How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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How do you reduce radon permanently?
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Radon mitigation is defined in Wikipedia as: “Any process that is used to reduce radon concentrations in the breathing zones of occupied buildings.” To understand how a radon mitigation contractor reduces radon, let’s start by reviewing what causes an elevated radon level in the first place. Radon is a colorless and tasteless gas that results from the radioactive decay of naturally-occurring uranium and radium in the soil.
As the gas is created, and rises up out of the ground, it enters a typical home through any openings in the floor slab, such as where pipes come up into the house, or shrinkage and settlement cracks in the slab that occur over time. After radon enters a home, it decays into radioactive particles that have a static charge, which attracts them to particles in the air. These particles can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe; and, as the radioactive particles break down further, they release bursts of energy which can damage the DNA in lung tissue. If the lung tissue does not repair the DNA correctly, the damage can lead to lung cancer.
It’s important to understand that a low level of radon is in the air we breathe everywhere and every day. But, if there are higher levels of radon coming out of the soil directly under the home, the radon can collect in the enclosed space of the residence and reach levels that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined are unsafe.
The two primary ways to reduce the radon level are: 1) to seal openings in the floor where radon is entering, and 2) create a system that uses negative-pressure (low-level suction) to draw the radon to a pipe under the floor slab--before it can enter the house--and vent it out above the roof. Most contractors use a combination of both techniques, and each vent pipe is placed in an unobtrusive location, like the corner of a closet. Sometimes it is run along the outside of a house, as in the photo below.
Radon mitigation typically costs between $2,500 and $5,000, with the variables determining cost being square footage of home, shape of the footprint of the home, and how high the starting radon reading is. Sometimes a contractor is unable to bring the radon below the level of 4.0 pico-curies per liter of air level that the EPA considers acceptable with their initial work, and they have to come back and do more. So it’s a good idea to get a price from the contractor that guarantees that, for the agreed price, they will bring the level below 4.0 without additional charge.
Not sure whether testing for radon is worth the cost? Before you decide, read our blog post How can not testing for radon be an expensive mistake for homebuyers?
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