Plywood flooring in a Crawlspace or Basement – the possible dirt floor area cover-up.

As I mentioned before in a post about Fixing Plywood Flooring in a Basement, the existence of a plywood floor could simply be because of an uneven floor during construction. The other ugly truth is that this could be an easy and cost effective cover up for what the floor actually is.


Dirt floors in basements and crawlspaces across America are covered up every day with plywood to finally have a solid flat surface for storage. The problem with having a dirt floor is now moisture has a direct path into the basement, not to mention Soil Gases like Radon, Insects and other nasty business.

With open dirt floors in a tight space like a crawl space or basement the levels of moisture can sky-rocket and eventually cause large issues.

The wood that would keep your things steady and dry could become the food for mold and mildew and turn against the homeowner.

If a crawlspace has a dirt floor the best solution would be to encapsulate the crawlspace. This not only keeps the moisture out, it also improves the air quality and protects the insulation underneath the 1st floor of the home.

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!


Feedburner Feed Discontinued - Sorry to my Readers - New RSS Feed to subscribe too!

For a while I was using Feedburner to burn my RSS feeds for subscribers. And for a while it worked. But Google anounced there were some major problems with it, I had seen it stop taking content from Safe and Dry Blog and so I stopped using it.

Many readers have asked why I did that ...so here I am answering.

The new feed is the blogger default: Safe and Dry Blog RSS Feed

For now, it works, and you folks can still get my blog posts correctly!

Thank you for reading!

Found out that it's still "working" but it's lagging about 5 weeks behind or something silly. Needless to say it didn't change my choice, but at least you know you're not gonna be getting cut off completely.
(not like this blog is anywhere as addicting as Chocolate, but one could wish)

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Fixing Plywood flooring in the Basement that’s wicking water from underneath.

rotted plywood basement sub floor
Many homes that have finished basements have flooring that rests on a plywood riser. They are cheaper than leveling out the floor or pouring a new concrete floor. Because of this, quite a few finishing contractors throughout the United States help the homeowners create a cheep solution to provide them with a level floor.

The problem with this, as many have found, is that any plywood, 2x4s or any other type of wood absorbs water. This can lead to mold and mildew issues and rotting floorboards.

Fixing a wet plywood floor in the basement
If a plywood floor is wicking water up from underneath and causing issues there are three things that are needed to fix this:

Step 1: Remove the floor
Step 2: Identify the moisture issue
Step 3: Repair the moisture issue
Step 4: Decide on what you’d like to do for the floor.

Having an uneven floor temporarily outweighs any Mold or Water damage that could be generated from leaving the Plywood down.

Controlling the leak and moisture problem will not only keep this from happening again, but it will protect what is left of the finished space.

After that stage is complete you can move onto replacing the floor. The first step is adding a Sub Floor -

Addressing future flooring with a Sub Floor
Many flooring products only work with sub-flooring, or a floor that’s designed to be installed underneath the floor that you will see. It acts to separate the finished flooring from any moisture that might come into contact with it. (A carpet pad is a basic example of this, however a real sub-floor will be solid and not able to absorb moisture or other liquids.)

Products from Grate Products LLC, like WarmShield and FloorShield, have been used by Pioneer Home Basement Finishing and Pioneer Basement for years with great success. Carpets, wood flooring, and laminate flooring have all been installed and protected by the simple introduction of an in-organic sub floor.

Related Reading and Links

Plywood Floors in Crawlspace or tiny basements - Discussion on the Pioneer Forums

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!


3 Things that help Pioneer Basement Deal with Iron Bacteria

Iron Bacteria is becoming more and more common. As of today, almost 1 in 5 homes have an Iron Bacteria issue that could range from minimal to overwhelming.

As I’ve talked about before, Iron Bacteria is harmless to people, but it’s the machines, drains, and pumps in your basement that can be at risk if there is a problem that is not addressed.

Grate Products put a great deal of research into their Grate Drain products because of this. Here are the top 3 things that help any Grate Product Contractor, including Pioneer Basement Waterproofing of Massachusetts, to deal with Iron Bacteria more effectively than the “other guy”.

