Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium found naturally in soil, rock, and water. Elevated levels of radon are found in 1 out of 15 homes in the U.S.
Well to start you have to test for it. Many have asked me "is there a lot of radon in my area?" Unfortunately it isn't that simple. I have seen scenarios where one has has high levels, requiring mitigation, and the house next door 50 feet away was barely detected.
There are two types of tests you can do, short term and long term. Short term is 90 days or less and long term is 91 days or longer. During real estate transactions short term tests are used. In general this test goes for a minimal 46 hours and up to 96 hours. The house conditions and testing method determine the period of time.
During the short term test you must have closed house conditions. This means all windows and door have to be closed for a minimum of 12 hours prior to the start of the test. This doesn't mean that people are not allowed to live there or come and go. You are allowed to open and close the door as you enter or leave but it cannot be left open. You want to see some happy people, try explaining this to a homeowner in the middle of July. Fun times!!!
So where do you test? You test the air in the lowest living space of the home. This is usually the first floor of the home. If there is a basement that contains living space then you test there. Sometimes I do test in the unfinished basement but only if the owner or future owner informs me they are planning on putting a room there in the very near future.
EPA recommends mitigation for levels of 4pcl or higher. The most common mitigation technique is sub slab depressurization. Basicall a mitigator comes in and drills a hole, 4 inches in diameter, into the basement floor. From there a vent pipe is installed with an air pump that literally pumps the air out from under the house to the exterior above the eve of the roof. On occasion more than one hole is required.
Anybody. Whether it is you, a realtor, a radon specialist or a home inspector anybody can do the test. The most important question is if it is being done right. Neither the state of Vermont or New Hampshire require licensing. I see and hear all too often testing not being done right. My recommendation will always be to find somebody that is certified for the testing and analysis of radon. At S&K we are certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP). This program is supported by the EPA.