Basements come in many varieties. Luxury homes can contain elaborate theaters, entertainment centers and small kitchens in their finished basements. Contrast that with the basic unfinished, rather moldy basement in my childhood home, not uncommon in many older homes even today. A basement can be a desirable home asset or a space that is rather scary and mostly unused. In any case, a basement should at the very least pose no health and safety threat to the members of your household. So here are some tips to make your basement a safe and even desirable place to spend time:
- Test your basement for radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that is found in nearly all soils. It can enter your basement through cracks in the foundation. Once inside your home, the gas can build up and cause health problems. Radon testing is common and inexpensive.
- Basements, especially unfinished basements, can be damp and promote mold growth. Consider using a dehumidifier in the basement and be sure any cracks in floors or walls are sealed.
- Cover exposed insulation in an unfinished basement. Insulation releases vapors that can be harmful if inhaled. If you’re not planning to put up drywall, at least cover the insulation with plastic sheets.
- Be sure stairs to the basement have a railing. Visibility is often poor on basement stairs, so be sure lighting is adequate and there is a railing for safety on the stairs.
- Cardboard boxes are not a good choice for storage in the basement. Cardboard absorbs moisture, which can foster mold and attract pests. Plastic bins are a better choice for basement storage.
- Be sure your basement has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Cleaning supplies and other chemicals should be stored safely and out of the reach of children.
- Keep window wells around basement windows clear of clutter and debris. Be sure gutters funnel water away from your home, so it won’t seep into the basement.
- If your basement becomes flooded, never wade into the basement unless all electricity has been disconnected. If you have to turn off power at the breaker box, never stand in water to do so.
Finished basements can be a wonderful asset to a home. The acoustics are particularly well-suited to home theaters. Heating and cooling bills tend to be minimal, as temperatures below ground don’t fluctuate very much. If you’re fortunate enough to have a basement in your home, make it a safe and stylish space that everyone in your household can enjoy.