Are your kids exposed to radon?
If you are a parent like I am, your number one goal in life is to protect your children from harm. The day they are born, your world changes. You look into your child’s eyes and suddenly it all makes sense, this is what it is all about.
That first trip home from the hospital is the first time in years that you have driven 10 mph under the speed limit. You purchase a space age, video surveillance and audio system to watch their every move as they peacefully sleep in their crib. As they grow old enough to crawl, you install locks on every cabinet to prevent your bundle of joy from getting into anything dangerous. You check that your home is free of germs, chemicals and lead based paints. What about radon gas? Would you allow someone to smoke in a room with your child? According to the EPA, radon causes 7 times more lung cancer deaths than second hand smoke.
Could your child be breathing radon gas in your home? It may be more likely than you think. Millions of American homes have radon gas levels that are higher than the EPA radon action level.
What is radon gas? Radon is a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil and can enter your home through the foundation or crawl space. Radon gas is heavier than air so it tends to be higher the lower you are to the ground.
Note: A child crawling on the floor may be breathing higher radon levels than the adults standing in a room. Many childrens bedrooms are in basements where radon levels tend to be higher.
How to check for radon:
You can find out if you have radon levels in your home by performing a radon test. Typically, people use DIY radon test kits that can be purchased online or in hardware stores. Short-term radon tests can help understand if there is risk sooner but long-term radon test kits give the best overall picture of radon levels in homes. Many home inspectors and other radon measurement professionals can perform a radon test using a calibrated radon measurement devise. These machines can show the fluctuations of radon levels over a period of time and print a radon test report that can be used for a real estate transaction or radon mitigation plan.
How to prevent radon:
Radon gas can be prevented with radon mitigation systems. These systems are like a vacuum for the soil under your home. They are installed by certified radon remediation professionals and are permanent components of the home. They are comprised of suction pipes that enter the soil under the concrete floor or a crawl space vapor barrier, a radon fan, and an exhaust pipe to vent the radon gas out into the atmosphere above the home. They run continuously to grab the radon from the soil before it can enter the home.
I was recently at a radon conference in Utah. One of the speakers is a client of mine who found out he had lung cancer and has never been around a cigarette in his life. His story of survival brings chills to me every time I hear it. His advocacy to test for and prevent radon continuously inspires me to work hard to increase radon awareness and build the best radon mitigation systems. Also at this conference was an oncologist who specializes in lung cancer research. He made a point that inspired this article: He mentioned that lungs of growing children are developing at a higher rate than adult lungs. Could these cells that are constantly dividing be more vulnerable to radon gas? I’m not a doctor, but I don’t like the thought of my children’s developing lungs being exposed to radioactive radon.
Across the country, more and more people are taking action to reduce radon in their homes. Many states are beginning to pass laws to build homes with radon resistant features. This year, Illinois passed a radon law requiring daycare facilities to test for radon every three years. These facilities must notify parents and guardians of the radon levels that their children may be exposed to. This past week, the EPA announced the Federal Radon Action Plan, which “aims to reach 860,000 homes, schools and daycare facilities in 2013.”
Protect your loved ones from radon gas. Order a radon test kit. If the radon levels are above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter, install a radon mitigation system to continuously prevent radon from entering your home.
“What is the cost of radon mitigation?” (client) “Well, that depends….” (radon mitigation contractor)
The costs associated with radon mitigation vary from state-to-state, city-to-city and home-to-home. Just like any industry, the market can play a role in determining your costs. If you live in an area where there are few certified radon contractors
the price of service may be more. If you live in a large city with many service providers, competition my drive prices down. The age and construction style of the home can determine the complexity of a radon mitigation system. The important thing to know is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all situation when it comes to installing a radon mitigation system that works to reduce radon levels. You want a radon mitigation system
that will do its job to reduce radon gas levels but in this economy we are all watching our pocket books.
Cost factors of radon mitigation:
1. The radon contractor- Radon mitigation contractors are not all alike. Just like any industry, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. Beyond ugly, how can you distinguish the good from the bad? Read A quick guide to selecting a radon mitigation contractor. The experience, the reputation, and the quality of a contractor can be a factor in the price of your mitigation system.
2. Components- An active soil depressurization (radon mitigation) system uses pipes and a radon specific vent fan to create vacuum in the soil under the home. There are several radon fan manufacturers in the U.S. that each produces several models of fans designed for specific objectives. Radon mitigation systems should be designed using the best fan model for that particular home. Too “small” of a fan may not achieve the best radon reduction results while too “big” of a fan may be more expensive than necessary and may cost more money in energy loss over the long run. The pipe used in radon mitigation systems should be of the highest quality, you want the pipe to last and not to leak. Schedule 40 PVC pipe is better quality than thin-wall schedule 20 PVC. Some radon mitigation quotes will be lower priced because lower quality, less expensive parts are used.
