What Is Radon? Guide to Radon and Radon Testing

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If you are buying or selling a home or have never had your home tested for radon gas, getting a professional radon test can protect you and your family from health issues. In this article, we will talk about radon, and what to expect from a radon test.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas formed by the decay of uranium in soil and rock. Radon can enter the home by moving through concrete cracks and common building materials like wood and sheetrock. Over time, radioactive radon gas can build up, leading to poor indoor air quality and health issues for you and your loved ones.

Radon Risk Factors and Health Issues

Radon Risk Factors WIN Home Inspection

Radon is a carcinogen, or substance that can cause cancer with prolonged exposure. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, and is the #1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Because it can take years for radon symptoms to appear, catching radon early on can protect you and your family down the line.

When to Conduct Radon Testing?

All homeowners should test their homes for radon. Radon has been found in all 50 states and all types of houses, so it is impossible to predict which homes are safe without conducting a test.

Home sellers should also test their home when preparing to sell. This helps home sellers take proactive steps to mitigate radon and avoid unexpected delays and repairs laterin the home selling process.

Likewise, home buyers should add professional radon testing to the home inspection. If the results show elevated levels of radon, steps can be taken to negotiate for radon mitigation or adjust the sales price to cover repairs before closing the deal.

What Homes Are At Higher Risk for Radon?

While every homeowner should test their home for radon, here are a few factors that may indicate higher risk:

Location: Some regions are known to have higher radon rates than others. The Appalachian Mountains and Upper Midwest have higher rates, while the Southeast has lower rates. Check the EPA’s map to estimate your risk. Keep in mind that low risk areas do not guarantee that your house is risk-free from potentially elevated radon levels.

Home Foundation Radon WIN Home Inspection

  • Foundation Type: Older homes with dirt floors in the basement have nothing to slow the rise of radon gas from the soil. Exposed crawl spaces also allow radon to rise into living areas unchecked.
  • Foundation Damage: Radon can seep through concrete, but foundation slabs and walls with cracks make it easier for extra radon gas to seep in.
  • Other Construction Gaps: Any gap in the foundation can allow radon to enter the home. Common examples are gaps around pipes and wires, construction joints where walls and floors meet, and open sump pumps.
  • Well Water: Groundwater can also contain radon. If you rely on a well, have your water quality tested regularly for contaminants, including radon.

How to Test Your Home for Radon

To get the most accurate results, have your home tested for radon by a professional. A qualified inspector knows exactly where to place the radon device to get the best results, and can inspect the rest of your home for problem spots where radon can seep in.

Short-term Radon Test Kit

You can buy a Short-Term DIY Radon Test kit at hardware stores and home improvement centers. While these home radon test kits may seem like an easy option, they are not as accurate as radon tests conducted by professionals. Not only is professional testing equipment better, but test placement in the home is also important. When placing the equipment yourself, you lose out on the benefits of a professional’s experience and knowledge and the accuracy suffers as a result.

Continuous Radon Tests

Continuous Radon Tests are conducted through devices that measure the concentration of radon over a period of time, typically 48 hours (about 2 days). Professional inspectors will place the device(s) in the home strategically, based on the home configuration. The device will monitor the radon levels over 48 hours while reducing or eliminating interference or “measurement noise” that can result in false results. The inspector collects the device after 48 hours, and provides a report based on the measurements taken by this state-of-the-art and sophisticated device.

Home Inspection companies who offer a One-Stop Solution can conduct air and water radon tests for you along with a full home inspection and other ancillary services. This provides you with a complete picture of your home.

Long-Term Radon Tests

Long-term tests tend to more be accurate than short-term ones because they use alpha particle tracking to determine radon levels. These tests collect radon gas for a period of three months to a year. This test is mostly recommended for homes located in high risk regions.

The Verdict

A professional continuous radon test offers the benefits of quick results (within a few days), while still providing a high degree of accuracy. This test is a great option for homeowners and buyers concerned about radon levels in their home, who want to avoid potential long-term exposure. A long-term test can also be conducted to support the findings of the continuous test for additional peace of mind.

Understanding Your Radon Test Results

Professional Radon Test WIN Home Inspection

Radon is measured in picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). Though no level of radon is considered safe, the EPA has established guidelines for acceptable levels. If your test results show radon levels at 4 pCi/L or higher, you should take radon abatement and mitigation measures to reduce the amount of gas in your home and lower your risk for radon-related lung cancer. If your radon levels are between 2 and 4 pCi/L, action may not be needed as immediately, but you should still consider taking steps to lower the levels.

Radon Mitigation

If radon is identified in your home, you should take steps to reduce radon levels. Sealing cracks in walls and floors using plaster or caulk can help mitigate gas levels. In addition, you can get a radon mitigation system installed. A simple radon mitigation system uses pipes and fans to remove the gas out from beneath the foundation before it can enter your home.

The radon mitigation system cost can range anywhere between $800 and $1500, depending on your home’s design, size, foundation, construction quality, and climatic conditions.

The Bottom Line

Radon is a serious issue in many homes and can lead to major health problems. If you are unsure about the radon levels in your home, having a radon test by a trained professional can help protect you and your family.

To learn more about radon and radon testing, click here to find your local WIN Home Inspector. Alternatively, call at (800) 309-6753 or email us at inquiry@wini.com and one of our experts will contact you shortly.

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