RADON GAS: Reducing the Hazard in Your Home

Last month I answered a reader’s question about high radon gas levels in homes, and the response from that article made it clear more radon questions need to be answered. That’s certainly the case when you realize that this naturally occurring colourless, odourless, tasteless, radioactive gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Radon is not currently one of the pet causes of the media so it’s not taken as seriously as it should be.  

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This is how radon gas enters your home and how it can be removed. Radon is the leading cause o lung cancer in non-smokers. Some areas have no radon hazard while others have a very serious, naturally-occurring hazard that needs to be addressed.

According to the government in the country where I live, Canada, radon is found in every home in the country to some extent. What matters is airborne concentrations. Some homes in radon-prone regions can accumulate high enough indoor radon to cause avoidable lung cancers, and testing is the only way to know for sure if radon levels in your home are high enough to warrant remedial action. Anything over 200 Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) is considered dangerous, and levels can be reduced to less than 100 Bq/m3 with the right ventilation equipment. Even if your neighbour’s home has been tested and found safe without having a radon reduction system in place, that doesn’t mean that your home is safe, too. Indoor radon concentrations can be affected by many things and can vary tremendously from one house to the next.

You can have your home professionally tested for radon or you can buy your own radon test equipment and monitor levels yourself. Expect to pay $200 to $300 for decent radon kit, and use it repeatedly over time to get an accurate sense of what’s going on. Long-term testing for radon is more helpful than short-term readings which may not be representative of reality. Google “radon test kit” and you’ll find many options.   

There’s an entire industry devoted to bringing household radon down to safe levels, and standard practice involves two main things. First, a powerful fan is installed to draw air from the soil underneath the home (not the basement but rather the soil) and exhaust that radon-laden air safely outside at roof level. And second, all cracks, gaps and joints in and around the basement or concrete floor slab must be sealed. Without this sealing step, radon is still free to seep into your house because most of the suction of the radon fan is simply wasted drawing basement air outdoors, not sub-surface air from the soil. Not only is this less than ideal from a radon standpoint, but it massively increases heating bills as your radon fan simply shoots heated basement air outdoors. This is why basement crack sealing is vital for radon remediation. The problem is that most basement crack kits don’t work well enough because of one common problem.

Carbon fiber cloth being applied to a cracked manor foundation with an epoxy resin that’s rolled on. This approach is the only method that ensures cracks don’t open up again after an initial filling is.

Standard concrete crack repair technology involves injection of epoxy or polyurethane into the crack, and while this seals radon-promoting gaps at first, basements often shift and move slightly over time, re-opening the gaps as seasonal expansion and contraction of concrete takes its toll. This is why an additional sealing layer over top of cracks makes so much sense. Carbon fiber application over sealed cracks in concrete virtually guarantees a permanent radon seal because it prevents structural movement, and the best and most widely available consumer-level carbon fiber system I’ve used so far is the DRICORE PRO concrete repair. Visit baileylineroad.com/how-to-fix-basement-cracks to watch a video tutorial I made to show a carbon fiber crack repair in action. I would never repair a basement crack by injection only because there’s a very good chance the crack will open again in time.

Radon gas is one of those significant but avoidable health hazards in life, and while it may or may not be a problem where you live, testing will let you know. Proper actions can make radon a non-issue. Watch the video below for a more detailed lesson in radon mitigation. This video is part of my online course on FINISHING YOUR BASEMENT.