Should you test for Radon Gas in Louisville?

At least a few times a week I ask a client if they want a Radon test performed on their new house.  Most give a sharp “yes” without hesitation.  Some folks, however, don’t know what to say, or may be confused from the all the different opinions they have gotten from their realtor, dad, cousin, neighbor, etc… Let’s see if we can clear things up a bit.

If you are buying a home in Louisville (all of KY really) you should have it tested for Radon Gas.  Every home should be tested for Radon gas.  No exceptions; especially in homes that already have a Radon mitigation system installed in the home.  We’ll get into the “why?” of that in more detail later.   There are only two types of houses that don’t have some form of Radon Gas around here.  Houseboats and tree houses.  Unless your house falls in one of those categories, you need to get it tested.  Here is an EPA map of Jefferson County KY.  Notice how nearly every part of the county is in the red; Zone-1.

Jefferson Co Radon Map

What is Radon Gas?

Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that comes from the earth. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements in the ground, such as uranium.  Some locations have much higher levels of these elements than others.  This is why some areas have high levels of Radon gas, and others only have trace amounts.  We just happen to drawn the short straw here in Louisville and have some of the highest amounts found in the U.S.

Radon is found both indoor and outdoors.  Outdoor levels are typically very low, while the measurements in indoor buildings can range from very low to extremely high.  As the Radon breaks down in the ground, it seeps in through the cracks and holes in the foundation of your home.  If enough Radon gas makes it through, the house will test high for Radon.

How Radon Enters

Radon enters the home through lots of different paths.

How to test for Radon in your home.

There are several different ways to test for Radon, but the easiest way is to have a CRM (continuous radon monitor) placed in the home for several days.  EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) testing protocol says the machine should be left undisturbed in the home for a minimum of 48 hours, up to 7 days.  Placement of the CRM is always on the “lowest potential living space.”  This means if you have an unfinished basement, but may one day finish it out, you run the test from that area.
If the home has a crawlspace or concrete slab (since no one will ever live under the house) the CRM monitor is placed as close to the center of the house as possible on the first floor.  You also want to keep the machine away from exterior doors and windows (that is to simply keep as much fresh air away from it as possible, which can dilute the radon gas and affect the test).  Once the machine is in place and running the test, it will take an air sample once an hour, every hour, until the test has been stopped.  Those numbers are then averaged to give you your test results in picocuries per liter or pCi/L.

Radon Test in Progress

Here is a Radon CRM monitor in place running a test in an unfinished basement.

The house doesn’t have a basement, do I really need a Radon test?

Yes, you do.  A home is not required to have a basement to have high levels of Radon gas.  Somehow, a nasty lie got started years ago that a home that was built on a concrete slab, or a crawlspace “won’t have Radon, only houses with basement do.”  This is 100% completely false.  Some of the highest numbers I’ve ever seen came from homes that were built on slabs and crawlspaces.  I’ve also heard it said that walkout basements don’t have Radon.  Again, this is simply not true.  There is no building style that is Radon proof, or Radon resistant.  All homes have the potential for elevated Radon gas, so all homes need to be tested.

The house already has a mitigation system installed, why waste the money on a test?

I hear this all the time, and the answer is quite simple.  There are lots of systems that don’t work properly.  More than you would think.  Oh, they’re in place, and the fan is running, yet the Radon levels are still elevated when I test the home.  That is because anyone with a truck, a cheap fan, and some PVC pipe can call themselves a Radon mitigation company. There are no laws or rules currently enforced in Kentucky for Radon mitigators; it’s the “Wild West,” and it shows in the quality of work that I see. 

Look at it like this. If a home has a mitigation system, that means the levels were once high enough to warrant the install to begin with. It is in your best interest to double check to see that the system is working properly, and is actually lowering the Radon gas levels. Over the course of the past year, I tracked my data on testing Radon in houses where Mitigation systems were already installed. My results: One in every five systems were not working properly.  In several homes, the mitigation fans didn’t work at all.

Test completed.  Now what? EPA vs WHO

Now that you have your numbers, let us talk about what all this means, and what you need to do next.

There are two sources that folks look to for guidance when it comes to Radon gas and their home.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the WHO (World Health Organization).  The EPA says that homes with 4.0pCi/L or more should have a Radon mitigation system installed in the home.  However, in 2009 the WHO released a study that stated they are  lowering their recommended action level to 2.7pCi/L.   Most people in the real estate world won’t tell you about the newer WHO study though.  Sometimes its just plain ignorance (you’d be shocked at the amount of people I run into every week that have never heard of the WHO), but other times it’s just not convenient to the transaction at hand.  You see, lots of homes fall in between the 2.7 and 3.9 levels,  and when home buyers want the sellers to foot the bill for a Radon mitigation system, well, the higher the action level numbers are, the better…. for the transaction.  So who’s right?  Which organization do you listen to; who do you go by?  I don’t know. In fact, I don’t know if there is a right answer.

