8 Things Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Radon Testing
If you own a house, radon testing should be on your maintenance checklist. It’s estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year are related to radon, so it’s something to take seriously.
Fortunately, high radon levels are easy to fix, but the only way to know if you have a radon problem is by testing. An important part of homeownership is understanding what is radon testing and when and why to do it.
Here are eight things to keep in mind as you explore testing your home for radon.
1. What Is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that you can’t smell or taste. It comes from a breakdown of uranium in the ground and water, which is why it’s radioactive and contributes to cancer rates.
Radon is found all over the world and in homes of all types. While newer homes can be built with radon-mitigating features, don’t assume that only older homes have radon issues.
Radon is even in super-low levels in the air we breathe every day. The problem in houses is that the radon comes up from the ground into your home, trapping it inside with you and your family. The higher concentrations caused by trapping the gas in the building can lead to health issues over time.
2. Where Does Radon Come From?
As the small amounts of uranium break down in the soil, radon comes into a house through cracks in the foundations or walls. It can even sneak in through openings around pipes and drains.
The main factor here is how your house interacts with the ground under and around it. Depending on the materials used in building and how well it was done, your home and your neighbor’s could have wildly different levels of radon. The only way to know for sure if radon is present and how much is there is by doing testing.
3. What Is Radon Testing and When Should You Do It?
The US Surgeon General recommends all homes be tested for radon, but the most common time houses get tested is during the selling process. Some locations require you to provide the results of a radon test at that time.
Otherwise, testing is recommended every two years or so or if you do any remodeling, which might create more openings for radon to enter through. You might also want to test if anyone in your household starts showing signs of radon poisoning like cough, chest pain, or hoarse voice.
Understanding what radon testing for your home is helps determine what type of test you need. Testing involves either a short-term or long-term test setup in the lower levels of your home. Radon is commonly found in basements and cellars, and it’s recommended to set up a test in the lowest livable area of the house that’s regularly used.
A short-term test takes two to seven days and is best for determining if further testing is called for. A long-term test measures for 90 days or longer to give a more accurate result.
4. What Is a Radon Testing Kit?
A testing kit includes the various pieces you need to check for radon in your home. Generally, they come with pods or sheets that register any radioactive particles in the air.
The EPA recommends doing a short-term test first, as they only take about a week. If that one comes back with higher levels, test again with either a short or long-term test to double-check the results.
Your kit will provide all the instructions you need to ensure the most accurate results. You don’t need to leave your home, but you will need to keep the house as closed-up as possible while the test is ongoing.
5. What Is a High Level of Radon?
When it comes to radon, there is no actual safe level. But you do need to be able to determine if you have an actionable level. That’s what a radon test is for.
The EPA recommends that you need to take action to fix issues in your home if your test shows results of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. A level below that can still be a risk, so you should still consider taking action to reduce it.
6. What to Do if a Radon Test Is High
Radon levels above 4 pCi/L don’t call for panic, but they do require action. A qualified mitigation contractor can help you determine whether the radon is seeping into the house or being emitted by certain building materials. They can help you develop a plan to reduce the amount to a more acceptable risk level.
In Utah, one in three homes tests higher than 4 pCi/L with a statewide average of 5.3 pCi/l.
7. What Is Radon Mitigation?
Radon mitigation involves making some home repairs and/or installing a piped system. If your level is borderline, you might try a few repairs like caulking foundation cracks, putting an airtight cover on your sump pump, or covering crawl spaces with plastic sheeting.
A mitigation system takes the radon gas collected inside your house and vents it outside. A fan draws the gas up through a pipe that runs to the eaves and disperses it there.
8. What Is the Cost of a Radon Test?
Radon testing is an easy DIY project with a test kit. You can find them online or at your local hardware store with the pricing ranging from $15 to $30 or so.
If you’re more comfortable having a professional handle the testing for you, expect to pay as much as $300, depending on where you live. A professional is generally the way to go if you need a long-term test or continuous monitoring.
The Bottom Line on Radon
The majority of homes don’t have a radon problem, but the consequences when they do can be severe. Now that you know the answer to the question “what is radon testing,” you can look into getting your home tested to ensure your family’s safety.
If you have questions about testing or radon mitigation, we’ll be happy to answer them for you. We offer free radon test kits and can help you understand the results to determine whether you need to consider a safe system for mitigation.