When homeowners hear about radon and the issues it can cause, it can be quite alarming. It’s not one of the typical household issues or hazards that come to mind; it’s particularly troubling to understand that naturally occurring radioactive gas may be seeping into your home.
There’s something extra alarming, too, about invasive toxins that cannot be picked up by human senses. It almost sounds like science fiction; however, radon is a genuine threat to safety at home.
According to the Surgeon General, toxic levels of radon in the home is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon may not get the same attention that fires or floods do, but it is a real hazard to the home and odorless and invisible.
But, there is no need for alarm. The techniques for radon testing and radon mitigation have become very sophisticated and non-invasive over the past decades. In this article, we will review what the latest radon testing and radon mitigation strategies are and how you can prevent your home from unsafe levels of radon exposure.
How Does Radon Enter Your Home?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that the earth expels as uranium in rock, soil, and water breaks down. The average home’s air pressure is usually lower than the air pressure in the ground beneath it.
The discrepancy between your home’s air pressure and the soils can create a vacuum effect in which gases expelled through the earth are pulled up into your home via cracks in your foundation slab or other unknown openings.
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What Are the Options for Radon Testing?
For radon testing, homeowners have a few options to choose from. However, these options are not apples-to-apples. There are DIY home test kits for radon that homeowners can conduct themselves, or you can hire a professional to inspect your home for levels of radon.
As with any service, the professional is always recommended to perform the work. A professional will get the most complete, accurate, and trustworthy results.
The DIY radon home test kits can be a good place to start if you’re curious about the radon levels in your home, but overall they’re not recommended for the following reasons:
Accuracy: The DIY radon test kits do not have consistent build quality or instructions. Because of this, results may vary from test to test.
User Error: Several precautionary steps need to be taken before an accurate radon test can be conducted. For example, all the doors and windows need to be closed for a minimum of 12 hours to get accurate readings.
Amateurs and homeowners will not be aware of the home’s varying features/challenges that will throw off the test results. Professionals know how to prepare a home for an accurate test and choose the correct placement within the house for the best data.
Contamination: Most of the DIY radon home test kits require the collected testing materials off to a lab. Without proper care and understanding of handling the substances, they can be damaged, thus voiding any hope for accurate results.
What Can Be Done to Mitigate Radon After Testing?
After radon testing, you’ll have results that will indicate the severity of the presence of radon in your home. From these results, a tactful strategy should be developed to mitigate the radon. Depending upon the severity of the radon, a different course of action may need to be taken.
Your first course of action as a homeowner is to find a contractor that installs radon mitigation systems and contact your insurance company to see what costs will be covered.
Most radon reduction systems are designed around the home’s different design features; this primarily concerns the home’s foundation. A home’s foundation can be broken into three different categories: basement, slab-on-grade, or crawlspace.
With each of these radon mitigation systems, a passive or active option is available. Active systems will use fans, pumps, and motorized systems to channel the radon out of the home.
Passive systems will use natural ventilation and pressurization techniques to draw the radon out of the home. Again, which type of system is needed depends on the radon build-up’s severity and the home’s foundation.
For homes with a basement or slab on grade foundation, subslab depressurization is one of the most used/reliable radon mitigation methods. These systems work by placing pipes under the slab into the crushed rock/soil beneath the home. The piping creates suction that moves that air through the house out the top of the roof, safely dispersed.
For homes with crawl spaces, the preferred method of radon mitigation is called submembrane suction. With this system, a high-density plastic sheet is placed over the earth floor, and vent pipes and fans are used to draw the radon out from under the sheet and safely dispersed into the outdoors.
Various contractors with radon mitigation experience will tell you if these systems need to be put in place or if the radon levels are low enough to use other reduction methods.
Radon testing is an essential part of the home inspection process and the first step to actively mitigating radon in your home.
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