  1. Larger Openings in the Drain – Iron bacteria, has the ability to create chemical bonds with its self. This allows it to span small cracks, gaps and openings between rocks and drain pipes. The Grate Drain was designed with openings that are too large for this chemical bond to hold against the pressure caused by the volume of water coming through.
  2. Anti-Microbial – The Grate Drain and all the active components of the system have anti-microbial built into parts. This keeps the iron bacteria from even wanting to touch or attach itself to any parts of the drain or sump location.
  3. Center Wall – The center wall of the Grate Drain helps to make it stronger but it also segregates the two sides of the drain. It helps to keep any water that enters through the wall-footing joint from joining the water under the floor, and visa versa. This also goes for Iron Bacteria. It has been known to form colonies in one part of the basement and leave the other side alone, and this helps any Grate Products Contractor isolate the bacteria issue and provide a treatment for it.

Things we know about how to combat Iron Bacteria:

 Flushing the problem areas with 160-degree water causes the bacteria to go into hibernation which makes it easier to remove from a system.

 There are chemicals that can be used to treat small areas and unclog pumps, such as Iron Out, but they should be used in small amounts if used at all.

 Iron Bacteria feeds off of minerals in the water content. High iron and manganese deposits make for a better place for the bacteria to grow.

 It’s been reported in many of the northern states in the United States, such as Montana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Related Reading and Links

Steve Andras about Iron Bacteria: The Red Stuff - Waterproofing Mag.

Read more about Iron Bacteria on Safe'n'Dry Blog :-)

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Image thanks to FreeDrinkingWater.com


Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic - Historic Storm Touches down - New England to get Rain next two days

Full story by Weather.com: Historic Storm Carolinas to Mid-Atlantic

After passing through the south east, the storm hitting the mide-atlanitc states of New Jersey and Delaware today will sweap into the Southern New England States of Connecticut and Rhode Island late tomorrow (11/13/09) afternoon.

Coastal flooding in addition to the 2-4" of rain fall is being forcast by many local news channels.

Need help with flood water or moisture in the basement during the storm?
Maryland, DC and Arlington VA - Floodbusters Basement Waterproofing
Richmond, Norfolk, Alexandria, and Hampton - Virginia Basement Waterproofing

Connecticut and Southern New York - Charter Oak Enviromental
Eastern CT, Rhode Island and Massachusetts - Pioneer Basement Waterproofing

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!


Turning the Heat on in winter will show you the actual air quality of your Basement

How would turning the heat on upstairs have anything to do with the air quality of basement? It’s an interesting concept, but it’s one that many air quality experts, including Craig Clark from Ocean State Air in Rhode Island, deals with every winter.

We all know that the condition of the basement affects the air quality in the rest of the home. Lingering water, moisture and water damage, mold or other pollutants in the basement can influence the quality of the air and aggravate sensitivities in the homeowners.

Moisture problems that go unchecked in the summer don’t feel as serious in the winter. The cold air, for the most part, masks the issues in the basement. Humidity and excess moisture build up are as tangible in the winter as they are in the summer months that are naturally humid.

This becomes the combination to cause issues.

Turning on the heat forces warm air through your home, and in many cases your basement as well. This can awaken any unaddressed moisture issues again in the winter. With warm moist air now back again in the basement during winter, people with respiratory issues can be affected again when they least expect it.

“It’s not uncommon for an entire house to get sick because of poor air quality issues in the winter that could have been avoided by addressing them in the summer,” says Craig Clark, president of Ocean State Air in Rhode Island.

“Correcting an air quality issue in the home can avoid complications in months where normally there isn’t a problem.

“If you maintain the Relative Humidity, you can control the dew point and prevent the mold growth on cold surface areas.

mold in HVAC duct with High Humidity in basement.

“When homeowners turn the heating system on for the first time with mold contamination inside the HVAC system, the dried up mold becomes aerolized and can cause substantial discomfort to persons with mold allergies. A non-viable mold spore or mold fragment can cause as much discomfort as a viable spore or fragment.”

Inactive Mold resting inside of HVAC unit

The World Heath Organization back in August finally announced its findings about increased illness in buildings with air quality issues. Occupants of a building with moisture issues are 70% more likely to become ill than occupants of buildings with proper air quality.

Like always, make sure to have your home inspected to make sure that you don’t have moisture or a mold issue. With this new pattern in New England it might be a good idea to have an inspection before cranking the heat this winter.