3. The labor- You may have received several quotes from radon mitigation contractors but is the person who sold you the system, the same who will install the system? Make sure to find out who the contractor employs. A radon mitigation quote may be less if a contractor is using lower-paid or unskilled employees to install the system. It may be worth spending more money on the system by hiring a contractor that certifies their technicians and uses a higher skilled workforce. Radon systems require the installer to drill holes in your walls and foundation; you want a qualified person doing this kind of work on your home.
4. The complexity of your home- radon mitigation systems should be designed specifically for your particular home. There is not a one-size-fits-all radon mitigation system that will work in every home to reduce radon levels. Construction factors play a role in the price of your mitigation system. Many homes can be mitigated using a radon system with one suction point but many other homes require a system that has multiple suction points to properly depressurize the entire footprint of the house. For example: a home with a full basement that has a area of the main level that is slab-on-grade usually requires more than one suction point to be able to stop the radon gas form entering the slab area. More than one suction point will add to the cost of mitigation because it requires more materials and hours to install. Radon mitigation in a home with crawlspace can be more than twice the cost of a system in a home with a basement because a crawlspace has to be sealed with an air-tight vapor barrier that requires much more labor hours and material to install.
5. Location- Some areas of the country do not have many radon mitigation companies and some have many. If you live in an area with few contractors available, you may pay more for service because the contractor may have to commute further to provide their service. In areas with many contractors, competition can drive the price of installation down. In these areas of competition, be careful when getting multiple bids. The lowest price is not always a good idea. If a contractor is significantly lower priced than others, it may indicate a lack of experience, lower quality materials and ultimately an underperforming mitigation system.
6. Energy costs- Not all costs involved in radon mitigation are the cost to install the equipment. If the job is done incorrectly, you may incur significant costs after the install. Radon mitigation systems create suction in the soil under the foundation of the home. This suction is intended to block the flow of radon gas but it can also pull some of your heated or conditioned air into the system and vent it out of the house, impacting your utility bills. A good radon mitigation contractor will be certain to take all measures to minimize the loss of conditioned air. A cheap radon contractor may not seal the cracks in the concrete floor or install a cover over your sump. Find a radon contractor who understands that a radon mitigation system should be fine-tuned to your specific house to maximize radon reduction while limiting the amount of conditioned air loss.
7. Warranty- You purchase radon mitigation service to reduce radon levels. If your system is not under warranty and radon levels remain high, you may have to fork out more dough to have adjustments made or to have another radon company come out and fix the other companies mistakes. A good radon mitigation company will provide you with a radon reduction warranty or at least an up-front price to make modifications to the system if it doesn’t work. A warranty will prove to you that they stand behind their work. Warranty can effect the price because the more generous the warranty, the more the financial risk the company accepts. If the radon system does not achieve the intended results, the company may have to make warranty repairs out of their own pocket. A company unwilling to warranty their work accepts no risk, so they can install anything and call it a mitigation system, which can allow them to undercut legitimate contractors prices.
8. Lung Cancer- The ultimate cost of an improperly installed radon mitigation system could be lung cancer. The purpose of purchasing radon mitigation services is to reduce radon levels. According to the EPA, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When determining the price your willing to spend on a mitigation system, consider that you want the best radon mitigation system to achieve maximum radon reduction results.
As you can see, radon mitigation costs are determined by multiple factors. Most radon mitigation systems across the country fall between $1,000 and $2,000. The more complex the system, the more it will cost. The better radon systems will come from the company who is willing to design the best system for your particular home. Don’t base your decision on price when dealing with cancer causing radon gas. Make your decision based upon quality of work, references, licensure, design, aesthetics and experience of your radon mitigation contractor.
Radon mitigation is a service, a home improvement service, an indoor environmental service and most importantly service designed to reduce lung cancer risk. A radon mitigation system should provide you with the ongoing service of reducing radon gas levels. The key word is service. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, service is: the occupation or function of serving or the employment as a servant. A servant is one that serves others. A commodity is defined as a mass-produced unspecialized product. In a world that revolves around the almighty dollar, sometimes radon mitigation companies confuse commodity with service.
