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Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:08 pm
by angie_nrs
At the beginning of the summer I finished my basement. We coated the floor with garage floor sealant and then covered it with a very thin carpeting just to make it a bit more comfy. We also painted all the walls with a latex sealant and then painted (with regular paint) over that. I thought the basement would be good to go since it seemed solid up to that point as we never had any water leaks or problems even though we got a ton of rain this spring and summer.

This summer I started putting canned goods and such down there. So, boxes of canned goods have been sitting there for a few months. I left boxes stacked on the floor and planned to organize it all in early fall. I just got some storage racks put together and was starting to get things put in their appropriate place today. When I was picking up boxes from the floor, I noticed that the cardboard was just slightly moist on the bottom boxes. Also, some of my homemade canned goods had that white mold film on the outside of the glass jars. I guess I underestimated the role of humidity coming from the floor in the basement. It stays closed up for the most part, but it's not air tight. It's always much cooler down there. Temps are usually in the 50's or maybe low 60's on hot days. I guess I should've kept the dehumidifier down there b/c I checked a plastic tote (that was on the floor) that had 6 packs of salt in it (along with some other things) and the salt was hard as a rock and the paper on the bottom of them looked moist. Grrrrrrr! So glad salt is cheap! The salt I stored in a bucket was fine.

So here's some lessons learned for anyone considering doing the same thing.

1. Keep a humidity reader in your basement on the floor.
2. Keep a dehumidifier in your basement!
3. Don't store anything directly on the floor, even if it's in a tote.
4. Keep in mind that totes won't keep air out of the box. Only sealed buckets will do that.
5. Keep things stored on racks to keep things off the floor and make it easier to keep an eye on things.
6. Don't just store it and forget it. You have to keep checking things to make sure they are holding up OK.

I'm glad I found all of this out before I started storing my books and photos down there. Once I get the excess water out of the air and keep the dehumidifier on, i'm hoping it will be problem solved. I guess I should've invested in floor padding......too late now.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:26 pm
by Fullmoon
Basement floors are notorious for this kind of thing, the concrete will wick moisture from the ground below it which remains wet from all that rain. I don't know if a dehumidifier will help with the floor problem. They are designed to remove water vapor from the air but as long as the cement floor wicks water it may be a lost cause. All food items should be placed on 2x4s or shelving, never directly on the floor. Even the buckets should be up off the floor just to be safe. Too much work and money invested to have this happen to your stuff.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 11:45 pm
by mizery0317
Super sorry this happen, I'm sure a lot of time and money was wasted however, thank you for the heads up and the useful information.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:36 am
by TRex2
Fullmoon wrote:Basement floors are notorious for this kind of thing, the concrete will wick moisture from the ground below it which remains wet from all that rain. I don't know if a dehumidifier will help with the floor problem. They are designed to remove water vapor from the air but as long as the cement floor wicks water it may be a lost cause. All food items should be placed on 2x4s or shelving, never directly on the floor. Even the buckets should be up off the floor just to be safe. Too much work and money invested to have this happen to your stuff.

Sorry to hear that you had to learn this the hard way. I think this is something we need to address a little more frequently when teaching new preppers how to keep stuff safe and secure.

The wicking of moisture from the ground is known to people who design reinforced concrete, although I was taught that it is only significant for a couple of inches. We were taught to make sure the rebar was at least two and a half inches from the surface of the concrete to prevent corrosion. Cement block walls are a different animal. I have seen water wick through 10 inch cement blocks at such a rate it ran down the walls, and when we tried to coat them with sealant, it eventually pushed the sealant off of the blocks. Of course, that basement had totally saturated soil outside of the walls (design flaw).
Lesson:
Be sure not to overlook any contact points between stuff and the walls.

When I worked in logistics, we were taught never to put anything that could mold in contact with concrete, but that was because, unless the air is desert dry, the point where anything comes into contact with concrete will attract moisture like a magnet. Every thing went on pallets. In my own storage system, I just use an expendable piece of wood between the stuff and the floor.

The dehumidifier will just about (but not completely, unless you already live in a dry climate) cure the problem with moisture in the totes. But, while the dehumidifier will help with the moisture from the floor, but it won't cure it, so lessons 4, 5, and 6 never go away.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:32 am
by anita
Thanks for posting. I'm in the process of moving, and the house I'm buying has a partially finished basement with a high humidity level.

Here's what has been suggested to me/I'm doing to relieve the problem. (Keeping the water away from the outside of the house goes a long way to relieve inside moisture problems. I realize you said you have a dry basement, but can't hurt.)

1) Have the immediate exterior (3 or so feet closest to house) regraded to make sure water runs away from the house, rather than toward it when it rains. Keep mulch back from the house by a foot or two. (this helps with insect/termite/carpenter ants etc as well as getting rid of the moisture retaining mulch near the house)

2) Make sure downspouts have extensions, either above or below grade, that carry the water away from the house, rather than just dumping onto the ground beside the house.

3) Window wells should be covered.

4) As others mentioned, concrete is good at wicking, so keep everything off the floor. I will probably end up having the carpeting that is currently down there removed, as it smells musty at the moment (it didn't earlier in the summer) Yet another thing I was not planning on doing, but such is the situation of buying a different house.)

5) Run dehumidifier, large capacity, and it will go via hose into the sump hole (even though the basement has a high humidity level, the sump pump supposedly never runs) That way it will run as much as necessary, rather than waiting to be dumped.

6) I'm having a duct put in from the heating/ac system into the finished part of the basement. I have to have some heating system changes made anyway, so this will be added to that.

I don't know if any of those suggestions will help you, but maybe they will help someone.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:54 pm
by 3ADScout
Every once in a while I get lucky and get a pallet that has a solid surface that is great for storing things in the basement. Besides the down spouts extensions, making sure gutters are clean is also important.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:16 am
by Gunns
I remember as a kid my dad told me never put anything on concrete. Nothing.

So we have always made shelves. Even in the garage I would make little decks to put the garbage cans up off the concrete.

Easy to keep things clean too.

Re: Storing food in a basement

PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:49 am
by Lionheart1972
This is a really great reminder. I also had to learn this lesson the hard way. Storage conditions are critical to keeping our preps in good order. I also keep EVERYTHING off the floor especially food stores and ammo. I have had dry goods in number 10 cans in the boxes from the LDS Bishops Pantry stored in my basement in Kansas since 2011. I inspect them every year. No rust on the cans, no mold on the boxes. And yes, shelves are a must have item for anyone slightly OCD like me. Great post Angie.