Protecting Basement Storage

Most homeowners utilize their basements for storage, but protecting them is something many don’t think about until a disaster occurs. A failed sump pump, for instance, can spell disaster if you have cardboard boxes full of belongings piled on the floor. That’s why, if you have basement storage, it can’t hurt to take steps when it’s dry to help protect your items from potential water damage.

Preserve Your Memories
The Library of Congress advises against storing photographs in the basement, which may be prone to leaks or extreme temperatures. The U.S. National Archives and Record Administration also suggests avoiding the basement, unless it has a dehumidifier; otherwise, your photos may be exposed to moisture that could case them to get stuck together. But if your photos end up down there, you’ll likely want to preserve your memories the best you can. The National Archives suggests storing photographs in plastic enclosures made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester to preserve them.

Store Important Files in a Safe
If you’ve ever waited in line for hours to receive a new Social Security card or if you travel frequently, then you know how important it is to keep birth certificates, savings bonds, passports and other critical documents in one place that is easy for you to access. If you plan to keep these documents in the basement, you also need them to stay dry. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests storing important documents in waterproof containers in a high location, or in a waterproof or fireproof safe.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Files
You’ve finally created digital files of your favorite photos and saved your almost-finished novel on a flash drive. Where should you store these digital files? Consider stashing your files in a safe. Before purchasing a safe, think about what you want to preserve. As noted by Consumer Reports, some safes can reach interior temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit; depending on the format of your digital files, such as CDs used to store family photos, you may want to consider selecting a safe that better protects its contents from high temperatures.

Save Your Stamps
A little water in your basement could potentially wipe out a lifelong hobby if, for instance, your stamp collection is not properly stored. If you must store such valuables in your basement, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum advises placing your items on a high shelf. The museum cautions, though, against using a shelf located along a concrete wall or or near an exterior door, as heat, humidity and even dryness may put your collection at risk.

Care for Seasonal Decor
From special holiday decor that has been in your family for generations to the newest addition to your collection of Halloween inflatables, storing seasonal items in your basement can be a cumbersome task. When it’s time to take down those holiday decorations, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UKAg) recommends laundering any washable items, such as tablecloths, before returning them to storage. Ornaments and other decor should be cleaned thoroughly at the end of the season, too. And, the organization adds, keeping those boxes off the ground can help prevent moisture from entering them.

Perform Routine Maintenance
Some regular maintenance may help prevent water from trickling into the basement. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, homeowners should inspect sump pumps annually to ensure the pump’s components are not jammed or tangled. Don’t forget the exterior of your house, too. Seattle Public Utilities suggests cleaning gutters and drainage downspouts about twice per year to keep water flowing off and away from your home. While you’re at it, the agency recommends directing downspouts so that water flows away from your foundation; don’t direct the flow to your neighbors’ homes, either.

Basements can come in handy when it comes to storing items you don’t need to access regularly, but they may also be sources of dampness or subject to extreme temperatures. By making the effort to store your various belongings appropriately, you can help ensure that they are in the same condition you left them in the next time you need them.