At a glance, a radon mitigation system may look like nothing but a couple of pipes and a fan. There is much more than meets the eye. When installed by a radon company based upon service, a radon mitigation system is a highly specialized remediation system that is optimized to perform best under the unique conditions of each particular home or building. When a radon company installs radon mitigation systems as a commodity, their clients are often left with an out of code, half installed and underperforming set of pipes and a fan. Over the years we have countless calls from homeowners who are unsatisfied with the service they received from these other companies.
Just this morning I met with one of those homeowners. They have a radon mitigation system installed in their recently purchased home. During the real estate transaction, it was negotiated into the contract that a system be installed due to radon test results showing elevated levels. The sellers selected a contractor to install the system and chose this company most likely because they were the lowest priced. Before they closed on the house, they had to provide proof that the radon levels had been reduced by the mitigation system. The post mitigation tests showed that the radon levels had been reduced to 2 pCi/L, which is below the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L. The buyers moved in and performed follow-up radon testing in various locations throughout the house to find radon levels were actually above the action level. In some locations it was three times the action level! Luckily they performed more radon tests in the house and didn’t rely on the original post-mitigation results or they may have lived with elevated radon for years on end with the false impression that the system was working.
They wondered how could this be? They called the original contractor who installed the radon mitigation system to ask them why the system isn’t doing its job. The contractor gave them a list of things they, the homeowners, could do to remedy the situation. This contractor didn’t even offer to fix his or her own system. The client did the few things the contractor suggested but still are living with elevated radon levels. They called us to see if we could help. I arrived at the property to see if I could find a solution to the problem only to find that the other company’s radon mitigation system was not installed correctly to begin with. Now this homeowner has to either pay to have the corrections made or, do what I suggested and vigorously pursue this contractor to have them fix the mistakes they made. This homeowner should not have to be in this position had the original contractor based their work on service rather than the commodity of the basic system components.
Thousands of homeowners across the country may be stuck in a similar situation because this is the nature of the radon mitigation industry. Most radon mitigation systems are installed as a part of a real estate transaction. Usually the buyer demands that the seller has a radon mitigation system installed if radon test show elevated levels of the gas. The seller, because they are interested in saving money, usually has a system installed by the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder in many cases views a radon mitigation system as a commodity, nothing but a couple of pipes and a fan. They install this “commodity” radon mitigation system, place radioactive radon stickers on the pipe, install a fan that is inexpensive and not tuned to the soil conditions and collect payment. Many times these systems fail to keep radon levels reduced throughout the year. A radon mitigation system that is installed as a service will be installed up to code and fine-tuned to perform under the specific conditions of each particular home.
If you have radon mitigation system in your home, I have created a checklist to make sure that the system provides you the ongoing service of reducing radon in your home:
1. Test your home for radon gas at lease once every two years. Do-it-yourself radon test kits are inexpensive and accurate, if used correctly. Short-term radon test kits show an accurate snapshot of the period of time the test was placed. Long-term radon test kits give the best overall picture of the radon measurements in the home. Many people have a radon system in their home and assume that it is keeping radon gas levels reduced, but that is not always the case. The only way to know if your system is doing its intended job is to test periodically.
2. Check the cracks in your concrete. A good radon mitigation contractor will seal all accessible cracks in the concrete floor of the basement. This is an important step to block radon entry. Unsealed cracks can prevent the suction of the system from stretching across the entire foundation. If a radon mitigation system is installed and running, unsealed cracks can increase your heating and cooling costs because the system can pull this air from within the home and vent it out into the atmosphere. Unsealed cracks can also lead to back drafting of combustible appliances. Back drafting can potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If there are unsealed cracks, contact your radon mitigation contractor to return to the property and seal them like they should have when the system was originally installed.
3. Check your radon system gauge. All properly installed radon mitigation systems should have a device that indicates system failure. In most cases, this is a manometer (vacuum pressure gauge.) The standard manometers have a series of numbers that indicate inches of water column, NOT RADON LEVELS. These devices let you know that the radon fan is on and running. Make it a point to check your system gauge at least once a week to be sure that there is not fan failure. On the system that I inspected this morning, the other contractor did not label this manometer. This is a dangerous mistake. A person who does not know what that device is for, may assume that 1” on the monometer indicates that they have a radon level of 1 pCi/L. A person can live with extremely elevated levels of radon and think the system is doing its job because the manometer is reading 1.