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.


Basement Mistake pt 6 – Not Testing for Radon Gas every 2 Years.

radon testing for home check list
Public attention has recently been thrown Radon. It’s a radioactive soil gas that is undetectable. The only detection method is through taking air samples in a basement or crawlspace. The American Lung Association estimates that well over 21,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly connected to Radon exposure.

The EPA has responded by urging US citizens to test for radon in basements and crawlspaces every 2 years. This gives enough time between tests for dramatic changes created by remediation and other control systems in a basement or crawlspace to take hold.

So why haven’t you tested yet?
Not testing for Radon is pretty normal. Many homeowners and contractors, even with the Press and Media buzz about radon in marble table tops this past year, still haven’t seen the need to test. Only recently have large home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s started carrying the DIY Radon Test kits.

Let me put it this way: If you could avoid a dodge-ball to the face by simply moving a few inches…would you?

Testing is easy, cheep and accurate
DIY Test kits are provided by basement waterproofing companies, Radon Mitigation companies and even big box stores. Tests normally range from a few dollars to around $50 for full on-professional grade testing.

Many DIY Radon test results are generated by third-party testing labs, which is not only good for the company providing the test, (you also know that skilled professional Radon testing experts are providing quick and accurate results that are not swayed by the person who gave you the test) but its also good for YOU (the homeowner.)

So in this example the dodge ball is Radon while “moving” is simply spending a few dollars.

The difference is that Radon can kill you and a dodge-ball cannot. Unless the dodge-ball has spikes, in which case that is not a regulation style ball and shouldn’t be used. (Safety first)

Not testing for Radon in a basement or crawlspace is definitely one of the Top 6 BIGGEST and most common basement mistakes that homeowners and contractors alike make.

Related Links and Sites

EPA's home buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon


Basement Mistakes pt 5 – Finishing a Basement with Organic Construction Materials

incorrect wood stud finishing in a basement
With the push to find renewable resources for construction materials there have been a large amount of contractors who become confused about Renewable vs. Organic material.

I’ve spoken on the topic of organic material vs. in-organic material in the basement several times on multiple forums and in this blog. Renewable resource material isn’t always the same as Organic Material. Many Renewable construction materials are made out of recycled plastics and metals – which (lucky for you) are both In-Organic!!!

Green Home Improvement and the Basement Health Industry live in harmony once more!

Organic materials in a basement
One of the largest concerns about many homeowners is mold. Mold requires moisture, a dark space, and food to eat. Mold is able to break down organic materials like wood and paper; this is what it uses as food. Any wood, paper, paper-products, fabric, cardboard or dry wall can potentially become mold food.

Moisture Resistant materials and In-Organic Construction
The basement environment is radically different because of its naturally increased levels of humidity. This makes it that much more important to build with materials that are designed for moist areas and that don’t provide a food source for mold spores.

Paperless insulation, paperless dry wall, metal studs, and other materials are what are needed to properly finish a space in the basement. These materials, depending on their manufacturer, possess qualities that allow them to withstand moisture, provide rigid and custom fabrication, and possess all the same qualities of the construction materials used on the 1st and 2nd floors.

Placement of the studs.
Many homes, especially around New England, have finished basements. Homeowners and contractors for decades have been installing the wood studs directly against the foundation wall. A.) This is lazy and B.) This causes problems.

By putting a stud against the foundation wall you’re hoping that the foundation is plum and it’s one less step to do. Who needs to make sure anything’s level right? (Cough*sarcasm*cough)

Causes Problems:
Moisture travels through the foundation wall and comes into contact with these wood studs. Mold spores LOVE this and thrive, OR dry rot occurs, eventually rendering the wall useless.

Placing studs 2”-4” away from any foundation wall gives enough room to force air circulation and filtration behind the walls which keeps the area moving and clear of mold and excess moisture.

The area behind the studs is vulnerable to excess moisture build up, even more so then the rest of the basement, so if there is insulation in the finished walls, it’s that much more important to provide circulation and dehumidification.

The Take Away:
2.) DON’T USE “Standard” Dry wall!
4.) USE MATERIALS THAT HAVE BEEN TESTED TO BE MOISTURE AND MILDEW RESISTANT –many of these also have excellent fire ratings
5.) IF you don’t know what to do: ASK A PROFESSIONAL!

