Radon Testing & Remediation Information for Home Buyers and Sellers
When buyers fall in love with a home and ready to sign sales contract, one of the questions that comes up during contract review is whether or not the buyers would like to include Radon testing contingency. From my experience, majority of home buyers and owners are unfamiliar with what Radon is and don’t know that it might be present in a home. After all, this invisible, odorless gas doesn’t really give itself away.
Testing for Radon and installing remediation system may sound like just an expensive unnecessary task that adds to your laundry list of home improvement projects and expenses. But it’s worth your while to have the home tested because levels of this gas can vary a significant amount, even from one home to the next. Understanding what Radon is and how it enters the home is an important part of the resolution process.
What is Radon?
First, let’s talk about what all the buzz is about. According to the EPA, Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the soil, and it’s produced by the natural breakdown of the uranium found in most rocks and soils. Radon breaks down into solid radioactive elements called radon progeny, which attach to dust and other particles that can enter the house through the cracks or openings in the foundation. Exposure to high levels of Radon for extensive periods of time, might cause lung cancer.
How Does it Sneak In, Anyway?
Radon, like water vapor, is actually capable of seeping through the pores of solid concrete. That’s right, the radon creeps in through the very foundation of the home. While some new homes are constructed with gas permeable layers and other radon-resistant building materials, radon can sneak in anyway.
Radon Levels in Northern Virginia
Northern Virginia is a particular problem area, with 56% of the tested homes containing Radon levels higher than recommended by EPA standards. Map below breaks down levels of Radon by area.
Is Radon Gas Present in New Construction Homes?
It doesn’t matter if old or new, radon can find its way into any home. In fact, realizing the potential problem, majority of new home builders in Northern Virginia rough in PVC Radon ventilation pipes during construction. So later, if you discover high levels of Radon in your new home, you can easily add a fan to convert the Radon vent from passive to active.
Radon gas is tasteless, odorless and colorless, so the only way to determine if the air in a home has elevated levels of this invisible gas is through Radon testing.
Since Radon sneaks into the house through the foundation, the testing is done in the basement. Many home inspectors are certified to test for Radon, so Radon testing machine can be installed on the day of home inspection.
The test requires all vents, exhaust fans, windows, and doors remained closed, for 48 hours. That’s all. The EPA recommends if the test result are 4pCi/L or higher, you take the steps to lower levels to minimize the risks of exposure. Some choose to opt for longer tests for 30, 60, or 90 days which you may find yield more precise results.
If you are Northern Virginia homeowner thinking about selling your home, you should consider conducting Radon testing and correcting a problem if discovered before putting your home on the market, so that a timely and cost-effective solution can be found.
Is Radon Testing Expensive?
A test is easy and inexpensive but requires the technical skills and knowledge of a trained professional. As an example, a home in Vienna, Virginia was recently tested for only $140.
Lowering Radon Levels
Radon is in the air, both inside and out, so it’s impossible to avoid it completely. But there are things you can do to lower your exposure.
A simple approach to radon reduction is sealing cracks in the floor and walls. This limits the flow of radon into your home, as well as stops the clean, conditioned air from escaping.
For homes that need a drastic reduction, a Radon gas remediation system may also need to be put into place in addition to the sealing of the home. If it turns out there are dangerous levels of radon gas in your Northern Virginia home, you will need a remediation system installed.
The average cost of remediation system in Northern Virginia totals $800-$1,500 and requires special skills and technical knowledge so it is highly recommended to consult an expert.
When searching for homes, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to point out and explain the type of remediation system installed in the home.
Radon Testing Contract Contingency
Because, for most people, the largest potential source of radon exposure is in their own home, with particularly high levels found here in Northern Virginia, it would be wise to include Radon Testing in the sales contract as a contingency. A Radon testing contingency is usually 7-10 days.
If you are a home seller, it is essential to know that Radon testing could be added to a sales contract as a contingency. This means that if high levels of Radon are detected, a buyer can ask the seller to remediate the problem, choose to pay for the remediation themselves, or simply walk away from the contract.
While radon is a real issue, it should not be a real estate deal breaker.