4. Inspect the system components. The vent stack must be designed in a way to exhaust radon gas into the atmosphere and prevent it from re-entering the home. I have witnessed many radon mitigation systems, as I’ve driven through neighborhoods that have the vent stack exhausting right next to, or below a window. The exhaust must be at least ten feet away or two feet higher than any window, door or other opening. The Radon vent stack openings should be installed above the eave of the home and at least ten feet above the ground. This includes decks. Many times the vent stack follows all the above parameters but exhausts 8 feet above a deck. So these homeowners get hamburgers with a side of radon while enjoying a barbecue on their backyard deck.
If you do not have a radon system installed and are looking for a radon mitigation contractor, I have created a simple guide to help you find a radon professional who will provide you with the service that you deserve. Read my blog: A Quick Guide to Selecting a Radon Contractor
Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is important that radon mitigation systems do the job of reducing radon gas. When a contractor treats the radon system as a commodity, they install the basics of a radon system but many times do not fine-tune the system to perform best for your particular home. Radon mitigation companies that see their business as a service will provide you with a quality, fine-tuned, long lasting, good looking and up-to-code radon mitigation system. A radon mitigation system designed with the fundamentals of service will serve you with years of radon prevention.
Old man winter is knocking at the door and he might be bringing radon with him. In homes that are located in cold weather environments, radon levels can be a greatly increased during colder months. This often-overlooked issue with radon gas is potentially one of radon’s greatest threats.
If you are like me, you hunker down for the cold months. When not at work, you tend to spend more time in the house enjoying a book, catching your favorite sports event or watching a movie. The house is our safe haven from the harsh weather outside. But is it really that safe? Radon levels in many homes tend to be higher during the winter months. Here are a few of the reasons why:
1. Greater stack effect can draw more radon into the home. During the winter, stack effect tends to be greater as the warm air within the house rises and escapes to the colder air outside. As air escapes, the house has to replace the air to equalize pressure. Many houses get new air through drafty doors and windows. Houses also get new air from the soil they are built upon. The air from the soil can be pulled in through cracks in the concrete, plumbing pipe penetrations, sump pump pits, floor drains, crawlspaces and any other areas that have contact with the soil. This new air that enters can contain radon gas.
2. Greater concentrations of radon can enter the home during winter months. Radon enters the home from the soil below it but more radon escapes through the soil around the home and dilutes into the fresh outdoor air. During winter months, in cold climates, the ground in our yards can freeze and be covered with a layer of snow. This creates a blanket effect that can trap radon in the soil around the house. Since less radon in the soil is able to escape through the frozen ground in the yard, the house may be pulling in higher concentrations of it.
3. Closed house conditions during the winter can keep radon gas levels from being diluted by fresh air. During warmer months some dilution can occur when you open the windows to bring fresh air in. During the winter the windows are usually shut to keep the house warm which can effect the concentration of radon in the house. Note: Opening windows can have the opposite effect by increasing the home’s stack effect and therefore pulling more radon in.
Why do I think this is one of radon’s greatest threats?
I have met many people who base their home’s radon level off of one single radon test result. Often times this test was performed a long time ago and the actual test report has gone missing. Many times, the radon test was performed by the home inspector during their real estate transaction and all they were told was that they “passed.” Many people may be living with radon levels that are significantly higher than what that single radon test had told them because of factors like seasonal variations. I believe that there are too many people who are living with the false sense of safety that they have low radon levels when in reality, they could be breathing high radon throughout half of the year.
If you have tested for radon in your home using a short-term radon test kit and the results came back under the EPA action level, consider performing another radon test during the opposite season that the original was performed. The best way to understand your true radon exposure is to perform a long-term radon test that samples the air throughout all the seasons.
Most importantly, don’t think that you are safe from radon based upon the results of a single radon test that may have been performed during a time of year when radon gas levels were naturally low. If you have high radon levels during any season consider radon mitigation to reduce the levels. Radon mitigation can reduce radon levels consistantly throughout the year to eliminate any seasonal variation.
Has something scary occurred to you while on the job? With Halloween around the corner, I thought it would be fun to discuss scary moments on the job.
Some of us believe in the supernatural and others do not. Some have elaborate stories about ghostly encounters or others have just had to deal with an unusual client that gives them the creeps. In the radon mitigation business, we have seen many unusual situations. Radon mitigation system
installers are in hundreds or even thousands of homes every year. Some homes are new and some are very old, some homes are in suburban neighborhoods and some are at the end of a long dirt road. For a radon mitigation technician, the consensus probably is that crawlspaces are the scariest places for us to work in.
Some homes are built above dirt or gravel crawlspaces. Many people live in their homes without ever even entering these dark caverns that exist below the floor. Many crawlspaces are confined spaces that you have to crawl on your belly to navigate. Most have little or no lighting and all are just a slight bit scary for even the toughest among us.
