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Should I Get My Home Tested for Radon?

If you own a home in Wisconsin, you should get it tested for radon. Even if your home is new
construction, it still may contain radon. Radon can cause serious health problems if left unattended,
and costs for removing radon from the home can be high.

Radon facts

• Radon gas is created by the breakdown of radium and uranium, dangerous elements found in high levels in Wisconsin.
• Many homes in Wisconsin have elevated levels of radon, approximately one in three.
• Two homes next to each other, with similar construction and of similar age, can have drastically different radon levels.
• The lowest level of the home is the most susceptible to radon.

Radon can cause lung cancer
Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers, and the second largest cause of cancer in the US. It is critical to test your home for radon to avoid these threats, and radon testing is highly supported by the Surgeon General, the EPA, the American Lung Association, and others.


Delaying a radon test can be costly
A radon test may cost around $125. If your home is found through testing to have elevated levels of radon, the usual next step is to have a mitigation system installed. The cost for the average radon mitigation system is generally between $800 and $1,800. When you are purchasing a home it is highly recommended to have the home tested during your contingency, and if the radon levels come up elevated, your Realtor may be able to negotiate to have the seller install a radon mitigation system. If you put this off, your family might be susceptible to radon exposure and you may have to install a mitigation system when you decide to sell the house.


Frequently Raised Objections to Radon Testing
We often hear objections to radon testing. Here are some of the more common objections, and how we respond:

My home does not have a basement, so it is less susceptible to radon.
That is a good point. Most homes without basements will have lower readings. However, any type of basement or crawlspace is capable of accumulating radon, and even homes built on a slab foundation can have detectable levels.


My home is new construction.
A radon test is critical to every home regardless of when it was built. High radon levels are common enough that some builders install basic components of a radon mitigation system as they are building the house. Having a new home is no assurance of lower radon levels, so the only solution for peace of mind is to have a radon test.


I’m purchasing a bank-owned or short sale home, so the sellers will not perform a radon test.
In this case, we recommend that you have a radon test performed during your contingency., so that you have more information to factor into your purchasing decision.


I am planning to conduct my own test.
Good, however you may not save money, and it may end up costing you more. While some counties give away radon test kits, generally you need to buy a kit at a hardware store that will cost you about $50 with the lab fees. Also, unless you have a professional third-party person do the test, it cannot be brought into your negotiations to buy the house.


For more information on radon and radon testing, visit the websites of the EPA and the Wisconsin State Department of Health.


Hearthstone Home Inspectors are here to answer any additional questions you may have and to provide you with the services you need to ensure your home is safe and healthy. Give us a call at 262-366-3565 today!

Radon .......An Inspector's Viewpoint

What is radon gas?
- Radon is a colorless, odorless naturally-occurring gas that develops from the
decay of uranium. It is in the soil and gradually seeps up to the surface where it dissipates. However,
it can also accumulate in basements, and present a health risk.

What is the big deal about it?
- Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, according to the US Surgeon General. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) recommends having homes evaluated for the presence of radon, and have them modified if the amount exceeds a certain level.

How is the level of radon measured?
-Radon levels are determined through a simple, non-intrusive monitoring process that involves leaving a device in the home for at least 48 hours. Some devices need to be sent to a lab for analysis; others are able to report immediately through a download. The measurement is in “Picocurries per liter of air”, and a level of 4.0 or higher is generally equal to a defect in a home purchase. Winter is a perfect time for monitoring, although it can be done anytime we can be assured the house will have the doors and windows closed most of the time. Many homes in Southeast Wisconsin have been monitored and found to have elevated levels.

If I am buying a home, should I have it checked for radon?
- Sometimes it is part of a home inspection in Milwaukee area real estate transfers. There is an additional fee, typically around $100 -125. In
the opinion of this inspector, a lot more homes should be checked, but it does not necessarily need to be done at the time of a sale. If a buyer has found a home he or she really likes, the possible presence of elevated radon should not be a deterrent in deciding to buy. If it is there, it can usually be easily and permanently reduced, or “mitigated”.

If not when buying a home, when should it be checked?
- Preferably when a homeowner first becomes aware of the issue, or any time he or she wants to know. It is also a good idea for people thinking of selling to have it done. There are two reasons why this should not wait for a new owner. First, since there is no way to predict which houses in a given area have elevated levels, the only way to know of a possible problem is to monitor. Then the homeowner can either find there is nothing to be concerned about, or take the appropriate steps to fix the problem. The second reason is that while most Realtors and Inspectors believe an elevated level should not necessarily be a factor in the buying decision, it usually does become one. It is best to remove it as a factor before an offer is made. Interested homeowners may buy their own kits or may hire a radon testing company or home inspector.

What happens if my home has elevated levels?
- When an elevated level is found, a qualified “mitigator” can reduce the levels. The simplest explanation of the process is that a system of pipes
and a continuously running fan are installed to create a slight vacuum under the slab or basement floor. In some cases, the sump system can be used; in others a hole is punched in the basement floor and a 4” pvc pipe is inserted to draw out the gases. The cost of such a system often ranges from $800 to $1500.

Some people say radon is overly-hyped; should I really be concerned about it?
- According to the EPA and the Surgeon General, there is no debate that radon is a carcinogen, and also that many homes have levels that are considered unsafe by the EPA. It appears to have a much higher impact on people exposed to smoking. It should be treated no differently than any other potentially hazardous situation in a home - find out if it is there and have it corrected.

For more information...

Google Radon on the Internet and select from a number of educational and governmental sites.
Roger W Kautz, HEARTHSTONE Home Inspections, LLC