Radon testing is a common item on many home inspection checklists, and for good reason. Radon is a colorless, tasteless and odorless radioactive gas produced from the decay of low-level uranium deposits in rock, soil and water. It’s found in every state since traces of uranium naturally exist in wide swaths of the earth’s crust; as a result, the EPA estimates that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year due to high levels of radon exposure.
Most people will expect their home inspector to identify loose foundational components, faulty appliances and, maybe, a pest infestation, but radon testing is one of the most crucial inspections because it can save lives.
So what exactly does radon testing constitute, and how should you prepare your home before one is conducted? First, let’s start with the basics.
What are Inspectors Looking for When They Conduct a Radon Test?
It’s very rare to find a home that’s completely free of radon. Sorry if you were hoping your property would be an exception. Home inspectors anticipate some scant traces of radon because the single-atom structure of the gas allows it to easily permeate a wide variety of materials, from paper and leather to sheetrock, concrete and most paints.
Instead, home inspectors look to quantify the concentration of radon gas, and determine whether it exceeds the EPA’s acceptable radon threshold of 4 picocuries-per-liter-of-air, or 4 pCi/L. Picocuries measure the rate of radioactive decay of radon, and 4 pCi is considered the actionable threshold since lower levels of radon are more likely to trigger false-negatives and positives during testing.
What Steps Should I Take Before My Home is Tested for Radon?
Since the primary objective of radon testing is to assess gas concentration, the best thing you can do is maintain what the EPA coins “closed home conditions”. Exterior-facing doors and windows should be closed for at least 12 hours prior to inspection if you’re having a short-range test conducted. Closed-home preparation time will be longer for more extensive testing. Your friends and family will still be able to enter and exit your home normally, so long as doors are shut quickly after.
Inside your home, make sure to shut or close off anything that disperses or ventilates air, including humidifiers, fireplace flues and ceiling fans. HVAC systems should also be set to their AUTO function and indoor temperatures should be maintained between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Failing to do any of these things could potentially dilute radon concentrations and produce inaccurate test results.
Active communication with your home inspector is also a good way to prepare for radon testing. Be upfront about your home’s history, and inform your inspector if any recent renovations may create cause for concern. For example, if you recently hired an Akron bathroom remodeling company to overhaul your space with new paint, fixtures and construction materials, you’ll want to let your inspector know so he or she can prioritize areas that may be most prone to radon permeation. The EPA recommends retesting every 2 years or after any renovations to the home have been made.
Also, let your inspector know if you’ve had radon tests conducted in the past, perhaps by a competing Columbus home inspector. Because of the severe toll radon can take on a home, it’s understandable to seek a second opinion, but multiple opinions don’t mean much when they aren’t communicated across inspectors. By giving your inspector some additional context, you could help him or her produce a more confident assessment.
If you live in Columbus or the Central Ohio area, and you need an accurate, no-nonsense assessment of your property’s radon levels, give the experienced home inspection professionals at Habitation Investigation a call today! To schedule your inspection today, call (937) 205-4758 or (614) 413-0075.