You found the right home. It’s the right size, energy efficient, in a great neighborhood and within your budget. You wonder to yourself, “why is this home still on the market?” Then you read the disclosures. Your perfect spot has a serious radon problem.
Hold up, not a big deal!
Radon and You: 7 Things to Know
Radon is a reasonably common problem in homes, especially in Montana, so if you come across a house that you absolutely adore, you’re not even remotely out of luck. Instead, you may reap the benefits of someone else’s lack of information about the gas. Here are seven things to know if you’re considering a home with a radon problem, or high levels as we usually call it:
Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, but it’s believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer anyway. Of course, it doesn’t go straight to cancer right away, but long term exposure over time will increase the likelihood of lung cancer in the home’s occupants if it’s left alone.
Testing for radon is very simple. Most buyers choose a continuous test for radon levels in a building. Most home inspectors offer a radon test as an add-on service. It usually takes about 48 hours to do the testing, and results are often available right away.
Radon is everywhere. Radon occurs naturally in the environment as a result of the breakdown of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Because of that, it’s literally everywhere, but typically in very small amounts. It doesn’t become a problem until you’re exposed to high concentrations of the gas.
Smokers are at higher risk of radon-related lung cancer. A 4pCi/L, the level at which radon mitigation is typically recommended, non-smokers have about the same risk of cancer as they do of dying in a car crash, that’s about 7 in 1,000 people. Smokers, on the other hand, are at a risk five times that of dying in a wreck and 62 out of 1,000 may develop lung cancer.
You can mitigate radon in any home.
With not a terrible amount of effort, any home can be mitigated. One in 15 homes has an unacceptably high radon level throughout the country, with homes in our area usually seeing much higher incidences since we are in a cold climate and keep our homes closed up longer than those in milder climates.
Note to home buyers: this is one of those things you include in your home inspection contingency period.
DIY is possible for radon control, but not recommended. Only attempt it if you’re intimately familiar with your home’s construction methods, radon gas and sampling procedures. A bad DIY radon job isn’t like a bad paint job — incorrect processes can result in higher radon levels than before.
Just because radon is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Radon mitigation systems are very good at removing large amounts of radon from any home. Most work by literally sucking the radon right out of the crawlspace or from underneath a poured concrete slab like what you’d find in a basement. The systems are fairly simple and quite easy to install.
Slabs must be sealed and barriers installed in crawl spaces to ensure that the radon has no place to go but up and out the vacuum system. Once released into the air above your home, it’s no longer a threat and you can breathe deeply once again.
If you need a radon vacuum system, make sure yours comes with a continuous monitoring system as well (also pretty standard). Since levels vary throughout the year, this is a good investment in your future.
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