As you go through the homebuying process, you’re presented with a laundry list of things you need to take care of, especially if you’re financing your purchase. Perhaps one of the most important — and telling — pieces to the purchasing puzzle is the home inspection, which can point out any potential problems before you sign on the dotted line. However, not every home inspection includes radon testing, which is a must if you want to keep your family safe.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and off-gasses into the environment. Radon gas is the result of uranium, thorium, and radium decay underground, which then releases into the atmosphere. Radon gas is in the air when we’re outside each day, without us being aware, as it’s tasteless, odorless, and invisible. However, our outside radon gas exposure isn’t dangerous because it’s only trace amounts.
Long-term exposure to high levels of radon, however, is deadly as it is an invisible carcinogen. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking tobacco. And because it’s odorless, the only way people know that they’re exposed to high levels is to test their homes.
What does radon have to do with houses?
Of the many things that will fail a home inspection, the detection of high levels of radon gas is one, and is one of the most dangerous. New homes are built to be energy efficient and airtight, which makes them perfect for collecting radon. Small cracks or holes in a house foundation allow radon gas to slowly seep into the home, which, being airtight, collects over time.
It’s important to note that foundational cracks aren’t the only way that radon gas seeps into your home. If you have a basement with a drain in the floor, a sump pump, or work sink, radon can enter through any of them unbeknownst to you. Without any way to off-gas, radon builds inside, causing continual exposure for inhabitants.
This is not a situation you want to have on your hands, and the only way you’ll know if your family is being exposed is if you test your home for the carcinogenic gas. Thankfully, it’s easy to purchase do-it-yourself radon testing kits to find out if your home is trapping a hazardously high level of gas inside.
For around $15, you can purchase a kit to perform radon testing yourself. You simply open the test and leave it in your basement for a few days, and then send off to a lab for testing. If your test comes back registering high levels of radon gas, you should then consult professionals for testing and possible mitigation.
Dealing with high radon levels
Selling a house with high radon levels isn’t impossible, and it’s not a definite deal-breaker if your dream home tests high. The home is testing high because it’s trapping the gas within, which means a mitigation system needs to be installed. So, if your home inspection comes back showing high levels of radon, you can ask the buyer to install a mitigation system, which averages around $1,500.
So, radon mitigation is not incredibly expensive to fix, and it’s definitely not a deal-breaker when it comes to home sales. It is, however, a non-negotiable fix because it’s dangerous for anyone living in that home.