Radon Mitigation System: Do it Yourself or Hire Somebody?

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    LESLIE: Adam in Wisconsin is on the line with question about a radon mitigation system. What’s going on at your money pit?

    ADAM: I did some testing for radon in my basement. Adjusted for getting the mitigation in place.

    TOM: What was the level, Adam, that came out of the test?

    ADAM: It was 4.6.

    TOM: OK. So it’s just above the radon guideline, because when testing for radon the guideline’s 4.0. OK, go ahead.

    ADAM: So, I was wondering before getting the radon mitigation system installed by a professional if there was anything that can be done to help mitigate it without, you know, paying the higher price of getting a professional to do it.

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, you were just over the guideline. One thing that you should know is that when testing for radon the radon levels are going to swing across the year, depending on the season. Typically, in the winter, when the house is really sealed up tight as a drum, your levels are going to be seasonally high compared to the summer when we tend to let a lot more air into the house, which will push it down below the action guideline, which is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air.

    Now, in terms of a do-it-yourself sort of radon mitigation system, it’s kind of a hard thing to do. Because what happens when you do a radon mitigation system is you set up a system that essentially pulls the gas off of the soil before it gets into the house air. Do you have a traditional basement kind of a house? What’s your home look like?

    ADAM: Yeah, it’s a traditional basement. It actually has a palmer-valve drain that goes underneath the house. So, one thing I looked at was a Dranjer drain that would allow water out this essential drain but keep the gas down.

    TOM: That would seal. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Right.

    Now, do you have a French drain around the inside perimeter of the foundation wall, where there’s a gap between the basement floor and the wall?

    ADAM: Yes, I also have a French drain.

    TOM: So, what a mitigation company would do is they would seal that French drain up the bottom of it to kind of seal off the gas with a flowable urethane sealant. They would seal off the sump if that was accessible. Then they would install a vent pipe that goes into that slab and has a vent fan installed in it that draws the gas off from underneath the slab.

    So all of that is not really kind of a DIY. Yeah, you could seal the obvious places. But whether that’s going to have a long-term effect is really hard to say because typically, what the tester is also going to do is something called a “communications test” where they’ll put one suction point where that hole is in the slab – they’ll put one suction point in the slab. They’ll put it under suction – under pressure – and then they’ll go around to the other areas of the slab and see if they have any air that’s kind of getting in there. And this way, they can tell how much suction they need to install or how many suction points they need to install to kind of make this system work.

    So while, yeah, if you had some basic areas that you could seal up, that might help a little bit. But it’s really not a do-it-yourself project, Adam, for a whole bunch of reasons. And you know what? If you go to sell this house in the future and it comes out that you had a radon test done or even if they do a test at that time, do-it-yourself mitigation is just not going to cut it. You’re going to have to have a system in that was professionally installed and regularly monitored. Does that make sense?

    ADAM: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So, I appreciate the information. Like I mentioned, I was just kind of looking to see if there’s anything I could do to try help bring down that level. But sounds like I might have to go with the professionals with this.

    TOM: Yeah. And economically, like I said, you’re just over the guidelines when testing for radon, so I wouldn’t consider this an emergency repair but it’s something that you should get to when you’re ready to. When you can afford it, when you have the time, the inclination over the next few months, that would be great, OK?

    ADAM: OK. Alright. Very good.

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