In radon mitigation, we block cancer causing radon gas
from seeping through the crawlspace to the livable areas of the home. We seal the crawlspace with a thick layer of plastic to create an airtight seal. After the plastic crawlspace membrane is in place, we install the radon mitigation pipes and fan to depressurize the soil below this membrane. When working on a crawlspace job, a radon mitigation system
installer can spend up to two days crawling around in these dark spaces. For me, one of my scariest on the job moments happened while working in a dark, musty crawlspace with no light except for the headlamp around my head.
It was a cold November morning outside of Chicago, IL. A fellow radon mitigation technician and myself were installing a radon mitigation system in a standard two-story house with a partial basement. We walked down to the basement and you could smell the musty odor emanating from the two-foot doorway that lead to the crawlspace below half of the house. The hinges of the small door let out a bloodcurdling squeak as we slowly opened it to see the unknown. As we shined our flashlight into the dark abyss, the wall of cobwebs was so thick that the light could barely penetrate. This was going to be one of those crawlspaces that us radon mitigators dread. This is an important part of the job so we proceeded to seal the crawlspace as we do with every radon system install of this kind. After several hours of placing a layer of plastic and sealing it to the wall I felt a tickle on the back of my head. I scratched my head thinking that it was just another wire or something dangling from the floor joists above me. I continued sealing the plastic to the foundation wall of the crawlspace when suddenly the headlamp that I was wearing ran out of batteries. This is not a good thing when it’s pitch black and you’re a five minute belly crawl to the crawlspace doorway! I yelled out to my fellow radon technician, who was working about forty feet away from me on the other side of the crawl. I knew it would take him about ten minutes to navigate the crawlspace to get me a set of batteries for my lamp so I sat there and waited in the dark. Not a minute goes by and I feel that tickle on my head again. I scratch it again assuming it was a cobweb or something. I continue to wait dark. Finally I see a flash of light, my co-worker was on his way with the batteries! He makes it about half way and I tossed him my headlamp to get it working again. He lights it up and tosses it back to me. I shined the light his way and he is looking at me. His face is pale and he looks like a deer in headlights! I look behind me, there wasn’t a ghost or anything so I look back and ask him what’s up? He immediately replies, “there’s a tarantula in your hair!!” I immediately flail around, brushing my hair with my hands. I could feel the weight of the thing as I flicked it off of my head. I shine the light down on the crawlspace plastic to be certain that it wasn’t going to crawl back and climb up my pant leg or something. I watch as the the giant spider scurries away! Who knows where it went but I'm sure it sat a watched me as I finished working the rest of the day.
Now this crawlspace hitchhiker wasn’t actually a tarantula but it was a massive spider! To this day, I do not enter a crawlspace without thinking about what might be living down there. I continue to itch, even as I type this blog, from the thought of that spider sitting in my hair while working on that crawlspace radon mitigation
What are some scary things that have happened to you at work? Do you have a job that is just plain scary? Comment about them, we would like to hear your scary stories.
While sitting down with the listing agent to discuss your options, reality sets in. The comps in the neighborhood are down, the furnace needs to be updated, the rooms have to be staged and your favorite cherry red accent wall needs to be repainted in a more “neutral” color. The fact is if you want your home to sell, the house has to appeal to a wide variety of prospective buyers.
Radon testing and radon mitigation are quickly becoming a common issue during real estate transactions. More and more citizens are being educated about the risks associated with radon gas. These radon-educated buyers are looking for a new home with low radon levels. Even if the buyers do not know about radon, many home inspectors offer radon testing as an option during the home inspection process and their clients choose this option often. A home with low or reduced radon levels will be more appealing to home buyers.
Homes with radon issues can be sold but homes with resolved radon issues are more sellable. Consider radon testing and radon mitigation as a part of preparing the home to be sold. I often recommend that listing agents advise their clients to test for and repair any radon issue before placing the house on the market. This can prevent any future roadblock or surprises that may occur after the home inspection. Imagine the scenario that most people fear about radon in real estate transactions:
After a seemingly endless parade of people looking through every room in your home for sometimes months on end you finally find a buyer who makes a decent offer which you have accepted. A few weeks go by and it’s time for the home inspection. Because of your diligence prior to listing the property the home inspector doesn’t find any major issues or visible problems with your house. But wait, the buyers have chosen to perform a radon test. The home inspector has found an invisible problem with your house. The radon test comes back showing that radon levels are three times what the EPA recommends. These buyers, having never heard about radon before, scour the Internet to find out that radon is the number one cause for lung cancer in non-smokers. Being health conscious people, your buyers refuse to live in a house that might cause lung cancer. The buyers are contemplating walking and canceling the contract.
