Radon assessments: Part 2!

Jul 5, 2017

One of the happiest days of one’s life can be when you purchase your first house (or upgrade to an even better one)!!  But let’s face it, there are several things to worry about before the big moving day.  In addition to all the paperwork, we practice due diligence and hire a home inspector.  And if we are really on the ball, we get the home tested for radon.  The EPA recommends that the concentration (measured in pCi/L) should be below 4.0.  You get the radon assessment done, and lo, your readings are below 4.0 pCi/L.  Hooray!  Time to move in and never, ever worry about radon in your home again.

But what if that is not the case…  When a radon professional performs a test inside a home, the minimum test duration is 48 hours.  But that is just a snapshot in time.  Radon levels can and do fluctuate from day to day and from season to season.  Radon levels during the winter can be elevated because the buildings are closed up.  In addition, more people are exposed because they are spending more time indoors.

An increase in levels can also occur due to home renovations.  Let’s face it, everyone wants an air tight home.  We install new windows, add weather stripping and insulation in older houses.  These things help make our homes more comfortable and even save money.  But these items can also seal up our house and greatly limit the avenues for radon gas to escape.  These improvements can trap radon in our home.  Add to that temperature and pressure changes and your radon levels can easily exceed the 4.0 pCi/L.   

Its also important to note that as a home ages, you can also have an increased number of cracks in the floors.  This can happen as the house settles.  Negative pressure can suck up radon gas from the new cracks and elevate the radon levels in the building.   

So how do we respond to this and know for certain that the levels are safe?  The simple answer is “periodic testing”.  Many experts recommend testing during the winter when radon levels can be elevated.  After making any improvements to your home, which can include finishing a basement, it is generally a good idea to retest and check the radon levels.  Keep in mind that it is typically very easy to remediate radon in a house from a technical standpoint.

So go ahead and celebrate that new home – but beware!!  A single radon test does not a safe home make.  Be sure to have a radon assessment periodically during different seasons and when doing anything related to improving the energy efficiency of the home.   Not only will you have purchased a wonderful home, but you will have also purchased piece of mind.