Hundreds of Thousands of dollars a year are wasted in ill-prepared and poorly planned basement finishing designs using the WRONG material. This is why it falls, yet again, under the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes that homeowners and contractors make.


Basement Mistake pt 4 – Having Open sump pits or drainage systems.

Open Sump Pump Basin or Pit
Open sump locations and open drainage systems are not uncommon. Many homeowners get “glammour-ed” by the logic of the sales pitch and, in desperation, follow through with installing an open sump pump basin and an open back drainage system.

The good news is that these two out-dated technologies are easily replaceable and easy to update.

Open sump pits – What’s the deal?
Having a sump pump installed is a good plan to deal with excess moisture and liquid water underneath the basement floor. It’s an excellent way to deal with water build up and hydrostatic pressure. A sump pump is designed to be fully under water, and when the water level is high enough it pumps the water out.

Now, when the water level is too low to activate the pump it can rest at the bottom of the sump basin. Many older designs of these basins didn’t come with lids. Homeowners created wood, metal and plastic sheets to cover the hole, but these do not seal the area off from the basement. Even with having a sump pump dealing with the water under the floor, homeowners would still be introducing the moisture from the standing water in the basin into the basement’s air. This can still happen and can lead to mold and moisture issues as well as give a direct path for water to jump the system. Flooding and other unpleasant things can also occur from having an open sump liner. (This doesn’t include the safety reasons – people falling in, toys or objects clogging and breaking pumps, rodents, insects, iron bacteria.etc.)

Open and open back drainage systems
For a long time, open back drainage systems were the cutting edge of technology. Combining the ideas of pipe and stone systems with the conveniences of easy installation on the footer and the simple method of collecting water from the walls. With water dripping or running down the walls from a floor crack, these open back systems would simply collect the water and put it in the drain.

open channel basement drainageEverything was well-and-good in the Basement Waterproofing Industry until people realized that these open systems were in fact allowing moisture and water to jump the system. The moisture that would build up in a system that was level (not allowing for continuous flow in a gravity fed direction) would also evaporate and escape out the back, thus adding humidity and moisture problems back into the basement.

Without knowing any better thousands of homes across America, especially in New England have increased the problems in their basements with these “easy install” fixes.

Many DIYers, and even seasoned Contractors, unknowingly subjected their (and their clients) basements to sump pump pits that were:
1.) Too Deep, causing undermining to the foundation
2.) Open allowing moisture to cause more problems in the basement
3.) Allowing water to have the ability to flood the basement or crawlspace from the sump
4.) Allow soil VOCs and other pollutants to enter the air in the home.

Having an open sump pit or an open back system installed is actually providing you with the opposite of what you’d hope. They allow moisture to collect and expand into the basement or crawl space while providing minimum protection to the home for floods and excess water. Because of these reasons, and several safety reasons, is why this falls under one of the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that could cost you money in repairs and damage.


Basement Mistake pt3 – Thinking that a basement is not part of the house.

foundation construction - basement isn't seperate from your home
Now this might sound down right silly, but many homeowners and even contractors actually treat the basement almost as if it wasn’t really part of the house. You might be saying “well that’s just silly!” and you would be right. The basement is the space created under your home by the walls of your foundation. Since it’s a closed in space, it is very much a part of your home and regularly contributes to the air quality and health of the rest of the home.

Foundation is sick, home is sick.
Movements in the soils around the foundation make the walls move, bricks buckle, or cause cracks in the basement walls. These movements also affect the home directly on top of it by causing ceiling and wall cracks, doors to stick and windows to get shifty. It’s not only connected in a physical way, but is also connected with airflow.

Air from the outside of the home finds its way into the basement through the foundation walls. The air travels up and into the first floor of the home and continues to travel until it reaches a window, roof or some other opening. If the air quality in the basement is poor, than the air quality in the rest of the home is affected and changed. Mold spores, pollutants or other VOCs that have access to your basement have access to the rest of the home.

The recent epidemic of sick-house syndrome is typically caused by problems emanating from the basement. Mold and mildew can quickly turn a home from a safe haven into a place that makes it hard to breathe and can even cause neurological disorders. Leaving the home’s foundation to it’s own devices will only allow further deterioration, cracks, moisture, and problems to occur.

