Are Cellars Meant To Be Damp? [Plus Moisture Detection & Elimination Methods]

Cellars are generally more humid in comparison to the rest of your house. But are they meant to be damp? We researched this topic, and this is what we discovered.

Cellars are not meant to be damp. Since moisture creates a favorable environment for growing mold and mildew, these harmful organisms may cause allergies or worsen existing respiratory infections such as asthma. A damp cellar can also compromise the structural integrity of your home because the moisture may cause your wooden frames to rot. You can use a moisture meter to check dampness in the cellar. Further, you can use a dehumidifier to eliminate moisture from your cellar.

Please keep reading as we detail how to check dampness in the cellar and whether cellars are damper in summer or winter. We also address whether you should use a dehumidifier in a cellar and alternative ways to eliminate moisture in your cellar besides dehumidifiers.

A multiple cask in a cellar during wine aging process, Are Cellars Meant To Be Damp [Plus Moisture Detection & Elimination Methods]

How do you check dampness in cellar?

You can monitor wetness in your cellar by using a moisture meter. Depending on the properties of the cellar surface you want to test, you can either use pin meters or pinless meters to measure the amount of water in your cellar. Alternatively, you can use a hygrometer to test the relative humidity levels in your cellar.

Pinless meters are predominant because they are more user-friendly and can take readings over a vaster area than pin meters. They, therefore, speed up the inspection process. However, they require level, solid surfaces to work effectively.

Pin meters capitalize on the drawbacks of pinless meters in that they can efficiently measure moisture levels in curved or uneven surfaces or materials made from softer surfaces.

Moisture Detection Methods

You can follow either of the following methods to test for dampness in your cellar.

Using a moisture meter

Ensure that your moisture meter's batteries are correctly installed before use.

  1. Press and hold the moisture meter to switch it on.
  2. Set the moisture meter to the correct mode depending on the type of surface you intend to test, for instance, concrete or wood.
  3. If using a pinless meter, place it on a flat surface such as the cellar wall and test for dampness. If using a pin meter, poke the prongs into a soft surface.
  4. Observe the meter output and interpret your finding.

Check out this pin meter on Amazon.

Using a hygrometer

If you have a digital hygrometer:

  1. Place the hygrometer about three feet from the ground
  2. Leave it to work for at least three minutes as this will allow it to detect the room's temperature and humidity level sufficiently.
  3. Observe the output and interpret your findings.

Using a plastic wrap

You can use plastic wrap to check for dampness in your cellar if you do not have a hygrometer or a moisture meter.

To do this, watch the video below or follow the step-by-step guide.

  1. Place a 12-inch by 12-inch plastic wrap and mask it either to the wall or the floor of your cellar.
  2. Leave the wrap in place for at least 24 hours.
  3. Observe where moisture appears

How to interpret your findings

A home cellar should ideally maintain humidity levels of about 30% to 50%. However, these levels may vary depending on your climate. If the output from your moisture meter or hygrometer indicates more than 60% humidity, your cellar may be damp.

The moisture meter may also indicate dampness depending on the sound and color scale. Use the device's manual to determine what each color and intensity of beeping represents. In most cases, you may get a red color and loud beeping if your cellar is damp.

If you opt to use a plastic wrap, moisture on the side of the wrap that faces the room will indicate dampness. However, a moist surface on the side of the wrap that faces the wall or floor indicates a leak.

You can also inspect the ceilings and corners of your cellar for any damp spots.

Why you should check dampness in the cellar

Measuring moisture in concrete floor

It is advisable for you to regularly inspect the cellar for dampness since if left unattended, the adverse impact of dampness can deteriorate your health as well as significantly reduce your home's life span.

Dampness in your cellar can result in:

  • A favorable environment for mold and mildew to grow which may cause severe respiratory complications and allergic sensitivities.
  • A compromised structural integrity of your home since moisture causes wooden frames to rot. Moisture also causes doors and windows to swell, making them difficult to open and close.
  • Bad odor that spreads throughout the rest of your home, making it inhabitable. These smells may be a byproduct of unattended water damage and molds.
  • Deterioration of other organic materials in your home such as carpets since mold damages whatever has helped it grow.

Are cellars more damp in summer or winter?

Cellars are damper in the summer in comparison to winter. When the hotter and more humid summer air makes its way into your cellar, it condenses on the cooler cellar walls resulting in dampness. In contrast, the cold winter air carries less moisture. Therefore, when this cold air flows into your cellar, it lowers the humidity levels in your cellar.

To maintain good humidity levels in your cellar throughout the year, you will need to employ techniques that lower humidity during the summer and put measures that increase moisture levels during winter.

Should you use a dehumidifier in a cellar?

Dehumidifiers extract moisture from the air to reduce the level of humidity in the area

You may use a dehumidifier in your cellar if the humidity levels are high and you would like to lower them. Therefore you can operate a dehumidifier during the hot and humid summer months. It is not advisable to run the dehumidifier during winter since the at this time, the air in your cellar is usually dry.

Most dehumidifiers should not be operated when the temperatures in your cellar fall below 60°F. At this temperature, the moisture extracted from the indoor air can freeze on the condensing coils, thus damaging the unit.

Factors to consider when buying a dehumidifier for your cellar

Consider the following attributes when choosing a dehumidifier for your basement.

Size of the cellar

Choose a dehumidifier with the right capacity for your cellar area's square footage. The size of the dehumidifier is proportionate to the size of the cellar.

Read this article to find out what the ideal size is for a basement dehumidifier.

Energy efficiency

Opt for energy star-rated dehumidifiers since they spend about 15% less energy than conventional units. Additionally, these star-rated dehumidifiers emit lesser greenhouse gases, thus minimizing the effect on the ozone layer.


It is more convenient to install a dehumidifier with automatic drainage. If the equipment has a condensate pump, then water collected by the dehumidifier can be directed into a sink or a sump pump system. It would then be pumped out of the basement automatically when the pump is activated.

Other features

Opt for a dehumidifier that is easy to operate and can be automated such that it only runs when humidity exceeds a pre-determined threshold and switches off when the levels are corrected.

It is also important for the dehumidifier to defrost automatically since this will prevent ice build-up if the device is operated in a cold environment.

The dehumidifier should be set to run when the temperatures are low, especially because basements have lower temperatures than the rest of the house.

Maintaining a dehumidifier

It is important to take care of your dehumidifier before storage to ensure that it serves you efficiently and prolongs its useful life. To do this:

  • Regularly change the air filters since these filters trap particles and allergens that may be found in the air in your cellar. Changing the filters will ensure that these harmful particles are not re-introduced into the air.
  • Clean the condensing coils and exhaust grilles. Cleaning prevents the build-up of dust and debris in your appliance, thus enabling it to function efficiently.
  • Empty and clean the water bucket. Moisture in the water bucket creates a favorable environment for molds to breed. If left unattended, these harmful components can be dispersed into your cellar air.

How to get rid of moisture in cellar without dehumidifier?

Draining of damp masonry of a cellar from the inside

You can eliminate moisture in your cellar without using a dehumidifier by addressing water seepage and standing water in the basement. To do this:

  • Ensure that the soil surrounding your home slopes away from the house to avoid water collecting around the foundation of your house.
  • Position downspouts from your gutter such that they face away from the base of your house.
  • Install vent fans in kitchens and bathrooms to eliminate humidity.
  • Properly vent clothes driers to the outside.

Read this article to find out how to unclog a basement drain.

Final Thoughts

Damp cellars are inhabitable. If the moisture levels in your cellar are excessively high, ensure that you take the necessary measures to correct this to create an ideal living space in your cellar and the rest of your home.

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