What is Radon and Why is Testing for This Deadly Element Often Need for a Home Closing?
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What is Radon and Why is Testing for This Deadly Element Often Need for a Home Closing?

You should have your home tested for this deadly element and take corrective measures if it is found

August 20, 2019

Anyone who has purchased a home has probably been offered or been required to have a radon test performed before closing can proceed. But you may have wondered what radon is and why the test is even necessary. Radon is a naturally-occurring chemical element and the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Testing for it is very simple and mitigation methods can prevent it from becoming a health issue.

Radon causes lung cancer

Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas produced by decaying uranium that is present in nearly all soils. Low levels of radon are found in the air we breath, but it can become deadly when it gets trapped in our homes. Long-term exposure can cause lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 21,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer that is caused by radon exposure. These deaths can be prevented.

Testing for Radon is Not expensive

Testing is the only way to know for sure whether radon is present in your home and to what degree. To make sure the test is as accurate as possible, you should consider hiring a certified professional. But you don't have to. Do-it-yourself radon test kits that are easy to use are affordable and available for purchase both online and at hardware and home improvement stores. These tests can give you a basic understanding of your year-round average radon level. If you get a high result on a short or long-term test, you can follow up with another test or consult with a professional.

If the level is four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air or higher, both the U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA recommend that you take action to fix your home. If your test result is four pCi/L or higher, you are encouraged to contact a qualified radon mitigation contractor.

if you have high levels of radon

If testing reveals a high radon level in your home, radon mitigation installed by a professional will help to keep it outside. There are many ways to do this, but you'll typically use a vent pipe and exhaust fan to pull in fresh air, using a natural stack effect in suction pipes to create a vacuum, or simply create an air-tight vapor barrier. The method needed for your home should be determined by a professional, who will take into consideration the amount of radon present, the home and its construction, and the nearby soil. This can cost you some money comparable to many common home improvement projects, but is better than risking lung cancer treatments later.

Selling your home with high radon levels

If you know your home has high levels of radon, you have to disclose it to the potential buyer before sale. If a potential buyer conducts a radon test and those levels come back high, the buyer has the right to walk away from the sale (nearly all do) and you'll be obligated to disclose the radon to future buyers, reducing your appeal. To avoid any trouble down, take the action to mitigate the radon now before you place your home on the market. Besides making an investment for when you sell, you're making an investment in your own health.

High levels of radon in a home is a kiss of death to home sale contracts. Nearly every buyer will walk away from the purchase unless the problem is mitigated, and some will walk away even if repairs are made. They don't want to take on an unknown expense down the road, both with mitigations costs and unknown effects on homeowners insurance. Some mortgage companies will not finance a home sale if there are high levels of radon, which is why many of them require a radon test before closing.

Before purchasing a home

Ask the seller whether a radon test has been conducted before and what the results were. If it was high, there should be some kind of mitigation in place already. You'll want to know what that is so a home inspector can pay particular attention to it. But regardless of the results of previous tests or what you are being told, have a radon test conducted whenever you are purchasing a new home.

If the results of the test are high, ask the seller to have radon mitigation performed as part of the sale. If the seller is not willing to do so, you must decide how to proceed. You can either walk away from the sale, accept the sale as-is, or negotiate a lower price. In any case, mitigation needs to be performed.

If you are building a new home, try working with the builder to use construction techniques that are resistant to radon. Your builder might already be doing this, but it's worth a shot. But keep in mind that many builders use the same techniques for all homes they construct and might not be willing to make any adjustments just for you, even for a price.