How can I get rid of a moldy smell in the basement?

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Answered by Tim Snyder, Guest Editor

This homeowner has a partially finished basement. In fact, a contractor framed new walls using wood studs, fiberglass insulation and drywall, and the basement stays relatively dry— there's no water leaking onto the floor, yet there’s still a moldy smell. Mold colonies are very likely to take hold on organic cellulose materials that are located in moist environments like basements. In fact, wood framing, paper-faced drywall and paper-faced fiberglass insulation provide an ideal mold habitat when they absorb and hold moisture. Remodeling contractors who aren’t experienced in basement finishing sometimes make the mistake of using these “above-grade” materials in basements, and mold is the likely result. Even if there’s no standing water in a basement, enough moisture can come through the concrete to dampen cellulose materials and create favorable conditions for mold. The solution to this problem is to use inorganic materials that don’t support mold growth. Instead of wood framing, steel studs and framing members should be used. Substitute “paperless” drywall for regular drywall and for wood paneling, which is just as susceptible to mold. Rigid foam insulation is much better than fiberglass in the basement because it doesn’t attract mold and it can’t be damaged by moisture.

About the author: A journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency and home improvement topics, Tim Snyder is a former executive editor of Fine Homebuilding and American Woodworker magazines. Tim's recent work includes a green remodeling manual for the Environmental Protection Agency, and a chapter on “Smart Shelter” for The Whole Green Catalog. Tim’s blogs and web content can be found at,,,,,, and other sites.