Radon Retesting, Does It Make Sense?

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

I would say about once a month I get a call from someone who is looking to retest their home for radon. Now this is not a bad idea, especially if improvements have been made to the home. However most of the calls I receive are from home sellers. As part of the buyer's inspection a radon test was done on the seller's home with the test results coming back over the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L. The seller feels there is a problem with the test usually for one of the following reasons;

  1. When they bought the house the test their inspector performed was below the action level
  2. They feel the inspector did the test improperly
  3. They have never tested the home, but some how believe there can't be radon in their house

Radon mitigation systemThe first reason is the one I hear most often. The cause for two different levels from two different tests can be several. One very important characteristic to keep in mind about radon is that it is a naturally occurring gas. In other words its not spewing out of a pipe at a constant level, it varies. It varies with time of day, time of year and with the weather. The first test could have been low due to natural variations. It could also have been low due to procedural errors, but that would be hard to learn and in reality not that important in the context of the home sale.

This brings us to reason number two. Usually the seller has no factual basis for deciding the test was done incorrectly other than the level is high and now they have been asked by the buyer to mitigate the house. When I get a call like this from a seller, I ask them several questions concerning the testing procedures. Frequently I do not hear anything that indicates there was a procedural error on the inspector's part.

The last reason is of course how it sounds, typical proud homeowner who can not believe there is any problems with their castle. My sympathies to their agent.

My advice to all these people is usually the same, save the money you are about to spend to retest and use it for the mitigation system.

In my opinion radon retesting is simply disputing the inspector. This is almost assuredly going to end badly for the seller. The other very important aspect in retesting is who is qualified to both initially test and to retest.

Continuous radon monitor In Connecticut radon testing is unregulated. Anyone can simply set up shop and perform radon tests. Some states, like Pennsylvania for example, have regulation and licensing, but most do not. So a retest may end up being a he said, she said argument, without either side having for lack of a better word, an expert conducting the test.

What I have found is most everyone assumes any home inspector is qualified to test for radon. My experience is that many home inspectors have never taken any type of training for radon testing. If you are in a situation where a homeowner is insisting on a retest of their home, this is what I would learn;

  1. Does the home inspector who did the test for the buyers have any training or certifications for radon testing. There are two look for, National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) or National Environmental Heath Association (NEHA). Or an appropriate license or certification specific to your state.
  2. If the first tester does not have any of these qualifications, make certain the person who does the retesting does. In this way you have someone who is better qualified and therefore able to dispute or confirm the first tests validity.

One last point, the protocols for radon test performed as part of a real estate transaction are and have defined by the EPA since 1993. Also many states have radon offices which can be contacted to obtain unbiased information which may help if there is a dispute with a test.

Don't let a high radon test ruin a transaction. Don't dispute, mitigate.

 

 

 

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 - 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Rainmaker
1,403,913
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

funny,.,I was speaking to an inspector from Canada...he said the acceptable radon rates are five time higher then the U.S. I just wonder how much bad info we have on this subject.

Mar 03, 2011 01:16 AM #1
Rainmaker
782,788
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good Morning James, thanks for posting the excellent input on Radon Testing.

Mar 03, 2011 01:17 AM #2
Rainmaker
376,927
Robin Dampier REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker King - Hendersonville, NC
Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source

Hi James -- a great explanation for the radon issue.  Here in Western NC we have very high radon levels.  One property has it and the neighbor doesn't and as you say the level of radon changes depending on circumstances.

Sue of Robin and Sue

 

Mar 03, 2011 01:30 AM #3
Rainer
51,121
Ann Bellamy
Hard money lending for investors in NH and MA - Tyngsboro, MA

In New Hampshire, the Granite State, we pretty much have tons of radon, sometimes from the actual granite foundation rocks.  Interest in testing has waned, and become a non-issue most (not all) of the time.

 

 

Mar 03, 2011 01:31 AM #4
Ambassador
1,155,468
Craig Rutman
Helping people in transition - Cary, NC
Raleigh, Cary, Apex area Realtor

Fortunately radon can be mitigated. Here in NC, if unacceptable levels of radon are found in a home, the sellers have to disclose it. So, in most cases, the problem will be resolved if the sellers want their home sold.

Mar 03, 2011 01:37 AM #5
Rainer
40,155
Dale Ganfield
Leland, NC

Hi James, good information.  I would have thought reason #3 would have been the prevalent answer.  I guess all three may be forms of denial.

Mar 03, 2011 05:54 AM #6
Rainmaker
1,244,628
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

James,

Not a standard test here. I did ONE ever a month or so back. I followed exactly the instructions with the kit. Both samples came back exactly the same and they were almost exactly the same as the stated "average" for this area. So I think I am okay on that one.

Mar 03, 2011 01:33 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,854,149
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Around here the re-test is done to insure that the radon system is functioning as intended.  I usually suggest to people that they let the new mitigation system operate for a couple of weeks before the re-test.

Mar 03, 2011 09:47 PM #8
Rainer
171,130
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

I know about this and researched it and am prepared should it ever be requested but it has never happened to date. Most of the area that I inspect has a deep clay deposit. Geologically these are sealing layers that either cap or restrict the movement of fluids and gases.

Mar 03, 2011 11:58 PM #9
Rainmaker
690,288
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jeffery, Why would that be bad info? Canada as well as the rest of world, until recently, have always had a higher action level.

Dan, Thanks, glad you found it informative.

Sue, Yes radon levels can vary quite a bit.

Ann, That's surprising. It hasn't waned here in CT.

Craig, Disclosure is required here as well, if they know.

Dale, Yep, I would agree.

Steve, Glad it worked out for you.

Jay, That is standard here, as I am sure it would be every where, after a system is put in place.

Robert, Not every region has radon. CT has it across the whole state.

Mar 04, 2011 12:46 AM #10
Rainmaker
90,882
Dana Voelzke
loanDepot (203) 733-9408 - Bethel, CT
Loan Officer/ First time home buyer specialist

James,

I have never heard this perspective before. Am I correct in assuming that radon mitigation systems cost upwards of $1000 while testing costs $50? Just curious.

Mar 04, 2011 04:35 PM #11
Rainmaker
690,288
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Dana, Mitigation systems cost about $1200 - $1500. A test using professional equipment by a trained and certified tester (of which there are few in CT) is going to cost around $150. My point here is unless you have good reason to think the original test by the buyers inspector is grossly flawed, don't go to the trouble of retesting.

Mar 05, 2011 12:35 AM #12
Rainmaker
492,095
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim,

Good info. We have a high variable in this area due to our geology. Have only been asked about this once in my area.

I did read somewhere that getting levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult. Do you know what is typical in these mitigation systems?

Mar 06, 2011 02:31 AM #13
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James Quarello

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