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My Basement Is Dry but Still Smells Musty. What’s Going On?

my basement is dry but still smells musty
my basement is dry but still smells musty

Are you wondering why your basement is dry but still smells musty? If so, you’ve landed on the right page because that’s what we’re going to review in this article. We’ll go over whether it’s normal for basements to smell musty, the main reason they often smell musty even when they’re dry, and the best way to get rid of the musty smell for good.

Is It Normal for a Basement to Smell Musty?

Is it normal for a basement to smell musty? Let’s say it’s not uncommon, and this is because basements are underground, surrounded by soil that contains moisture. If that moisture seeps through the foundation wall, mold can start to grow in your basement. This is what causes the musty smell.

What Causes a Basement to Smell Musty?

As noted above, the main reason basements often smell musty is the fact that they’re underground and surrounded by soil, which isn’t always dry. If there’s poor drainage around the foundation, the soil might even be soggy.

Hydrostatic pressure is powerful enough to push water through invisible cracks in foundation walls and into the basement or crawl space. This will result in moisture problems inside the building.

Excess moisture in the ground around a foundation can cause hydrostatic pressure to build up and push against foundation walls. Hydrostatic pressure is strong enough to push water through invisible cracks and into your basement. (It can even cause the wall to bow inward and crack.) Once inside your basement, the moisture creates a breeding ground for mold, which produces a musty odor.

Other sources of moisture in a basement include the following:

  • Unvented kitchens and bathrooms
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Unvented clothes dryers
  • Open windows that allow warm, humid air to enter and condense on cooler surfaces

Why You Don’t Want Moisture in Your Basement

A percentage of air in your basement flows into your home’s living area. If your basement is full of mold, the air will be as well. When mold-filled air flows into your home’s living area, it can cause various health issues, including respiratory problems and allergies, making it essential for homeowners to address the problem immediately.

My Basement Is Dry but Still Smells Musty. What’s Going On?

Moisture in Basement

Just because you don’t see any mold doesn’t mean it’s not there. A musty smell is an indication there’s mold growth in your basement. Your basement may feel dry, but there might be just enough moisture to encourage mold growth.

If your basement is dry but still smells musty, it’s essential to identify any areas of moisture that may exist in your basement. Check for any signs of leaky pipes, improperly vented cooking or showering facilities, etc. If you find any issues, address them as soon as possible.

How to Get Rid of a Musty Smelling Basement

The best way to get rid of a musty-smelling basement for good is to ensure the ground around the foundation stays dry. This will prevent hydrostatic pressure from building up and pushing moisture through the foundation wall and into your basement. The best way to ensure the ground around the foundation remains dry is to get groundwater under control. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Regrade your yard, if necessary – To begin with, you can regrade the yard to slope away from your foundation. This will help prevent water from draining toward the foundation, pooling around the basement walls, and finding its way inside.
  • Use downspout extensions – Another helpful tactic is to install downspout extensions to move water further away from the foundation before release.
  • Clean gutters regularly – You should also make sure to clean your gutters regularly since clogged gutters can cause water to overflow, run down the side of the house, and soak into the ground near your foundation.
  • Install a drain tile system – A drain tile system redirects excess groundwater away from the foundation. See How Does A Drain Tile System Work? for more information.
  • Install a vapor barrier – This will help keep water from entering your basement through the foundation walls.
  • Check foundation walls for cracks – Even small ones can allow moisture into the basement. These can be sealed using a waterproofing sealant.

Steps to Prevent Foundation Problems


If you want to get rid of that musty smell in your basement, we recommend doing all of the above. Using a combination of preventative measures, you can create a dry, odor-free basement that’s healthy and comfortable.

If you’re concerned about a musty smell in your basement, contact us today to schedule an evaluation. We serve areas in four states: Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.


Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.



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