Checking for Radon When Buying or Selling a House

The EPA recommends conducting two short term radon home test for real estate transactions. EPA also recommends testing for radon in the home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.

The radon real estate testing guidelines developed by the EPA have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference.

If You Are Selling a Home...

EPA recommends that you test for radon in the home before you put it on the market and, if necessary, lower the levels of radon. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.

If You Are Buying a Home...

EPA recommends that you know what the indoor levels of radon in any home you consider buying. Ask the seller for their radon home test results. If the home has a radon reduction system, ask the seller for the information they have about the system.

If the home has not yet been tested, you should request a test be performed for radon in the home.

If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated during construction to reduce radon dangers.

RadonZone.com offers a short term radon test kit, a long term alpha track test kit, and a radon water test kit.

Radon Real Estate: I'm Selling a Home. What Should I Do?

If Your Home Has Already Been Tested for Radon...

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested for radon in the home, review the Radon Testing Checklist (below) to make sure that the test was done correctly. If so, provide your radon home test results to the buyer. No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test especially if:

  • The Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
  • The last test is not recent, e.g., within two years;
  • You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
  • The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.

A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

If Your Home Has Not Yet Been Tested for Radon...

Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test for radon in the home before putting it on the market. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The radon test result is important information about your home's levels of radon. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA's Radon Testing Checklist (below). If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

Radon Real Estate: I'm Buying a Home. What Should I Do?

If the Home Has Already Been Tested for Radon...

If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier radon home test result from the seller, or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a qualified radon tester. Before you accept the seller's test, you should determine:

  • The results of previous testing;
  • Who conducted the previous radon home test: the homeowner, a radon professional, or some other person;
  • Where in the home the previous test was taken, especially if you may plan to live in a lower level of the home. For example, the test may have been taken on the first floor. However, if you want to use the basement as living space, test there; and
  • What, if any, structural changes, alterations, or changes in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system have been made to the house since the test was done. Such changes may affect levels of radon.

If you accept the seller's test, make sure that the test followed the Radon Testing Checklist.

If the Home Has Not Yet Been Tested for Radon...

Make sure that a radon home test is done as soon as possible. Consider including provisions in the contract specifying:

  • Where the test will be located;
  • Who should conduct the test;
  • What type of test to do;
  • When to do the test;
  • How the seller and the buyer will share the test results and test costs (if necessary); and
  • When radon mitigation measures will be taken and who will pay for them.

Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use.

If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, a radon test should be taken before starting the project and after the project is finished. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterwards.

Radon Real Estate: I'm Buying or Building a New Home. How Can I Protect My Family?

Why Should I Buy a Radon-Resistant Home?

Radon-resistant techniques work. When installed properly and completely, these simple and inexpensive passive techniques can help to reduce radon levels. In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier to reduce levels of radon further if the passive techniques don't reduce radon levels below 4 pCi/L. Radon-resistant techniques may also help to lower moisture levels and those of other soil gases. Radon-resistant techniques:

  • Making Upgrading Easy: Even if built to be radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon in the home after occupancy. If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, a radon vent fan can easily be added to the passive system to make it an active system and further reduce levels of radon.

  • Are Cost-Effective: Building radon-resistant features into the house during construction is easier and cheaper than fixing a radon problem from scratch later. Let your builder know that radon-resistant features are easy to install using common building materials.

  • Save Money: When installed properly and completely, radon-resistant techniques can also make your home more energy efficient and help you save on your energy costs.

In a new home, the cost to install passive radon-resistant features during construction is usually between $350 and $500. In some areas, the cost may be as low as $100. A qualified mitigation specialist will charge about $300 to add a radon vent fan to a passive system, making it an active system and further reducing radon levels. In an existing home, it usually costs between $800 and $2,500 to install a radon mitigation system.

What Are Radon-Resistant Features?

Radon-resistant techniques (features) may vary for different foundations and site requirements. If you're having a house built, you can learn about EPA's Model Standards (and architectural drawings) and explain the techniques to your builder. If your new house was built (or will be built) to be radon-resistant, it will include these basic elements:

  • Gas-Permeable Layer: This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house. In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel. This gas-permeable layer is used only in homes with basement and slab-on-grade foundations; it is not used in homes with crawlspace foundations.
  • Plastic Sheeting: Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas-permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home. In crawl spaces, the sheeting (with seams sealed) is placed directly over the crawlspace floor.
  • Sealing and Caulking: All below-grade openings in the foundation and walls are sealed to reduce soil gas entry into the home.
  • Vent Pipe: A 3- or 4-inch PVC pipe (or other gas-tight pipe) runs from the gas-permeable layer through the house to the roof, to safely vent radon and other soil gases to the outside.
  • Junction Boxes: An electrical junction box is included in the attic to make the wiring and installation of a vent fan easier. For example, you decide to activate the passive system because your test result showed an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). A separate junction box is placed in the living space to power the vent fan alarm. An alarm is installed along with the vent fan to indicate when the vent fan is not operating properly.

Consider consulting with the building contractor for a complete list.

Relevant EPA Publications

  • A Citizen's Guide to Radon
    The guide to protecting yourself and your family from radon...

    This recently revised guidance offers strategies for testing your home for radon and discussions of what steps to take after you have tested, discussions of the risk of radon and radon myths.

  • Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon

    This booklet is intended for anyone who is buying or selling a home, real estate and relocation professionals, home inspectors and others.

  • Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction
    How to Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home...

    You have tested your home for radon, but now what? This recently revised booklet is for people who have tested their home for radon and confirmed that they have elevated radon levels -- 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. This booklet can help you: Select a qualified contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home, determine an appropriate radon reduction method, and maintain your radon reduction system.

Radon Real Estate: Radon Testing Checklist

For reliable test results, follow this Radon Testing Checklist carefully. Testing for radon is not complicated. Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test. Disturbing or interfering with the test device, or with closed-house conditions, may invalidate the test results and is illegal in some states. If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.

Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.
Before Conducting a Radon Home Test:
  • Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain the directions carefully.
  • Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.
  • When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.
  • When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained.
  • If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory's instructions.
  • If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual. Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it. The tester's ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test report.
  • The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions or with the testing device itself.
  • If the house has an active radon reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly. If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test.
During a Radon Home Test:
  • Maintain closed-house conditions during he entire time of a short term test, especially for tests shorter than one week in length.
  • Operate the home's heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which re-circulate interior air.
  • Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.
  • If a radon reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.
After a Radon Home Test:
  • If you conduct the test yourself, be sure to promptly return the test device to the laboratory. Be sure to complete the required information, including start and stop times, test location, etc.
  • If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level. EPA recommends that you fix the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
  • Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

 

 

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