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Keep Basements Mold-Free

Planning to create or redo a below-grade living space? Finished basements are vulnerable to damage from storm-water intrusions, leaking pipes and hot-water tanks, or simply high humidity. Lower the risk of mold or mildew taking hold by remodeling with materials made to shake off damp conditions

1. Moisture-resistant drywall

When wet, the paper facing on standard drywall becomes a perfect habitat for mold to flourish. At a minimum, choose the type of panels made for use in bathrooms. Even better, install fiberglass-faced panels with gypsum cores that are treated to resist moisture, such as DensArmor Plus (about 66 cents per sq. ft.; Georgia-Pacific).

2. Metal framing

Soggy wood-stud walls can become a haven for mold, unless built using preservative-treated lumber or wood coated with borates like Bora-Care with Mold-Care ($103 per gallon; Solutions Pest & Lawn). Galvanized steel framing is a mold-proof option, but to prevent it from rusting, make sure to isolate bottom plates from concrete with self-adhering flashing like Vycor Plus ($22 for a 4”x75' roll; Home Depot).

3. Antimicrobial paint

For added peace of mind, opt for paint that kills mold spores, like Zinsser Perma-White Mold & Mildew-Proof paint ($55 for 2 gallons; Home Depot). Or mix an anti-microbial additive, such as M-1 Advanced Mildew Treatment ($5 for 1.5 oz.; Home Depot), into your favorite latex.

4. PVC base trim

The bottoms of walls and cabinets are vulnerable to any standing water. Trim them out with moldings made of waterproof cellular PVC. Once painted, they look just like milled wood or fiberboard.

5. Synthetic carpet

Want a plush feel underfoot? Steer clear of carpets made with natural fibers and rubbery adhesives, which can feed mold spores, as well as foam pads, which hold on to moisture. Home Fresh (about $5 to $6 per sq. ft. installed; Empire Today) is a basement-friendly cut-pile carpet made from recycled plastic bottles and infused with zeolite, an odor-reducing mineral. And because dirt fosters mold on any floor covering, be vigilant with the vacuum!