If your basement remodeling plans include adding living space to your home's lower level, it is imperative to test for, and if necessary, to mitigate for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has been found to cause lung cancer. The EPA estimates that 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated levels of radon.
Radon is most commonly found in your home's basement, where it collects after seeping through the small cracks and seams in your foundation and floor slab.
Testing for radon is simple, and Do-It-Yourself kits are inexpensive and widely available at home improvement stores. Testing kits measure radon in Pico curies per liter of air, or pCi/L, and the EPA estimates that the average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L. Although it is thought that no level of radon in your home is completely safe, it is worth noting that 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air.
If your first test indicates that your home's level of radon is 4 pCi/L or greater, you should call a radon mitigation specialist. By using more accurate testing equipment, these specialized remodeling contractors can confirm your home's radon level and recommend mitigation systems that can help solve the problem. Fixes can include sealing the cracks in your concrete floor with silicone caulk or installing a fan-driven venting system under your basement slab.
If a sub-slab venting system is the recommended solution, you will be glad that you tested for radon before the new basement flooring was installed. Cutting a trench in a basement floor is messy, difficult work, but it is the only way to place the needed vent pipe under the existing slab. The easiest conditions to mitigate are those prior to pouring a cement slab in your basement, but most often this situation is only available during new construction.
Because installing an active venting system requires digging up your basement floor and drilling through your home's roof, it is recommended that you consult several remodeling contractors before beginning a project of this scope. Fortunately, a well-installed mitigation system can reduce the radon in your home to a worry-free and acceptable level.
Radon in your basement is a serious problem, but it can be dealt with successfully. Testing for radon in your basement is the first step on the path to a radon-free home.
About the author: Marshall McCauley is a builder and freelance writer. He writes from his farm on the Bitterroot River in Montana.