  It is mostly finished, with a drainage system (like an underground rainspout) and a sump pump, which are both pretty common around here.   In fact, the term “Michigan basement” is shorthand here for a basement with stone walls and a dirt or concrete floor.  It seems not everyone is foolish enough to even try sealing their basements.

Our last apartment in Madison had a basement out of a horror movie.  It was, as it happened, a Michigan basement, and had tiny rivers in the middle of the poorly sealed walls when it rained, and no dehumidifier.  The mold was terrifying, but it never seemed to bother us upstairs, and we didn’t store anything we really loved down there.  Amazingly, all of our belongings escaped that apartment unscathed.

So we were puzzled last week when we discovered that we had the beginnings of some mold in the strangest places in the basement–on some CD wallets (aren’t those pure plastic?), on the back of a particleboard desk, on the lid of the chest freezer.  We run a dehumidifier in the laundry room, the only room that’s unfinished.  We also noticed that our laundry was taking three days to dry and a couple loads had to go right back in the wash because they smelled….basementy.  We would be hanging laundry outside, but every day in the last month has threatened rain, so I don’t even try.

Picture 3

So we’ve gone on a rampage in the last few days:

1.  No instruments stored downstairs.  I practice and teach down there, then the viola sleeps in the living room.

2.  No books downstairs until the weather warms and the humidity drops.

3.  Every surface that looked the least bit suspicious has been wiped.

4.  Furniture has been moved, corners checked, blankets washed.

5.  This is our laundry setup for the foreseeable future:

upstairs, in the office, with fan

upstairs, in the office, with fan

6.  Per our neighbor’s suggestion, I sprinkled baking soda on the carpets and vacuumed the next day. This supposedly helps with moisture and odor.  This seems like a good idea–and it was, when I did it last summer–but all I got this summer was a clumpy roadmap of the damp spots on the carpet:

P1100415

7.  I guess the dehumidifier needs to be turned lower!

8.  We figured out that the sump pump is dumping only 4 feet from the back of the house, under a shaded deck, no doubt also making the mosquito situation much worse.  We bought an extension so that it now drains much farther away.

When I moved these plastic bins which had been sitting on the floor, I noticed that they were dripping wet within 6″ of the ground.

P1100416

I am pretty confused here, and I grew up with a basement that occasionally let in some water.  Give it a couple days, and everything was fine.  This one just seems to have water emanating from the floor.  Poor Dave, who grew up in the desert.  You see, the desert is a magical place where the bathrooms don’t need exhaust fans and every front yard has a sprinkler system.  The first summer Dave spent in the midwest we had this recurring conversation:

“Now a swamp cooler–that’s how you cool off.”
“What’s a swamp cooler?”
“It’s a fan that sprays mist into the air.  The humidity cools you off.”
“……I’m pretty sure that’s a horrible idea.”

And then he saw how every book in the house gets wrinkly for two months of the year, and now he understands.

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