Radon Testing: Is it Necessary?
LESLIE: Sandra, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SANDRA: Oh, hello. My question concerns – would you recommend a radon test for a house? Our home is a two-story house on a hill and the lower level, which is completely finished, is two sides underground and it has two sides ground-level. And if we have a radon problem, can something be done to correct that? We’re in the Pacific Northwest, about 60 miles south of Seattle.
TOM: And do you hear about high radon levels in that area coming up occasionally?
SANDRA: I don’t but I’ve never talked about it with anybody, so – and I saw something in the paper recently that suggested people have this test.
TOM: Well, it’s certainly a good idea. So, order a radon-test kit. You can probably find one online. The type you want is called “charcoal adsorption” – a-d-s-o-r-p – ad, not ab – adsorption. And it’s a type of test that you’ll put in the home for anywhere from about three to seven days. You open up this charcoal canister or this charcoal packet, depending on the type of test, you leave it in the lowest living space. So whatever the lowest area of finished living space is, you leave it there for that period of time. You seal it back up, you send it off to a lab. They’re going to give you a result. If it comes in at 4 picocuries per liter of air or higher, then that’s the action guideline after which point you would want to consider some sort of remediation.
Now, you asked the question: “Well, how do I do that, exactly?” And the answer is it’s harder when the whole space is finished but it’s not impossible. Generally, the way radon is mitigated is by a system called a “sub-slab ventilation system,” where they basically run pipes below the surface of the lowest slab and pull the gas out of the soil and then discharge it outside. So it’s a matter of figuring out where to get that pipe into the slab and where to discharge it out, you know, with the least amount of disturbance. But a good radon mitigator can do this, even in a finished house.
SANDRA: Oh, my gosh. It sounds quite complex.
TOM: Well, it’s pretty straightforward but you’ve got to start with the test, so I would do that first and take it from there.
LESLIE: Right. And that’s only if they find something.
TOM: Yeah, exactly.
SANDRA: Uh-huh. OK. Are there areas in the country where you’re more likely to have radon?
TOM: Yep. There’s a – if you go to the EPA website – EPA.gov/Radon – there’s information about radon zones across the entire country, including contact information for your local state area.
SANDRA: Oh, alright.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.