Build Homes with Radon - Resistant Techniques

By
Home Inspector with Burel and Associates, LLC

I ran into my first home yesterday designed for radon protection. The builder offers this as an upgrade for 200 bucks, a hell of a deal compared to the $2500-$4000 remediation cost. The best part was all the nasty, eye sore duct work was hidden. Only when I got in the attic did I see the addition.   

Radon-Resistant New Construction

Why Should You Build Homes with Radon-Resistant Techniques?

They Make Homes Safer from Radon!

  • These construction techniques help block radon from entering the home. The occupants will benefit from lower radon levels in their new home.
     
  • They are easy to upgrade when there is a need to increase the radon reduction.
     
  • If high radon levels are found, the techniques allow for easy and inexpensive installation of a fan for increased radon reduction in the home. Every new home should be tested for radon by the homeowner after occupancy.
     
  • They are cost-effective for home buyers
     
  • It is more cost-effective to include radon-resistant techniques while building a home, rather than installing a radon reduction system in an existing home.
     
  • For example:

    • Materials and labor costs for Radon-Resistant Techniques vs. Retrofitting an Existing Home is $350 - $500 vs. $800 - $2,500 (a 128% to 400% saving!)
       
  • Some construction companies successfully use this as a marketing advantage.
     
  • They may improve the home's energy-efficiency
     
  • Radon-resistant construction techniques are consistent with state-of-the-art energy-efficient construction.  When using these techniques, follow the Model Energy Code (or other applicable energy codes) for weatherization, which will result in energy savings and lower utility bills.

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What are Radon-resistant construction techniques?

The techniques may vary for different foundations and site requirements, but the basic elements are:

house cut away
  1. Gas Permeable Layer
    This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house. In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel.
     
  2. Plastic Sheeting
    Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home. In crawlspaces, the sheeting is placed over the crawlspace floor.
     
  3. Sealing and Caulking
    All openings in the concrete foundation floor are sealed to reduce soil gas entry into the home.
     
  4. Vent Pipe
    A 3- or 4-inch gas-tight or PVC pipe (commonly used for plumbing) runs from the gas permeable layer through the house to the roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases above the house.
     
  5. Junction Box
    An electrical junction box is installed in case an electric venting fan is needed later.

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How Many Homes Are Built With Radon-Reducing Features?

Based on an annual home builder survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center:

  • 5.8% of approximately 1,124,000 single-family detached homes built during 2001 incorporated radon-reducing features, which translates to about 65,000 homes.  This brings the cumulative total of single-family detached homes built with radon-reducing features since 1990 to over one million homes.
     
  • 11.7% of approximately 255,000 single-family detached homes built in Zone 1 (homes with high radon potential) during 2001 incorporated radon-reducing features, which translates to nearly 30,000 homes.  This brings the cumulative total of single-family detached homes built in Zone 1 with radon-reducing features since 1990 to over 600,000 thousand.*

    * These results exclude homes built on pier-style foundations.

If you have further questions about Radon, please call your State Radon Contact (just click on your state) or the National Radon Information Line at:

1-800-SOS-RADON
[1 (800) 767-7236]

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Dale Baker
Baker Energy Audits and Commercial Properties Inspections - Claremont, NH
New Hampshire Relocation Real Estate Information

Howdy Scott

You have posted some fine helpful info.

Have a good one

Oct 09, 2007 11:12 AM #1
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Jason Rose
123 ConEd LLC -- Michigan real estate continuing education - Farmington Hills, MI
www.123ConEd.com

Thanks for the great post, Scott.

Most people do not know this, but radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is believed to be responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths per year.  The builder who is offered the upgrade fro only $200 is offering a real bargain (something everyone should take advantage of).

I'm writing from Michigan.  According to the CDC, more than 600 radon-related deaths are projected to occur in Michigan this year alone.  According to the EPA, one in eight homes in Michigan is expected to have an elevated indoor radon level, and in some counties more than 40% of the homes are expected to have a problem. The only way to know if YOUR home has a problem is to test.

If you are a real estate professional, radon and indoor air is something you should know about. It is a serious health risk, but there are simple and inexpensive ways to test for it and fix it if necessary. Like any health risk today, it is something that more and more people know about either through a home sale or through the media.

This is such an important issue for real estate professionals that I'm in the process of preparing a continuing education course exclusively on radon for my online continuing education school. The course will inform Michigan real estate professionals all about radon and what they need to know in order to properly advise buyers and sellers.

Feb 17, 2009 11:41 PM #2
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Scott Burel

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