FAQs: Getting Rid of Radon

So you’ve tested your home for radon gas and found unacceptable levels. What now? Can you take care of it yourself? Do you call the professionals? What exactly does radon mitigation entail?

Frequently asked questions about radon removal:

How does professional radon mitigation work?

There’s no single method that fits all radon removal system needs. Common techniques include:

  • Sub-slab depressurization, where suction pipes are inserted through the floor or concrete slab into the concrete slab below the home. A radon vent fan then draws out the radon gas and releases it into the air outside. This is the most common type of system.
  • Sub-membrane depressurization: encapsulating (sealing of the dirt in a crawlspace with a special plastic membrane sealed to crawl space foundation walls), then using a venting method similar to that described above.
  • Use of a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). An HRV / ERV is a machine which exchanges indoor and outdoor air, which reduces the radon levels through dilution.
  • Sealing sump covers, holes and large cracks in the slab to prevent the loss of vacuum pressure near the vent pipe. But sealing is not enough by itself (see below).

Why do I need to reduce radon?

Radon is a radioactive product of the radioactive decay of uranium in the soil. It gets sucked into structures by the natural vacuum structures create on the soil (thermal stack effect). This can expose you to the harmful radon decay products (Alpha particles) that can cause lung cancer.

Once in the lungs, Alpha particles damage the deep lung tissue where the DNA strands are located, causing a tumor. There is extensive research on the health hazards of radon gas (source: National Academies of Sciences).

For more information on how radon can affect your health, see our frequently asked questions about the health risks of radon.

Can caulking and sealing my basement solve my radon problem?

We understand the appeal of an easy fix to a problem like radon. However, caulking, sealing, and painting will not effectively lower radon levels.

Radon gas is drawn into a building by the “thermal stack effect,” the natural vacuum structures create on the soil. Radon is actively sucked into structures through minute openings and even through semi-porous materials such as cinder block and concrete.

A professional radon abatement service is the only way to reliably reduce radon levels below the accepted safety standard of 4.0 pCi/L.

Learn more about acceptable levels of radon and techniques used to mitigate radon.

Can I open windows or run a window fan to reduce radon?

While opening windows may reduce radon levels somewhat, there are a number of reasons why this isn’t a good long-term solution.

In our climate, leaving windows open and fans running isn’t sustainable year-round, such as in winter, as well as hot, humid summers. Once your windows close, radon gas can be sucked into the structure again in a matter of hours. Once in the house, there’s no effective way to remove it.

Leaving windows open and running fans could lead to huge utility bills in winter — it’s much more economical to have a radon mitigation system installed.

In some cases, fans can even make the situation worse. If you only have a fan blowing out of the house, you could increase negative pressure, which creates more vacuum on the soil.

How can I reduce the risk of a radon problem in new home construction?

It’s impossible to determine how much radon a new home will attract. Every house has what’s called a “unique pressurization signature.” This is the result of the heating, ventilation, plumbing and drainage systems working together. This all affects the vacuum created on the soil.

At Radon Abatement Services, we recommend:

  • Ensuring the integrity of the basement slab at all times
  • Covering sump pits and close openings around sewer and water piping
  • Routing a “passive” radon pipe from the basement through the roof during construction.

When construction is complete, you should still test your home for radon.

Do passive radon systems work?

Unfortunately, passive radon systems may not work well enough to solve a radon gas problem. Even a perfectly constructed passive radon system won’t necessarily reduce radon levels below 4 pCi/L), due to the strength of the emanation of radon into the house.

Passive radon systems usually consist of a PVC vent pipe which runs up through the home and vents through the roof. A passive radon system depends on the “thermal stack effect” to act as a vacuum and draw the radon up and out of the structure.

Worse, a “perfectly constructed” passive radon system is rare in our region. Problems with passive radon systems frequently arise when the radon vent pipe is obstructed or poorly set into the gravel beneath the basement slab. Builders often install radon vent pipes improperly, which results in radon being vented from the side of the home or just above ground level. (View our Radon System Hall of Shame for examples of bad installations.)

That’s where our expertise comes in. Radon Abatement Services has the expertise and credentials to ensure radon gas is removed properly.

The bottom line: test your home for radon, even if you have a “passive” system. Chances are your builder-installed passive radon system has not sufficiently lowered your radon levels.

How much does it cost to get rid of radon?

Getting rid of radon properly is a necessary investment. And it isn’t as expensive to hire a professional as you may think. See our page on What Radon Mitigation Costs for details.

Have More Questions?

Please explore our complete Radon FAQs to educate yourself about the what’s, why’s and how’s of radon remediation. Then learn why choosing the best local radon removal company is critical.

Ready to move forward? Give us a call or request an estimate.