What the Heck is Radon, Anyway?

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Have you been researching steps to home buying (or selling your home) and keep seeing references to radon and radon testing? What is this stuff anyway?

In short, radon is a radioactive, odorless, colorless, gas, caused by the breakdown of Uranium in water, rock, and the soil. Yes. It is everywhere, in some level. (The average indoor level is 1.3 pCi/L, and the average outdoor level is .4 pCi/L If there is air, there is probably some degree of radon in it. BUT, it is also the largest cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second largest cause of lung cancer (after smoking) period.

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Yikes. So what does that mean if you’re buying, or selling, a home?

Radon enters homes through the foundation and can get trapped, causing increased levels, especially concerning if you’re a smoker, have children, or any other concerns about air quality. It’s most definitely not a myth, and more and more something that people are aware of and want to make sure is dealt with. (When I first started in real estate in 2003, most people didn’t understand it or even know what it was. They thought it was made up, or they “didn’t believe in it.” Times have changed!)

So, what are things that you must know? (Keep in mind that I’m not a radon expert. However, I’ve had a lot of experience, in transactions and personally, and will point you to reliable resources to research further.)

First of all, it is not the end of the world. I’ve seen levels in homes as high as 40 pCi/L (The EPA says to remediate at levels over 4). With remediation, those levels were able to be reduced to below 2.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about radon… Have one that’s not listed here? Skip to the bottom for some links to resources, or reach out, and I can put you in touch with some very reliable, professional, licensed radon testing firms.

Radon Map of Virginia


Q: How is the testing done? A: It’s always better to have a licensed professional do the testing for radon. They have a regulated, calibrated, machine that sits in the home, untouched, for at least 48 hours, measuring and providing a reading every hour. Those are then averaged to get that “final” reading.

Q: I’ve heard radon only matters if you have a basement. Is that true? A: Nope. It can occur whether or not there is a basement. (That house I mentioned above with the level of 40? Crawlspace.)

Q: How much does the test cost and who pays for it? A: If you’re in a real estate transaction, the buyer pays for all of the inspections, though you typically can inspect for anything you want. The cost of the radon test generally ranges $150-$400, depending on the company, and how many monitors need to placed in the home.

Q: Can the levels change over time? A: That’s a tough question. Generally, not really, unless there is a seismic event, or the structure or the hvac in the home has been altered. Therefore, I do now encourage my buyers to have a test at inspection time, even if the current owners had it tested when they purchased the home.

Q: How much does it cost to make it go away? A: Remediation generally only costs $1500-$3000 or so. It’s certainly not nothing, but usually not completely unmanageable in the course of a real estate transaction.

Remember, most things can be fixed, but education is key! Let me know what questions I can answer for you in the meantime!

RESOURCES

Radon info from the EPA

Info from the American Lung Association

Info from the Virginia Dept of Health

Local/ Richmond Testing Companies (with whom I’ve worked- there are more)

RadonEase

Award Home Inspections

Radon Remediation in Richmond

Ansell & Associates

Radon Controls/ Geo Environmental