Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Why Test For Radon?

April 5th, 2011 | No comments

If you’re buying a home in Minnesota, get it tested for radon.  There are two reasons I give for having radon tested; lung cancer and money.

A few quick facts about radon

  • Radon is a gas formed by the breakdown of uranium and radium, both of which are found in high levels in Minnesota.
  • Every home is susceptible to radon, even new construction.
  • There are a large number of homes in Minnesota with high radon levels.  We’ve found that about one out of three houses have high levels of radon.
  • Radon is unpredictable.  Two houses built right next to each other, at the same time, with the same construction methods, may have very different radon levels.

Lung Cancer

Radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of cancer in America.  Radon testing is recommended by the EPA, the Surgeon General, the American Lung Association, and the Minnesota Department of Health.  The area most at risk in a home is the lowest level that gets lived in.

Money

When we conduct a radon test and the test results come up high, the buyer typically asks the seller to pay for or install a radon mitigation system.  These systems are extremely effective at lowering radon levels, and they cost about $1500 on average.    If you buy a home and you decide not to test for radon as part of the home purchase, you can still test for radon after you own the home, but if a radon mitigation system needs to be installed, you won’t have the luxury of asking someone else to pay for it.  Well, I suppose you could always ask…

Picture this scenario: you buy a home, but don’t have it tested for radon.  Several years down the road, you sell your house.  The new buyers have a radon test performed, the radon test comes up high, so the buyers ask you to install or pay for a mitigation system.   You’ll probably wonder why you never tested for radon when you bought the house.  This happens a lot.

Objections to radon testing

We hear many objections to radon testing – some are valid, some aren’t.

The home doesn’t have a basement. Ok, that’s a good objection.  We’ve found that most homes without basements have very low levels of radon.  Basements with a walkout generally have lower levels, but we’ve still found our share of high radon tests at basements with walkouts.

It’s new construction. Minnesota requires a passive radon mitigation system installed in every new house; this doesn’t mean radon will be eliminated, it just means the chances for elevated radon levels will be reduced.

The home already has a mitigation system. If the system is working properly, the radon levels are probably very low.  We’ve never found high radon levels in a home with a working mitigation system.

I’m buying a bank owned property or short sale, so it doesn’t matter if the house has high radon levels.  The sellers won’t be paying to fix it, and I’ll still want the house either way. Fair enough.  It’s still a good idea to get a do-it-yourself test after you own the house though.

I’m going to do my own test. That’s fine, but it won’t be part of the real estate transaction.

Radon is a conspiracy of the government.  Oh boy.  I’ve heard this before, and I’m not going to get in to that discussion… but just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend radon is a conspiracy.  Who cares?  Even if radon was only a percieved health problem, it would still be a liability.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - EmailRadon Testing in Minnesota

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