Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Radon and Your Home

If you've bought a home over the past decade or two, chances are you've heard of a pesky carcinogen called Radon.  Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive element occurs naturally as a result of Uranium decay.  Because of its radioactivity, it is harmful to your health and environment.  Radon is estimated to cause over 20,000 cases of lung cancer per year.  All of this sounds scary doesn't it?  It doesn't have to be scary; Radon is easy to test for, easy to mitigate and easy to never worry about again.

Radon Potential Zones

How Radon Enters A Home
Any home can have a Radon problem.  Because radon lives in the soil and rocks beneath your home, chances are if Radon levels are high, it's because your floor or foundation walls are compromised in some way, and Radon has built up in your home.  Small cracks in the foundation, gaps around entering utilities, construction/expansion joints, and other gaps will allow the Radon gas to enter your home.

Healthy Levels of Radon
Although the unit for measurement for Radon is weird and uncommon to non-scientist folks, the standard unit is picoCuries of Radon per Liter of Air (pCi/L).  This measurement tells you the level of radioactive elements that are present in one liter of your air.  EPA suggests some form of mitigation when levels are above 4.0 pCi/L.  The scope and cost of mitigation is different for different levels of Radon (see How to Get Rid of Radon).  An average Radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L.

How to Test for Radon
Radon testing isn't required for real estate purchases, however, I strongly encourage it.  Because Radon levels fluctuate from neighborhood to neighborhood, even home to home, when purchasing a home, it's easy to test for Radon.  Most home inspectors will add on a Radon inspection for around $100.  These tests will typically be your short-term tests, that average two simultaneous readings over 2-4 days.  These are as accurate as you need them to be.

How to Get Rid of Radon
The main theory behind Radon mitigation is prevent it from entering and building up in the home by preventing its entrance in the first place.  I call it the seal and suck.  The most common Radon abatement practice is a sub-slab suction system.  It can be done with very little modification to your home and at a reasonable price.  This system works by creating negative pressure to draw radon from under your basement slab to expel it harmlessly to the outdoor air where it will naturally and safely dissipate.  If you own a home with an exposed crawl space, technicians will place a layer of heavy plastic on the ground and attach a vent fan which will draw the radon from beneath your home and pull it out to the open air. 

The Best Radon Information
By far the best source on Radon and Radon mitigation is provided by the EPA.  This pdf has everything you need to learn about all things Radon.  Also, Wikipedia provides an excellent source for Radon Mitigation techniques.  Access it here.

Jared Reimer is a real estate broker with Prudential Rocky Mountain Realtors in Northern Colorado.  Real estate is his passion and he always wants to connect with like-minded and savvy real estate fans.  For more information or to get in touch with Jared, please visit his website at www.ReimerRE.com or email him at JaredReimer@ReimerRE.com

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