Nobody wants to have an issue arise during a real estate transaction especially in today’s tough market. Radon can be an issue when selling a home. Educate yourself with the correct radon information before you place your home on the market and you will certainly be better prepared to sell your home. Radon issues do not have to kill a real estate deal.
Points to consider when dealing with radon in real estate:
- If your house has high radon levels you are not alone, 1 in 15 American homes test high for radon gas. In many areas 50% or more homes test high for radon. Any house, old or new can have high radon levels.
- You can check the radon levels in your house using a do-it-youself radon test kit.
- There is not a way to just clean up the radon gas. Radon doesn't build up over time it is continuousely entering the home from the soil below it. Radon levels are reduced with permanently installed radon mitigation systems. Radon mitigation systems can reduce radon levels by 99%. Most radon systems can be installed in one day and radon levels can be reduced within 24 hours after system installation.
- In most cases the buyers will not walk away from a deal after finding out elevated radon levels are present. Usually they negotiate with the seller to have a radon mitigation system installed and reduced radon test results before closing on the property.
- Avoid roadblocks and surprises. Consider testing for radon before you put your house on the market. If radon tests are above 4 picocuries per liter, install a radon mitigation system to reduce the radon level. Perform a post-mitigation radon test to show that the radon levels are now low in your house. Advertise that your home has the added value of a radon mitigation system and your radon levels are low because it’s likely that other homes for sale have high radon levels that haven’t been resolved.
- Do your research when selecting a radon mitigation contractor. Make sure that they are licensed and insured, check references and get a transferable radon reduction warranty with your radon system. Avoid hiring the least expensive or least experienced installer because you want the radon reduction system to reduce radon levels and not all radon systems or contractors are the same.
Radon testing and radon mitigation are highly specialized trades. Selecting the right radon contractor can possibly be a life or death decision. Radon gas is the second leading cause for lung cancer as it kills more than 20,000 people annually. High levels of radon can occur anywhere in the United States. Because radon is a serious and common issue, selecting the appropriate contractor is serious business. Here are six basic questions to help you select a good radon contractor.
6 Questions to ask yourself when selecting a radon contractor:
1. Is the radon contractor licensed?
There is not a national license for the radon trades. A client looking for a quality contractor should contact their State Radon Office
to find out if there is a State specific radon contractors license. Many states do not have licensing programs for radon. If you live in one of these states, look to hire a radon contractor who is certified either by the National Environmental Health Association
’s Radon Proficiency Program or by the National Radon Safety Board
’s Certification Program. It is also wise to ask if the installer/employee is licensed or certified. The company owner may have documents but the installers may be unskilled or inexperienced. 2. Are they insured?
Radon is risky business and radon mitigation systems sometimes require major alterations to the home. Make certain to check your contractor’s insurance certificate to be sure it has proper coverage and is up to date.3. What was your impression?
Impressions are important and gut feelings can be a strong indicator. Did the contractor give you the impression that they truly care about what they do for a living? Were they presentable and respectful? In many cases if you had a bad first impression, you will likely have a bad last impression. A person’s demeanor can say a lot about the quality of their work.4. Did you get a firm price?
Whenever dealing with any contractor it is important to agree to a firm price or written proposal before proceeding. Make sure the radon contractor provides a detailed scope of work and a contract before starting work. Do not pay money up front without a signed contract. If a radon contractor cannot provide a firm price to install a radon mitigation system it may indicate a lack of experience. An experienced radon contractor should know exactly the cost to install a radon mitigation system or perform a radon test.5. Do they provide a guarantee?
The EPA recommends that radon levels be lowered below 4 picocuries per liter. Most quality radon mitigation contractors
will provide a written guarantee of performance. Some contractors will have stronger warranties than others. A quality radon mitigation contractor should be able to install the radon remediation system with confidence that the radon levels will be lessened. If a contractor refuses to provide a performance warranty it may indicate a lack of quality and experience.6. Do they have references?
Any good contractor will be more than willing to provide references to prospective clients. If a contractor side steps when you ask for references you may have to wonder what they are hiding. A past customer can provide you with details of how their experience with the contractor was. Ask the reference about cleanliness, quality, punctuality and overall satisfaction. Ask them if they have ever had any trouble contacting the contractor for service work after the job was completed. Checking references can be the strongest indicator of good versus bad radon contractors.
