Testing for Radon in Your Home

Part 2 of a guest series about radon gas in the home by Rick Galarneau, owner of MassRADON. Be sure to read Part 1, Radon Gas and How It Gets Into Your Home.

Let’s talk about airborne radon testing, since it’s the first step in determining if there is in fact a radon problem in your home. Let’s preface this by stating that radon gas is everywhere — it’s in the air we breathe, even in our backyard. And it is definitely in every house on the planet, even ones with a radon system. Since radon is everywhere, the real question becomes, how much radon is there?

Radon testing is the only way to know the radon levels in your house. It doesn’t matter what level your neighbor has, or anyone else on your street, for that matter; every house is different. It’s possible for unsafe levels of radon to be found in only one house on a given street, while all the other homes test as safe. Or the opposite could be true: they may all test as unsafe except for one house.

Testing comes in several forms. The EPA recommends what is known as long-term testing. Long-term testing should be done whenever possible because it will give the most accurate results regarding your average indoor radon levels. Long-term testing can last three months to a year, and it should be done across two or more seasons. Nothing special needs to be done to the house and normal living conditions should be maintained. There is no need to close up the house or worry about the weather, since this testing is designed to determine levels of radon under everyday living conditions. This is the type of test you would want to use in a house that is not for sale at the time of testing.

Short-term testing was designed to get a quick idea if a home might have an elevated radon level when there isn’t enough time for long-term testing. Short-term testing is typically conducted for 48 to 72 hours. Any method of testing should always be done for a minimum of 48 hours and under normal weather conditions, which are just what you would think: 2-3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period and high wind conditions are not normal, and such weather will greatly impact your short term testing results in a negative way. Severe weather will raise indoor radon levels substantially during the weather event. They will return to their more regular readings as that weather passes.

The EPA states that radon testing should be conducted in the lowest level of a home that is suitable to be used as a living space without major renovations. That means that most basements that have intact concrete or block walls, a concrete floor, and are mostly dry and could be used as an exercise space, family room, workshop, etc., would be the right place to test. A basement in an old house with crumbling stone walls, a dirt floor, missing concrete floor sections, or low ceilings and very damp conditions would not be the preferred location for testing because its condition makes it unsuitable to be used for much of anything. In this case the first floor living space would be the preferred testing location.

Please test your home, test your families’ homes, test every home.

Rick Galarneau has been the owner-operator of Aaron Associates, MassRADON, for the last 14 years.  He is a member of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and the National Radon Proficiency Program. He is a National Environmental Health Association Certified radon mitigator and has successfully mitigated over 1,000 homes in Western Massachusetts. Part 3 of this series addresses mitigating radon gas in your home.

Gove Law Office, LLC is a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles  a wide variety of legal needs, including residential real estate matters. For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com.