When buying a home there are many things to think about…the home inspection is one thing, but other inspections aside from the “actual” home inspection are important as well. These include, but are not limited to a survey, pest inspection, septic and well water inspection; also a radon test.
Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, taste or feel; so you are not going to know if it is in your home unless you have a radon test. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. According to the US EPA, 1 in 3 homes in selected states had levels over 4.0 pCi/L which is the level or higher that it is recommended to take action. With that said, pretty much every home in America is going to have radon, it is just a matter of how much. The good news is it is just a simple procedure to mitigate radon and get levels down to an acceptable level.
Since radon comes from the ground, it rises through cracks and crevices in your home upwards. If you have a basement home, there is a better chance of having higher levels than if you have a crawl space, because in a crawl space there is moving air between the ground and your home which can dissipate levels. There are also areas of the country that are prone to have higher levels than others…you can check out a national map here. So for the average home owner that may just be curious about their radon levels you can buy radon test kits at most home improvement stores for under $50, but then you have to mail it off and pay a separate fee for results and the accuracy of those tests are not the best. If you are buying a home and need quicker and more accurate results you would want to ask your REALTOR to direct you to a Radon Testing Company to have a test using a constant monitoring device. These monitors are very expensive and the tests can cost up to $150, but since they are more accurate and your time is limited during your due diligence period of buying a home, it is well worth the cost.
If you have levels or 4.0 pCi/L or higher you should 100% have a mitigation system put in place. There is the school of thought that ALL homes should have a mitigation system in place, because according to the EPA there is NO safe level of radon gas. Radon mitigation systems range from $700-$2,500 or so depending on certain aspects of your home. The procedures are different if your home has a basement vs. a crawlspace. In the pictures below you will see a mitigation system being installed. Essentially they bore a hole in the concrete floor in the unfinished area in the basement and remove about 5 gallons of rock/dirt. When this is done there is a PVC pipe inserted and sealed then goes vertically away from the ground towards the exterior of the home. On the exterior of the home the PVC pipe is cut and a fan is placed between the lower level pipe and an additional pipe is installed above the fan which draws air from under the home upwards and exits at the top of the pipe. The pipe has to be approximately 8 feet from windows and 18 inches above the roof line. This particular home with a basement had an average level of 4.1 pCi/L and after the system was installed it went down to 0.9 pCi/L which is probably less than any neighboring home without a basement…so you can see how effective and important a mitigation system can be in any given home.