3 Final points when selecting a radon contractor:
• Decisions shouldn’t always come down to price. A lower price can indicate low paid or unlicensed technicians and low quality parts. Too high of a price can indicate a lack of experience to quote correctly.
• Radon gas is deadly. If you hire a radon measurement contractor who performs an incorrect test you could be living under false impressions. If you hire a bad radon mitigation contractor you may have a low quality radon system installed that doesn’t keep radon levels at bay.
• It is important to question your radon contractor but if they are questionable people, you may want to keep shopping.
There are hundreds of good radon contractors throughout the country but as in every trade there are some bad ones. Recently a contractor in Colorado lost their license through falsifying radon test data and intimidating clients [Bad Radon Contractor Colorado Story
]. Don’t allow yourself to be subjected to low quality radon contractors, do you homework and you will find a contractor who will handle your radon testing or mitigation project with professionalism.
If you need help finding a quality radon contractor please feel free to contact us RadoVent™ Radon Mitigation Services
Radon is not just a homowner's issue.
I have been away from my radon blog for the last few weeks as I have been working in the field on a large radon mitigation project. This project is a townhouse style, low-income apartment complex. While working on this project I spent some time thinking about how great it is that the management company who hired us is taking action to protect their tenants from the dangers of radon gas
I don’t know the details of why they decided to test for radon gas. The laws do not require landlords to test their properties for radon in Utah
. No matter the circumstances that lead to finding elevated radon levels in these units, this management company is doing the right thing by taking action to reduce radon exposure
in this property.
Renters, unlike homeowners don’t typically go through a due diligence period before signing a lease. home buyers enjoy the benefit of disclosures, home inspections, optional radon testing or other environmental testing before they buy the home. Renters typically just sign a lease and are unaware of the potential problems that may exist in their apartment or rental house. If a homeowner detects elevated radon levels it is their choice to proceed with radon mitigation. If a renter detects radon in their home they may have to jump through hoops to get the management company or landlord to correct the problem.
Illinois recently passed a law (420 ILCS 46/25)
that requires disclosure of Illinois radon
hazards to current and prospective tenants. This is a great move to protect the citizens of Illinois from the dangers of radon gas. According to a recent radon awareness survey in Colorado
, radon awareness increases with income and age. Many low-income and young citizens live in rental properties and may not know that they may be exposed to dangerous levels of radon.
As we were installing the radon mitigation systems
in these apartments many of the tenants would ask us, “What is radon gas
?” One person even asked us if radon gas comes from “leaky pipes in the air-conditioning unit,” I clarified that radon comes naturally from the soil below the building and that they may be thinking of Freon in an air conditioner. These tenants, without the good deeds of their landlord may have continued to be exposed to radon throughout the duration of living in these homes and never have known.
It is time that states become proactive to protect their citizens from the dangers of radioactive radon gas. Like Illinois, other states should take action to mandate radon disclosure in rental properties. If you are a landlord, consider testing for radon gas in your property. A test can be performed inexpensively and radon mitigation will not break the bank in comparison to other property repairs. If you are a developer, consider building your buildings using radon resistant new construction
techniques. If you are a homeowner who rents the basement, consider the fact that radon levels tend to be greater in the lowest livable area of the home. If you are a renter, buy a do-it-yourself radon test
and see if you are living with high radon levels. A simple radon test and the installation of a permanent radon mitigation system
can potentially save lives. This is not only a moral issue but it can possibly be a liability issue.
It’s Monday night and you just got home from work. You enjoy a nice meal with your family and step down to the basement to watch your favorite TV show or sporting event. The show breaks for commercial and you notice an advertisement asking: Have you have ever been exposed to asbestos in the work place? Do you know anyone who has died from or is suffering from mesothelioma? If so you may have a personal injury case, call the mesothelioma experts at…. Now you probably don’t take much notice after that, you work and have always worked in clean modern buildings and to your knowledge you have never been exposed to asbestos. So you and your family continue on with your evening in the basement TV room, watching your favorite programs. What you may not know is that your basement TV room may be far more deadly than mesothelioma and unfortunately there aren’t many TV commercials educating you about radon gas and its risks.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that can be caused by exposure to asbestos in the home or workplace. It is a deadly disease that devastates families who’s loved one’s knowingly or unknowingly were exposed to dangerous asbestos particles in the air. Mesothelioma affects the thin tissue around organs and is especially damaging to the lungs. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, mesothelioma causes about 2,500 deaths annually. Many personal injury law firms are advertising on the television and radio because asbestos manufacturers hid the dangers of asbestos from the public and continued to sell and distribute their deadly product. Subsequently the public was exposed to asbestos in their homes and at work. Millions of dollars in trust funds have been set aside for mesothelioma settlements to help patients with medical and funeral bills.
