Create a clothing-friendly basement closet

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:58

No question about it. Most of us have huge amounts of “stuff” and we’re always looking for more places to put it. With closets on the main living floors of the house packed to capacity, the search for more storage space often leads to the basement, where there are large expanses just waiting to be filled. But even relatively dry basements can be chilly and damp, leaving clothing, sporting goods and other valued possessions vulnerable to damage from mold, mildew and insects. Textile specialists recommend that clothing be stored in an environment where temperatures and humidity levels are most like those of the main floor living spaces. Yet, construction pros suggest that it’s possible to create a clothing-friendly storage closet in a basement with intelligent planning and careful selection of building materials. Remodeling contractor Jeff Zupan offers these tips: Address dampness issues as the first step in a basement renovation project so that flooding, mold or musty odors won’t ruin your investment or your clothing. Get a qualified professional to identify the source of any water problems, including seasonal seepage, and prescribe a fix. Install a sump pump, use a dehumidifier, and install proper ventilation for adequate air exchange. The foundation of your closet should be a subfloor that will provide insulating value and keep closet contents away from the cold, damp concrete. Zupan suggests DRIcore®, a modular subfloor system that snaps together easily. Think cedar. Along with the trend toward elaborate closet organization systems and other creature comforts, Zupan says that aromatic cedar is once again becoming a popular option for closet interiors. He points out that a century ago, great-grandma knew that cedar offered excellent protection against the moths that chewed holes in the family’s best woolens. There are ample reasons to explain cedar’s renewed popularity - a desire to protect an investment in fine clothing, an increasing use of natural fabrics such as wool and silk, and a preference for using natural substances to repel pests instead of more toxic and foul-smelling chemical options. For a closet being built in an otherwise unfinished basement, Zupan begins by installing a sheet of good quality moisture barrier against the masonry walls. He then frames in the space with studs and uses 3/4-inch thick tongue-and-groove aromatic cedar planks for the walls. He emphasizes that only Eastern red cedar has the distinctive aroma that is so appealing to humans while repelling bugs. For basements with finished walls, he installs the cedar on top of the drywall. Seal the closet tightly with an exterior door that has weatherstripping. Most people don’t realize that a cedar closet’s effectiveness depends on a tight seal that allows the cedar aroma to build up to levels that are inhospitable to bugs, Zupan says. And, finally, Zupan suggests, “Make your closet as big as you can because you’ll always fill it up. Invariably, my customers tell me ‘I wish we would have made it bigger.”