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We're currently setting up a basement to be used as an apartment, and are trying to see how we could get rid of a musty smell that seems to exist in that area. While we're thinking it might be due to air flow (there's no direct airflow, but windows exist in all rooms), we're wondering if there's any options short of tearing out walls and what not.

To elbaroate on the "smell", it's the kind of smell that would exist in an area that is a bit damp, cool, and with little air movement. No mildew or other molds currently exist.

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I think your first step is to clear out stored items and run a dehumidfier and fan in the area to drop the humidity. You didn't mention the type of walls, ceilings and floor coverings. Normally, if you smell a musty odor, you will have some mildew somewhere. Are there fabric or paper items stored there now? if the odor still exists after drying out the area, you should thoroughly wash the floors and walls, etc. with a mild bleach and water solution and dry it out again. Depending on the wall and ceiling coverings, a coat of mold resistant paint may be required. Concrete floors may need a waterproof treatment like Driloc.

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Will update the description for the coverings, good point. As for the floor, it's thin carpet that was laid down within he last six months. While it was used for storage, it has been cleaned out bare of those items so it could just be the carpet is holding in the dampness. I know for a fact the concrete floor underneath was done right before they laid the carpet down so I'd wager it's not that. –  canadiancreed Aug 28 '11 at 13:37
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To follow up w/ what Shirlock said, In a basement you do need to keep humidity at a minimum since there is typically less air movement. Reccomended values are below 60%. –  iivel Aug 28 '11 at 16:56
    
@iivel ya I'm thinking that a dehumidifier will need to be purchased for that reason. The design for the basement is not really condusive to air flow at all. –  canadiancreed Aug 28 '11 at 20:04
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Musty smells are a sign of moisture. It may be simple enough to run a dehumidifier, or complex enough that you need to start tearing down the wall sto see what's behind them.

A lot of basements were finished without every truly fixing moisture issues and a layer of plastic was put up instead. This often traps moisture more than anything and just leads to a really great lace for mildew and mold to enjoy life.

Keep in mind that if this is going to be an apartment, local code likely requires some form of active ventilation (typically having it be a conditioned space via the HVAC system).

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