Radon gas induced lung cancer kills approximately 20,000 Americans each year according to the United States EPA and the Centers for Disease Control. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium in the soil. Radon gas seeps into homes through cracks and openings in the foundation. Radon is odorless and colorless and the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon levels tend to be higher in the basement because radon is heavier than air. Awareness for radon is low and even though it kills an estimated 17,500 more people per year than mesothelioma, you don’t see many commercials on TV educating people about radon dangers. One reason is that radon is naturally occurring and you can’t sue Mother Nature. In the future, we may begin to see lawsuits associated with exposure to radon in the workplace because just as radon gas can affect you in your home, radon enters offices and buildings through the foundation. If detected, radon gas can be controlled with a radon remediation system. These systems remove the radon from the soil before it enters the home, office, school or other building. Radon remediation systems typically cost under $1500 for a single family home and can reduce radon gas levels by up to 99%.
Next time you notice a commercial for mesothelioma, think about the greater risk of lung cancer from radon gas. Purchase a radon test kit online, from state or local radon contacts, from certified radon measurement professionals or from your local hardware store. If you know about radon gas, educate your families and friends about its dangers because it’s unlikely that they will see a radon commercial on TV.
For stories about lung cancer and radon gas go to: www.cansar.org
Here is an EPA radon PSA that you may not run accross on TV so we'll show it here:
Radon resistant new construction (RRNC) is quickly becoming a hot topic for new homes and buildings. Radon resistant new construction techniques control radon gas entry through the installation of a passive radon mitigation system. When installed correctly by a licensed radon contractor, passive radon systems can help to prevent radon gas entry without the use of a radon vent fan. These systems are more economical for consumers as the cost to install is typically less than retrofit applications and compared to active radon systems the electrical and heat energy savings are great. Many states, municipalities, contractors and architects are adopting radon resistant new construction codes and policies that are the correct procedure.
As the demand for passive radon mitigation increases, there may be a hidden danger that makes these systems more deadly than not having a radon system at all.
Over the years, we have been called to activate passive radon mitigation systems in hundreds of homes. In most cases the homeowner is selling the home and the buyers performed a radon test during inspection. When radon levels come back high, we are called to activate the passive radon system by installing a radon vent fan. Many times we find that the homeowner is baffled by the fact that the radon levels came back high. They ask, "how are the levels high when I have a radon mitigation system?"
There are several radon resistant new construction facts to consider when asking this question.
- There is currently no national standard radon resistant new construction. Therefore many builders have no standard to pull from; leaving homes with improperly installed radon resistant systems.
- Passive radon systems are not known to reduce radon levels as well as active radon mitigation systems. In many cases, passive radon systems only reduce radon levels by 50% leaving the home with radon gas levels greater than the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L.
- Most passive radon systems are not installed by licensed or certified radon mitigation contractor. The plumber or the builder who does not specialize in radon mitigation installs them.
- Many passive radon mitigation systems don't work at all!
Time and time again we have arrived at homes to activate passive radon systems that were installed when the home was built. We find that proper RRNC techniques have not been followed. Many times we find incorrect PVC pipe size, unsealed cracks, improper pipe routes and worst of all the radon suction point has been capped underneath the slab by the concrete as it was poured. This is potentially more dangerous than not having a radon system at all. These unknowing homeowners were told that they have a "radon system" in their new home. They were left under the false assumption that the home is protected from radon and in many cases never test for radon gas to see if the system is working. Without the use of correct radon resistant new construction techniques, all that these homeowners have is an ineffective pipe in the basement labeled “radon system”. The homeowners may have been living and continued to live with dangerous levels of this cancer causing radon gas without even knowing it.
If you are building a new home:
If you live in a home with a “passive radon mitigation system”
- Test for radon gas at least every two years.
- Inspect your foundation for new cracks/radon entry points and seal them.
- Call your local radon contractor to inspect the system design.
- Do not assume that you are protected from radon if you have never performed a radon test.
Passive radon mitigation is a great way to reduce radon gas if the system is installed correctly. They can be easily activated if radon levels remain high and are nicely hidden within the home. These systems may help reduce lung cancer risk for you and your family but always be certain that the passive system was installed correctly.