Like any part of your home…
…the foundation needs to be repaired and maintained. Creating a healthy and safe environment will lend itself to creating a healthy and safe home.

Leaving problems like standing water, cracks, or mold to fix themselves will only leave you in solid disappointment.

As you would have a plumber come and tend to your pipes, have a basement health contractor come and inspect the condition of your basement. Providing a Radon Test every 2 years, correcting and foundation stability issues, and attending to moisture and water control needs will have you finally sitting pretty.

Evidence that Contractors think differently about the basement.
I was even surprised to see that many contractors (who aren’t in the basement health industry) see the basement as separate from the rest of the home. Many finishing contractors will build with the same materials as they would on a 1st or 2nd floor project. Organic material such as wood and standard dry walls can turn into hazards when met with moisture issues. This proves that many finishing contractors don’t understand the basement environment and think that the foundation is a separate part of the home.

Providing the same classical finishing methods and materials to a remodeling job in the basement shows that contractors don’t always understand the problems of their materials in the foundation area. Paper-backed dry walls and insulation can feed mold problems. Wood studs can absorb moisture and introduce mold and dry rot odors to the basement. The basement requires different types of materials to be used in the basement and by not understanding this; contractors condemn their remodeling projects to eventual disaster.

The foundation itself, yes, is a separate “piece” of the home, but the conditions within it are very much connected to the rest of the home. This is why thinking this way about the basement is one of the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes.


Basement Mistakes pt 2 – Not having a dehumidifier and/or not emptying it regularly.

how a basement dehumidifier works
Home depot and other improvement stores carry droves of dehumidifiers that thousands of consumers by a year. Some homeowners even have two or three of the same kind, cracking’ away in the basement, attempting to level out the humidity. Typically, someone who’s looking for something better will call Pioneer Basement and say something like “I have a dehumidifier but it doesn’t seem to be doing what I need.” – here in lies the issue.

The “Not emptying it Regularly” part of the mistake.
A little background: The consumer grade dehumidifiers are designed to be cheaply built and mass-produced to get as many units out to the public as possible. This mass production created a design flaw for the sake of creating a compact unit.

Every dehumidifier has both a heating element and a cooling element as part of its’ process. Damp air is drawn into the unit and the moisture is separated from the air by rapidly cooling it. The water then forms on the condenser coils and the air is filtered out through the dehumidifier as dry. However, to collect the now semi-frozen water off the coils, the dehumidifier now needs to warm it up so that the moisture drips into the collection pan (oh, the famous and hated collection pan).

This is all well and good, however, the close proximity of the heating element to the collection pan then mutates this dehumidifier into a Humidifier…in a sense turning the unit on it’s own purpose for existing! The dehumidifier now adds humidity and then has to work AGAIN to pull that moisture out of the air and into the pan.

Here in lies the problem of “Not Emptying it enough” – By allowing the water to sit in the collection pan for long amounts of time you give the unit more time to heat that pan and place more humidity back into the basement. A good solution for this is to by-pass the collection bin and force the water drain out of the unit and into a sink, outside, or into a sump location.

The mistake of “not having a dehumidifier” in the first place.
Most basements have natural levels of 45-66% relative humidity year round. Mold and mildew only need levels of 50% or higher to grow and become an issue. Venting might be a temporary fix to add new air to the basement, but it can’t be done year round because of letting in moisture from out side, allowing critters to get in, rain to flow through, or having the basement get too cold in the summer.

The dehumidifier is designed to remove the dampness of the humidity in the basement and pump out dry warm air in the process. This not only helps circulation of the air in the basement but it contributes to healthier basement air quality.

By not having a dehumidifier you allow humidity levels to go unchecked. Thus, allowing your chances for mold, mildew, moisture damage, and smells to increase. Too much humidity in the basement can also cause damage to your insulation, make wood floors buckle, or potentially cause mold to start on the first floor of the house (yes, the basement affects the rest of the home too!)

A dehumidifier is a good first step in controlling moisture in the basement, which is why it’s part of the Top 6 Most Common Basement Mistakes that homeowners and builders make.

If you’re looking to purchase a dehumidifier, take a minute to read my tips on Buying the Right Dehumidifier for your Home.

Image thanks to http://www.remodelguide.com/