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A Little Forethought

A Little Forethought

Update: 2020-11-30
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On today’s show we’re talking about Radon, but there are a number of examples of things that  that cost far less to build into the design of a new project when compared with adding them after the fact.


Radon is a colorless odorless radioactive gas that exists in the ground, almost everywhere. It poses a health risk to humans because in today’s highly insulated homes, you can get a buildup or radon gas inside the home over time.


Long-term exposure to radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer for people who have never smoked. If you’ve heard of someone getting lung cancer, who never smoked in their life. You might be wondering how it happened. It could be that Radon is the culprit.


As radon breaks down it forms radioactive particles that can get lodged into your lung tissue as you breathe. The radon particles then release energy that can damage your lung cells. When lung cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer. Not everyone exposed to radon will develop lung cancer, and the time between exposure and the onset of the disease can take many years.


Radon occurs naturally. It forms when uranium, thorium, or radium, (radioactive metals) that are present in the earth breaks down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. Because radon comes naturally from the earth, people are always exposed to it.


The CDC published a paper in January of this year in which they note that Radon is so pervasive, the CDC recommends that all houses get tested for it. That’s right, they recommend that every single house in the nation gets tested.


Radon gets into the indoor air primarily through pores and cracks in the foundation under homes and other buildings.  Usually, the air pressure in homes and buildings is lower than the pressure outside in the soil around or underneath the foundation.  The pressure difference will create suction.  Radon will come into the house through cracks in the foundation due to that suction. There are numerous paths.


The most common and effective method for reducing the risk of Radon poisoning is the installation of an active soil depressurization system.


This method involves installing a pipe through the foundation floor slab and attaching a fan that runs continuously to draw the radon gas from below the home and release it into the outdoors where it is quickly diluted. This system also reverses the air pressure difference between the house and soil, reducing the amount of radon that is drawn into the home through the foundation. One, or sometimes multiple, suction points are inserted through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath to effectively reduce the radon level in the home.


I recently saw a quote for the retrofit of such a system in a single family home for $4,600.


We’re talking about the installation of a PVC pipe through the concrete slab of the foundation with an active blower type fan that runs continuously. The fan costs about $250 to buy and has a 5 year warranty. We’re talking about 16 feet of PVC pipe which costs about $1 per foot. The installation of the entire system during the time of construction is almost zero. A vapor barrier across the crushed stone is also inexpensive and costs no more than a hundred dollars for an entire foundation slab. 


If a property fails a Radon test, the rules in most real estate boards say that the realtor must disclose the result to a prospective buyer. The impact of a radon problem on resale value and marketability of the property should be clear.


The simple addition of these inexpensive remediations before you even know you have a problem can be a cheap insurance policy for maintaining the future value of the property.

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A Little Forethought

A Little Forethought

Victor Menasce