Everything Homeowners and Home Buyers Should Know About Radon

Sign for high levels of radon

After months of attending open houses, browsing online listings, and talking to your realtor, you’ve finally found the perfect home. It’s at this point that you’re ready to schedule a home inspection and additional worthwhile assessments. These inspectors take a close look at the home’s roof, HVAC, plumbing, and other systems to ensure a safe, functioning residence. 

One thing that often gets overlooked in the process, however, is radon testing. As we’ll discuss later in the article, high levels of this gas can be dangerous for homeowners. That’s why it’s important to have a sound understanding of radon in homes and the necessary action steps to keep your family safe.

What is radon gas?

Let’s start with the basics. The CDC defines radon as “a radioactive gas that forms naturally when uranium, thorium, or radium break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater.” You can be exposed to this gas simply by breathing it in as it comes through cracks in a structure.

Radon gas is odorless and colorless, making it challenging for the typical homeowner or home buyer to identify. The EPA explains that while the gas disperses quickly outside, radon can pose a threat once trapped inside. The risk of high radon levels shouldn’t be taken lightly, whether you currently own a home or are planning to buy one in the near future.

Is radon dangerous?

According to the Surgeon General’s office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is responsible for the death of 20,000 Americans each year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths in the U.S. Keep in mind that the radioactive particles from radon gas may not cause health problems for a number of years.

So how likely are you or one of your family members to get lung cancer from radon? It depends on several factors, including the amount of radon in your home and how much time you spend at home. Not surprisingly, smokers are at higher risk of developing complications from this gas.

Where is radon found?

The World Health Organization states that indoor radon concentrations are highest in places like caves, mines, and water treatment centers. Radon levels in homes and office buildings, meanwhile, typically range from 10 Bq/m3 to more than 10 000 Bq/m3. The gas enters homes through cracks in the floors, gaps around cables or pipes, or drains or sumps.

It’s worth noting that the radon concentration in your home differs from that of your neighbor’s residence. Additionally, levels may fluctuate from day to day or even hour to hour. 

What are the symptoms of radon in your home?

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to tell if you’ve been exposed to radon. The American Cancer Society suggests consulting your doctor and asking about tests that may detect signs of lung cancer. Symptoms of radon include shortness of breath, a worsening cough, tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, or hoarseness.

Are radon levels higher in the basement?

Yes, radon levels tend to be highest when found in the basement or crawl space. There’s also a better chance of radon exposure if your home is tightly sealed or well-insulated.

The last thing you should do is assume that your structure has low levels of radon. The EPA cites that one in every 15 homes has a high concentration of this gas. Make it a point to be proactive about radon mitigation and you’ll eliminate the risk altogether.

How to get rid of radon

It’s advised that current homeowners reduce their current levels of radon by increasing ventilation beneath the flooring, sealing walls and floors, and improving the overall ventilation of the home. Implementing these strategies in your household may reduce radon concentrations by as much as 50%. Of course, you’ll first need to go through the testing process.

Test your home for radon

Testing your home for radon is easier than you think. You can either do the test yourself or have a professional do it for you.

Most hardware stores carry a decent selection of radon test kits. The other option is to order a kit from the National Radon Program Services website. You’ll then set up the device and send it to a lab for results.

How much does radon mitigation cost?

Expect to spend around $1,000 on a standard radon mitigation system. Homeowners with larger crawl spaces are likely to pay more for their kit. Check out this resource from HomeAdvisor and obtain a quote based on your zip code.

What are proper radon levels after mitigation?

Per CDC guidelines, radon levels start to become alarming once they reach 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. You’ll need to take other mitigation measures if the second test is also high. At this point, it’s probably a good idea to contact a professional.

Should you buy a house with high radon levels?

It’s ultimately your decision. Consumer Reports recommends asking for a walk-through with an EPA-licensed radon remediation specialist. These folks usually provide a free estimate and guarantee that levels will be safe if the work is done.

That said, don’t think you’ll have to cover these costs yourself. Ask the seller for a price reduction in order to move forward with the remediation. Many states require agents to disclose radon test results to other potential buyers on a disclosure form.

Chat now