Should You Test For Radon in Your Home?

Imagine something dangerous lurking in your home that you can’t see, smell, touch, or taste. That’s what radon gas is, and it can be hazardous to your health and that of your family. But it’s virtually impossible to detect without the proper tools. 

Breathing in air with radon present might not necessarily cause any symptoms right away, which is yet another reason why a home should be tested for the gas. 

If no one in the house experiences any medical issues, there’s little reason to believe there’s anything wrong. But continued exposure to radon can increase the risk of the development of lung cancer.

In fact, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to radon causes approximately 21,000 cancer deaths every year. That’s why it’s so important for homes to be tested for this dangerous gas.

What is Radon?

Radon is an odorless radioactive gas that can be found in homes all over the country. In fact, it’s estimated that almost 1 out of 15 homes in the US has high radon levels.

Radon stems from the breakdown of soil, rock, and water and can make its way into a home through the ground or through cracks in the foundation and circulate through the air. 

Once radon enters the home, it gets trapped, leaving it to be inhaled by all occupants of the home. While having a home that is well-sealed and insulated is great for energy efficiency and lower utility bills, such efficiency can actually make things worse by not allowing radon to escape.  

How to Test For Radon

The only way to know for sure if there is radon in your home is to have it tested by professionals. Since you can’t see or smell it, there’s no other way of knowing whether or not radon is lurking in your home. 

All floors under the third level (if applicable) of a home should be tested. That’s because radon can rise into the air and make its way as high up as the second level of a home. That said, radon will likely be more concentrated on the lowest level, so that’s typically the first place that should be tested for the gas. 

Testing for radon is rather straightforward and isn’t overly complicated. In fact, many homeowners test themselves using kits that can be purchased at hardware or home improvement stores or ordered online. 

That said, it’s generally recommended that radon is tested by a professional to ensure an accurate reading. 

What Constitutes High Radon Levels?

After the home has been properly and effectively tested, the levels of radon – if detected – should be less than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). If it’s at that level – or higher – steps need to be taken to remove radon from the home and identify the source of the radon making its way into the home.

Even if the levels detected are under this mark, it can still pose a risk. Ideally, there should be no radon detected at all. Since radon levels can change over time, it’s best to have a long-term test conducted to find out what the radon level is over time.

If dangerous radon levels are detected, take action to fix the home by hiring a qualified radon professional.

Buying or Selling? Have the Home Tested For Radon First

If you’re selling your home some time soon, consider having it tested for radon. While it’s not mandatory to do so, it can actually strengthen your listing. 

Being able to show buyers that the home has been tested and is free of radon can be a strong selling point. Even if radon was detected, taking steps to eradicate it can be something to boast about to prospective buyers. 

If you do have the home tested or have any issues with radon resolved, be sure to keep all the associated documentation to have ready to show buyers.

If you’re buying a home, on the other hand, ask the seller if they have any paperwork regarding radon testing. If a test has been done in the past, consider when it was done, as tests conducted far back may no longer be accurate to reflect what may be in the home today. 

Also, make sure to find out who conducted the test, which levels of the home the test was conducted, and if any significant improvements or renovations have been done since the test that could have affected radon levels.

If the home has not been tested, ask to have it tested. Or else, consider having a radon test conducted as part of your home inspection before the deal is sealed. 

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a seller, buyer, or a homeowner who plans to stick around for the long haul, having the home tested for the presence of radon is important. While there may not be any acute symptoms of radon poisoning that you may notice, the long-term effects of exposure to this gas can be detrimental.