What can you store in a damp basement, and how?
April 4, 2007 6:39 PM   Subscribe

What can you store in a damp basement, and what's the best way to do it?

We just moved to Portland, and our new (rental) place has an unfinished basement that just screams damp, mold and mildew. The owner says water collects occasionally in one corner.

Storage space on the living floor is tight, so we want to be able to store stuff in the basement. What can we put down there without it going all nasty, and what's the best way to do it?

Clothes? Pillows? Papers and files? Camping gear (sleeping bags, tents)? Anything nylon? Drum set? Everything in plastic storage bins, up on pallets, with a dehumidifier going? Will that be enough, or are we just going to have to cram all our crap in our limited living space?
posted by gottabefunky to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you put anything along those lines up there, I would first put them in Space Bags and then seal them up in rubbermaid bins or at least garbage bags.

Honestly, we have a storage unit subject to extremes in temperature and humidity, and all we keep in there are out-of-season fans, out-of-season holiday decorations, out-of-season plastic deck chairs, and an extra cat carrier. I feel kind of gross about leaving anything that mold could easily grow in there.
posted by tastybrains at 7:00 PM on April 4, 2007

There was just a thread about things to store in attics last week--that had a lot of this sort of information in it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:05 PM on April 4, 2007

If you want to store anything you care about, you will want to run a dehumidifier. If there's standing water, you definitely want to raise things up on skids. Otherwise, maybe you just want to keep your wine collection and home-canned jam there.
posted by plinth at 7:06 PM on April 4, 2007

I wouldn't put anything made of cloth or paper in our damp basement. And absolutely no musical instruments. Nope. Or anything that I couldn't replace.

Everything else, up on pallets in plastic bins or hanging on the walls. We've got tools, an extra set of china and dishes/pots that we only use a few times a year, extra glass vases, lawn furniture, a few pieces of furniture that we're not VERY attached to, a few window fans, and our portable cooler down there. Nothing that can absorb odor or grow mold. Or warp. YMMV.
posted by jeanmari at 7:10 PM on April 4, 2007

I have a box of Musician and Rolling Stone magazines from the 80s in our damp gross basement and they're actually fine. But if I cared about them I wouldn't leave them there.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2007

If there is sometimes standing water, I doubt a dehumidifier is going to be able to keep up. First thing I would do is get some drainpipe extenders to try and get roof drainage as far as possible from the foundation as possible (assuming the grade won't take it right back to the foundation).

Then I'd get a dehumidifier and run it down there for a week or so. If there is any sort of viable floor drain, have it drain directly there, otherwise, you'll be emptying the reservoir 3 times a day from now on.

After running the dehumidifier for a while, take a second look and see if things have improved.

Even with those measures, I'd be cautious and elevate anything I stuck down there. I'd ziplock storage bags, or sealed plastic bins for pretty much everything made of any sort of cloth, fiber, leather or paper.
posted by Good Brain at 9:19 PM on April 4, 2007

Absolutely nothing cloth, and really absolutely no pillows or comforters. If those things get mildewy, IMO they're trash. (I find the thought of sleeping on a mildewy pillow pretty insufferable, but maybe I've just gone soft.)

Packing pallets, particularly the high-tech plastic kind if you can find them, are your friend. But really I'd say that things that normally live outdoors are the only stuff you can put down there safely. Lawn/patio furniture in the off-season, that sort of thing. I wouldn't really even store tools in a place that damp, because they'll rust.

If you have a floor drain down there, or even a laundry sink or toilet, I'd run a dehumidifier down there to try and keep it as dry as you can. (Realize that a dehumidifier does suck a lot of electricity, though, and also that you have to get the thing up higher than whatever you want it to drain into. This might involve putting it on a table or workbench if you want to drain it into a sink.) And if you go away on vacation and leave the dehumidifier on, have someone check up on it. If the drain hose gets knocked out of position or something, you'll have gallons of water everywhere overnight.

Trying to fix whatever is causing the water to collect in the basement is also a good idea. (I second moving the roof drains away from the house, which might require installing gutters if the house doesn't have them.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:40 PM on April 4, 2007

My first thought was Space Bags. Agreeing with above, probably a good idea to then store those in plastic totes.

My experience with musty basements is that everything I stored down there then smelled gross - and that's just with a little bit damp basement using a dehumidifier running 24/7 (which is much more expensive than I thought it would be).
posted by KAS at 5:48 AM on April 5, 2007

I have a basement like that and honestly I've given up trying to store anything at all down there. Maybe glass or china would be okay, but everything else, and I mean from Halloween decorations to an old breadmaker, came back upstairs so nasty that it wasn't worth it. It's a pain, because I desperately need more storage space, but since I'm not willing to invest (more) money in my rented house, I had to just give up on using the basement for anything at all.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2007

Otherwise, maybe you just want to keep your wine collection and home-canned jam there.

But be careful they're not on the floor, or they may get moldy and gross too (on their outsides).
posted by leahwrenn at 7:32 AM on April 5, 2007

I second space bags, but I'd likely also add a dehumidifier, unless, of course, the dehumidifier can't handle the amount of humidity that is in your particular basement. I am not recommending that dehumidifier I linked to specifically, but just linked so you can see what one is.
posted by battlecj at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2007

These are the two best suggestions thus far:

-- Nothing that can absorb odor or grow mold. Or warp

-- Anything you wouldn't have a problem storing outside in the rain.

If you decide to double bag be very careful. Only open the bags away from the basement.

If you need longterm storage investing in a rental/storage unit might be cheaper than a dehumidifier in the long run.

Or, find a new place to rent. Your landlord should seriously consider investing in a sump pump to preserve his/her property value but that's out of your control.
posted by rosebengal at 3:06 PM on April 5, 2007

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