Radon–a radioactive gas attributed with causing lung cancer over time–can be an intimidating issue for home owners, especially when looking to buy or sell a house. It is a tasteless, colorless, odorless radioactive gas that forms by the natural decaying process of uranium in soil, rock, or water. Radon exists in all 50 states and can only be confirmed by testing for it. One of the most frequent questions regarding the presence of radon in the home is:
If my neighbor’s house has a high radon reading, will my house have a high radon reading?
The short answer: Not necessarily.
The longer answer: Your home (and therefore your home’s radon reading) is completely independent of your neighbor’s house. Though the culprit in elevated radon readings is most often the soil beneath the house–which would likely be similar to your neighbor’s house–the home’s unique structure can impact how the gas is trapped and released. So if your home has a crawl space, for instance, and your neighbor’s house does not have a crawl space, this can impact the radon reading. Additionally, cracks in the foundation or open sump lids can affect the reading.
Solution: Testing your home is the best (and really the only) way to know if you are dealing with high radon levels.
Here are 5 additional things to keep in mind:
- If you are nervous about the potential for elevated radon, you can complete your own radon test using a DIY kit found at most hardware or home stores. While a personal test may not suffice for a home inspection in the event you are looking to sell, it may give you a heads up about what the home inspector may be able to discover during the inspection. Or it may put your mind at ease that you have nothing to worry about.
- The age of your home doesn’t matter. Even if you are buying or selling a brand new house, elevated levels of radon may be present. Since radon is a gas, it can seep through the tiniest of cracks in finished or unfinished basements. Don’t assume a brand new house is free of radon. Radon is not dependent on the age of the home.
- Don’t assume any house is radon resistant. It is possible to buy a house with a “Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC)” label, but be sure you test (or have your home inspector test) for the presence of radon. The RRNC label requires the installation of specific radon pipes, but it does not require the presence of a mitigation fan. Without this fan, the house is not resistant to high levels of radon. It is always a wise decision to test.
- Radon levels vary in major ways from house to house. Again, the only way to know if your house has a radon issue is to have your house tested.
- Testing for levels of radon is not hard, but certain procedures are required for accurate results. Hiring a professional is the wisest route for reliable results and for peace of mind. And since radon is a silent threat (causing no warning signs such as headache, fatigue, or nausea), testing is the only answer.
Bottom line: Testing your house for the radon level is the way to truly know if your home is safe or not. And the good news? Even if you learn that the radon level is not what it should be, there are solutions. Take heart. Remediation is possible. Contact a professional, certified radon contractor (or mitigator) and he or he will walk you through the process and help you find the best solution.