Radon – What Every Homeowner Needs To Know
As a NYS Licensed Home Inspector, I am routinely asked “What is Radon gas and why should I test for it” The following will give you an overview of what Radon is and why homeowners need to be aware of it’s presence. For more information, you can log onto the Environmental Protection Agency website and search for “A Citizens Guide to Radon”
What is Radon?
Radon gas is a tasteless, odorless by-product of the breakdown of uranium deposits in the earth. It is present at various levels throughout the state and naturally seeps into basements, crawlspaces.
Typical Radon gas entry points into the home include cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and the water supply. Radon can also be found in private well water, or public water supply systems which use ground water.
Why is Radon a Problem?
The EPA estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are Radon-related. Exposure to Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The EPA recommends “Radon mitigation where tested Radon levels reach 4 pCi/L or higher. There is no known safe level of exposure to radon.”
Exposure occurs especially in rooms that are below grade (e.g., basements), rooms that are in contact with the ground and those rooms immediately above them.
Do I Need to Test for Radon?
The short answer is yes, especially before you purchase your home. It is important to identify the level of Radon gas concentrations in the home AND who is going to pay for the Radon reduction and mitigation costs should they be needed.
You should have your own Radon Test performed even when the home had a previous Radon Gas test and the levels were acceptable. You test to ensure the Radon levels ARE PRESENTLY at EPA acceptable levels. Over time a home settles and cracks may appear in the foundation or floor which are entry points for Radon. Previously sealed joints or caulking around pipes passing through the foundation may also be disturbed or deteriorate which can allow increased levels of Radon to enter your home.
Renovations and modifications to the structure or various systems within the home such as Heating and Ventilation systems, plumbing, etc., can cause Radon levels to change. New additions to the home where the basement has been extended or crawl spaces have been installed should also be tested.
A basement remodel job or installation of a bathroom in the basement could effect the Radon levels of a previously tested home.
Doing Home Renovations?
If you decide to renovate or alter an area of the home, a Radon test should be taken before and after the project. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon reduction system as part of the renovation project, rather than after you have completed your renovations.
How Do I Reduce Radon Gas Concentrations?
There are several methods to reduce Radon in your home, but the one primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls Radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. This system, known as a soil suction radon reduction system, does not require major changes to your home. Sealing foundation cracks and other openings makes this kind of system more effective and cost-efficient. Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces. A qualified Radon contractor should be contacted to determine the best mitigation solution for the home.
Author Bob Aldi, owner of Aldi Home Inspections Inc., is a NYS Licensed Homes Inspector – #16000062761. His specializes in Home Inspections, Radon Gas testing, Septic Dye testing and Well Water Flow. He can be reached at 315-749-3452, at http://aldihomeinspectionsinc.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .