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Thanks so much – Dan Dodge
Read a review – Leave a review
Thanks so much – Dan Dodge
Top Notch Home Inspections – 301-487-3933
What is Radon ?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium and radium. Radon has a half-life of 3.8 days.
Radon causes lung cancer, and is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. The EPA recommends that all homes be tested for radon gas, as do I.
Should you test for radon?
All homes should be tested for radon. Simply put without a test you can’t know what the levels are in your home! Even if a home has a passive radon system does not mean there’s a low radon level. Even though homes with a basement are more susceptive to elevated levels does NOT mean a house on grade will be radon free. There are many factors that will determine radon levels. Primary among these is the presence and amount of source rock. A high radon level in a home is a potential liability. If you’re buying a home, it’s important to have it tested – ignoring the health effects, just think about the next owners. Picture this: you buy a home and don’t have it tested for radon, you sell the home a year later, and the buyers have the home tested – then they find a high radon level, and ask you to pay for a mitigation system. You might kick yourself for not testing the home when you bought it.
How does radon cause cancer?
The short short answer*- During the decay process, heavy Alpha particles (2 protons & 2 neutrons), and radiation are released, if this happens while radon or its Decay Products are in the lungs, these partials can damage lung tissue-at the cellular level (DNA). When these damaged cells divide/reproduce the new cells are considered to be mutated. This growth of mutated cells is called cancer.
*Understand, the following longer, detailed, extended version, IS A SHORT explanation:
Radioactivity is simply the result of instability in the nuclei where there are too many or too few neutrons to satisfy the energy relationship within the nucleus of the radon atom.
Radioactive decay is the disintegration of the nuclei of the atom in a radioactive element. These disintegrations are usually accompanied by the release of pieces of the nucleus and sometimes by the release of energy in the form of gamma rays. As the nucleus of an atom releases these particles and energy, it changes into the nucleus of a different atom.
The radioactive decay chain for radon gas begins with uranium. Uranium decays through several intermediate steps to produce radium, which in turn produces radon. Radon then decays into other substances, Radon Decay Products or RDP’s, which are also radioactive. The process continues until non-radioactive lead is created.
Half-life is the time required for half the atoms of a radioactive element to decay. Example: If you have an amount of material with a half-life of 3.8 days, Radon, in 3.8 days you will have half as much. In another 3.8 days half of that half, or one quarter of the original amount. Every 3.8 days the remaining amount is halved. For all practical purposes, by the time ten half-life cycles have passed, so little is left one can call the remainder zero.
The half-life is important, because that time interval determines the time available for Radon and its decay products to be dispersed into the environment. The 3.8 day half-life is long enough to allow Radon gas to well disburse into the soil and into your house. On the other hand, the half-life’s of the Radon Decay Products are sufficiently short; if inhaled, they can cause significant radiation to reach the inner surface of the lungs before the decay products are removed by the natural cleansing process of the lungs.
Types of radiation
Uranium decay chain and RDP’s
Uranium 238—————(half-life-4.47 B years)
Radium 226—————-(half-life-1.82 years)
Radon 222—————–(half-life-3.8 days) Alpha and gamma emitter
Polonium 218————-(half-life-3 minutes) Alpha emitter
Lead 214——————-(half-life-27 minutes) Beta and gamma emitter
Bismuth 214—————(half-life-19.7 minutes) Beta and gamma emitter
Polonium 214————-(half-life-1.6 x 10-4 seconds) Alpha and gamma emitter
lead 210——————–(half-life-19.4 years) Beta and gamma emitter
How is radon measured and what do the results mean?
Radon is measured in pCi/L (picocurie/liter)
The action level recommended by the EPA is 4 pCi/L
The national average is 1.3
A curie is the radioactivity associated with 1 gram of radium
A picocurie is 1/trillionth (a millionth of a millionth) of a curie
A picocurie of Radon refers to an amount of radioactivity that emits 2.22 atomic disintegrations per minute.
Example: The amount of air that would fill a liter soda bottle with a Radon reading of 4 pCi/L would have 8.88 atomic disintegrations (decay) every minute.
Mitigation: The most common way of reducing radon in a home is sub-slab depressurization, which relieves the soil gas pressure below the home. Mitigation systems typically cost about $1,500.00 but there can be a wide range in prices.
Can radon levels continue to build?
As discussed the way radon affects us is through the atomic decay. Radon is produced and decays at a consistent, measurable rate – half-life. After about 12 hours radon levels are said to have reached equilibrium. This means the level of radon entering the house is equal to the level of radon decay. Radon levels do fluctuate, from day to night, during the different seasons, weather and other factors can also affect radon levels in a home. This is why your test results will indicate average levels. Seasonally, winter generally has the highest levels; one reason is the furnace is in use and using air in the combustion process and the house is closed. This will create a vacuum effect in the house (nothing you or I would notice). This stack (vacuum) effect pulls the radon up through the foundation.
Can radon levels Fluctuate?
Yes! they can vary dramatically. The average on this chart (an actual test courtesy of James Keton ) varies by about 2-3 pCi/L. The high 48 Hour average is around 6 pCi/L. and the low average is around 3 pCi/L.
Does this invalidate a test? The EPA recommends a long term test for readings of under 10 pCi/L. For readings over 10 pCi/L. it is highly unlikely a test will result in an average under 4 pCi/L.
This is an actual print out of a radon test done over a 2 week period.
The points represent hourly readings – observe the variations in the hourly readings.
How does radon get into you home?
Closed house conditions and why it is important !
US EPA and/or State Radon Testing Protocols must be followed for valid test results:
Closed building conditions and air circulation. Since radon and its decay products can fluctuate from hour to hour and season to season the following recommendations for closed building conditions and air circulation were developed by the EPA to provide standardized conditions under which a short-term radon survey is to be performed in order to reduce the variation the radon levels in foresaid property. These conditions will tend to maximize the radon measurement in order to determine if a dwelling has the potential to have an elevated radon level. All exterior windows and doors must be kept closed. All doors to and from the lowest livable area must be kept closed except for normal momentary entering and exiting during testing. Heating, air conditioning, dryers, range hoods, bathroom fans and attic ventilators can be operated normally. However any heating, air conditioning or ventilating equipment that has a built in outdoor air supply that is manually controlled, shall be turned off or the inlet closed. Fireplaces or wood stoves shall not be operated unless they are a primary heat source. Whole house fans shall not be operated. Window fans shall be removed and sealed shut. These test conditions must be initiated 12 hours prior to start of the radon device being placed and must be maintained for the duration of the testing not exceeding 4 days.
This is a mouthful but I hope it helps put radon in perspective.
Anyone with questions about this test should contact Dan at Top Notch Home Inspections – 301-487-3933. Thank-you!
Hi, I’m Daniel Dodge, Owner and Inspector at Top Notch Home Inspections.
I want to help you choose your home inspector. Buying your home is likely the largest transaction you will ever be involved in – you want to do it right the first time.
I want to make sure you are armed with the information you need, no matter which inspector you choose to work with.
It’s worthwhile to take a little time and choose the right inspector.
Many realtors will want you to use “their guy”. The question is who is “their guy” working for? A good realtor will have your back and recommend a very good inspector. And should this house not be the one, they’ll keep looking until they find your HOME.
Some realtors on the other hand want an “inspection lite” to close the deal. Either way you will want to interview the inspector you are going to use. Is this the right guy/gal for you?
Ask them lots of questions and “chat” with them a while. This is a good way of getting to know someone – talk to them! How well do you interact with them during your talk? If they don’t have time for your questions now, how will they have time for you later? If they are performing an inspection when you call them, they should ask to call you back – that’s not only ok, but good. Their priorities are on the house they’re inspecting NOW !
Here’s a sample of some questions to ask:
Why should I hire you? When I get asked this question, I answer – Because I work for you and I want you to understand your new home before you buy it!
What is there professional background? Were they a tradesman? Do they understand houses from the inside out?
Are they active in professional organizations?
How do they get their Continuing Education credits? and how much time do they spend on improving their knowledge.
What does there report look like? Can you review a sample copy? Is it easy to understand? Is finding the major issues easy?
How do they inspect roofs – do they walk on them or use binoculars?
Do they crawl in the crawlspace?
How long will the inspection take? I will typically take between 3-5 hours.
Ask the inspector if they go above and beyond the standards of practice!
Does the inspector encourage you to follow him/her around and ask questions? You can learn more about your new home and how to keep it in good shape from an inspector than from anywhere else. A good inspector will want you there because it’s critical to a thorough understanding of the house.
Are they patient with your questions? Do they sound knowledgeable? Do they answer you in terms you can understand?
Your inspector should tell you everything there is to know about your new home, while some of which you may not want to hear. Our job is for you to know now, rather than the hard way, after you’ve moved in.
For my answers to these questions and more, explore my website or better yet give me a call. I would love to talk with you.
Call Dan at 301-487-3933.
What does a home inspection include?
The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.
Why do I need a home inspection?
Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the newly constructed or existing house before you buy it. A home inspection may identify the need for major repairs or builder oversights, as well as the need for maintenance to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.
If you already are a homeowner, a home inspection can identify problems in the making and suggest preventive measures that might help you avoid costly future repairs.
If you are planning to sell your home, a home inspection can give you the opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.
What will it cost?
The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies geographically, as does the cost of housing. Similarly, within a given area, the inspection fee may vary depending on a number of factors such as the size of the house, its age and possible optional services such as septic, well or radon testing.
Do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection or in the selection of your home inspector. The sense of security and knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspection is not necessarily a bargain. Use the inspector’s qualifications, including experience, training, compliance with your state’s regulations, if any, and professional affiliations as a guide.
Why can’t I do it myself?
Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. An inspector is familiar with the elements of home construction, proper installation, maintenance and home safety. He or she knows how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as why they fail.
Above all, most buyers find it difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may have an effect on their judgment. For accurate information, it is best to obtain an impartial, third-party opinion by a professional in the field of home inspection.
Can a house fail a home inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value. It is not a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.
When do I call a home inspector?
Typically, a home inspector is contacted immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Before you sign, be sure there is an inspection clause in the sales contract, making your final purchase obligation contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.
Do I have to be there?
While it’s not required that you be present for the inspection, it is highly recommended. You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home and how to maintain it.
What if the report reveals problems?
No house is perfect. If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. If your budget is tight, or if you don’t want to become involved in future repair work, this information will be important to you. If major problems are found, a seller may agree to make repairs.
If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection?
Definitely. Now you can complete your home purchase with confidence. You’ll have learned many things about your new home from the inspector’s written report, and will have that information for future reference.