WHAT REALTORS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RADON
Radon testing is a standard offering from most any reputable home inspector. As a result, Realtors are inevitably impacted when a radon problem is uncovered in a home that has been inspected as part of a real estate purchase / transaction. But there are times when radon should never become an issue.
What Realtors need to know about radon is that improper radon testing procedures probably account for more lost sales, closing delays, and animosity between buyers and sellers, than any other environmental issue encountered during a real estate transaction. An educated Realtor can be proactive in avoiding the many pitfalls a poorly executed radon test can create. Radon testing performed as part of a home inspection during a sales transaction should be done in a manner that will reveal what the home's occupants will be exposed to on a consistent basis, under normal living situations. These "screening" measurements should not be used to get the highest radon reading possible.
Non livable dirt basement
Erroneous radon test device placement is easy to recognize once you know what to look for. Placing a test kit in a crawl space, sump hole, or a dirt floored coal cellar that you have to crouch in, is not the proper location for a screening measurement for radon! Here are the basic EPA guidelines for testing:
- Test devices should be placed a minimum 20" off the floor.
- Test devices should not be placed near vents, doors, & windows.
- Test devices should not be placed on furnaces & hot water heaters.
- Test devices should be a minimum of 3 ft. away from doors & windows.
- Test devices should be a minimum of 1 ft. away from exterior walls.
- Testing should not be performed in kitchens, baths, & laundry rooms if at all possible.
Incomplete radon testing of homes with expanded footprints (homes with first floor additions or liveable areas not located over the basement) can also create problems during the course of a home sales transaction. Homes with footprints that extend beyond just the basement need to have more than one area tested. As an example; a home with a full basement that has a family room addition built over a crawl space, and a master bedroom suite built "slab on grade", should have all these areas tested.
Addition on slab
What Realtors need to know about radon is that if an elevated radon level is found, a qualified mitigator who surveys the home to give a radon mitigation quote will recognize that these other areas need to be tested in order to give the most thorough assessment of the radon picture for the home. The experienced radon mitigator will recognize that oftentimes; mitigation efforts made in one location of the home, will have little to no impact in other areas of the home. To avoid delays and jeopardize closing dates, it should be determined in advance if those other areas need to be addressed. That can only be ascertained by thourough radon testing procedures.
If the home being tested for radon in air has well water, the water should be tested for radon. Radon in water testing needs to be requested by interested parties, because it is not included in a standard potability analysis. The radon content of water can impact radon in air levels. Sometimes; a radon in water level can be a major contributing factor to an elevated radon in air concentration.
What Realtors Need To Know About Radon:
•*Radon levels are in a constant state of fluctuation (in both air & water).
•*Radon entry into a structure from the soil is greatly influenced by pressure differentials that develop between the interior & exterior of the structure.
•*Exposed ledge or dirt in a basement doesn’t automatically indicate the home will have a radon problem. A radium source in the rock or soil is necessary for that rock and soil to be a contributing factor to an indoor radon in air problem.
•*Airborne radon levels are higher in winter due mainly to the “stack effect”. The stack effect occurs when heated air inside the structure moves vertically through the structure. The envelope of the heated structure creates a vacuum or suction on the ground on which it sits. This increases the influx of radon laden soil gas into the structure.
•*A house closed up for a long period of time doesn’t continuously build up radon concentrations. There are two reasons for this. Reason # 1: Radon's half life. Since radon is radioactive, it has a "half life" or natural decay process. Every 3.8 days, half of any radon level dissipates...decays away...all on it's own. Radon enters the home, but also dissipates on a consistent basis. Reason # 2: Natural Ventilation Rate (NVR). Regardless of the age of a home, air infiltrates in and exfiltrates out of the home continuously. Therefore, even a home that has been closed for two years doesn't have two year old air inside.
•*All occupiable areas of multi level homes should be tested...not just the basement!