In my mind, it is simply not worth the risk.  Radon mitigation systems are not extremely difficult, or expensive to install.

Mitigating the problem-

So you’ve had your Radon test completed, and the home came back elevated.  It’s time to get a Radon mitigation system installed. Radon mitigation systems are simple creatures by nature, but not just any jack-leg can install them (although they try).  Just like choosing your home inspector, you need to be picky and smart about who you choose to install your Radon mitigation system.  I’ll get into mitigation systems, and what problems can come up from them in a later post.

Best Of 2014 Part 1

Another year older, one or two more gray hairs found, and a stack of pictures to choose from.  It’s hard to whittle it down to just a handful, but I selected the top 10 problems found during home inspections this year.

A Cold Fireplace – This is a picture from a one year old home.  The owners paid extra to have a vented gas fireplace insert installed.  What they didn’t realize is they would be paying extra on their heat bill forever because of it.  You can see through the eye of my thermal imaging camera that the lower section of the insert was not insulated or air sealed.  It’s constantly letting cold in air.  The room temp was 68, the outside air was 17.  This is why thermal imaging home inspections are awesome.  It put visual reasoning to a problem you can feel.   This problem is fixable, but it would requiring removing the mantle and fireplace to air seal/insulate the back wall.

No Insulation Around Fireplace

You can clearly see the cold air pouring in around the base of the fireplace.

 

Structural Window – Ok, there is no such thing, but this window in this custom garage is acting as one.  The owners of this two month old custom built garage called me when they started to have trouble with water leaking in.  I came out to find what the water problem was.  I did, and found this beauty as well.  Whenever we have masonry spanning the top of a window or door or opening, there should be a piece of steel installed above the window, called a lintel.  This L shaped support is what holds everything up in the air.  These concrete blocks are resting on the window frame only.  No steel. Only water leakage.

Missing Window Lintel

Windows must have a lintel installed to support the wall.

 

Flooded Crawlspace – There is not much I won’t do for my clients.   I have been bitten and stung. I have crawled through dead animals, piles of poop, puddles of pee, and everything you can imagine to get the low down on a house.  But I drew the line with this crawlspace.  I took one look in there with the exposed and flooded electrical lines and “noped it.”  The buyer just laughed and said “I don’t blame you.”

Flooded Crawlspace

Nothing like a lake under your house.

 

Rotting Creatures – In keeping with the creepy, nasty crawlspace theme; one day I turned the corner and stumbled across this guy.  I think it used to be a possum at one time.  It may not seem too bad now, but imagine yourself in a dark, wet crawlspace.  You’re crawling on your belly, turn the corner and find this dude 6 inches from your face. It’s a bit startling. Oh, and wet, decomposing hair smelled great!

Crawlspace Animal

It fun crawling up on this guy in the dark.

 

See Through Drain –  Ever wondered what your bathroom sink drain looks like?  Yeah, me neither.  But if by some chance you do….wonder no more.  This thing is flat out gross.  It was almost like a lava lamp for hair and dead skin cells.

Clogged Sink Drain

This guy is on to something with a see through drain.

So there is the first five.  It’s tough picking a top ten with thousands of pictures to choose from for sure, but you can see part two here- ABI Home Inspection – Best of 2014 Part 2

River City Real Estate Radio Show

River City Radio

Listen to Brady and gang on Talk radio 1080AM every Saturday morning @11.

I was recently invited to be a guest speaker on the River City Real Estate Radio Show.  Try saying that 10 times fast!)  My friend Sam George, a fabulous Realtor in Louisville was with me as well.  We were there to talk about home inspections, and the most common questions people have about what I do, and how the process works.

Of course, the first thing you think of when being on the radio is how you hate the sound of your own voice.  I’m no exception.  Do I really sound like that?  Yeah, I’m afraid so.  Hate aside, it was a fun process.  I would do it again tomorrow.  Brady is doing a great thing  in trying to get good info out to people.  I highly suggest you tune in.  You can hear the show every Saturday morning at 11 on 1080am Talk Radio.  As always, if you have any question about what I do, and how I can help you, feel free to give me a shout 502.938.5190, or email here.  You can listen to whole episode below.

 

Contact

Drone Home Inspections
Tight Crawlspaces
Ben heading into a crawlspace
Ben Climbing Out of a Crawlspace

Email Ben

Have a general question about how I do things?  Fill out the form below and I’ll get back with you asap!

Call Ben

A price quote requires far more information than can be given on a simple contact form. If you are looking for an idea of the fees, give me a call and we can chat.  502.938.5190

Contact Ben

(required)
You don't really need help with this do you?
(required)
Where do I send my reply?
(required)
We can chat on phone if you like.
(required)
The choice is yours.
(required)
(required)
What's on your mind?

(required)
CAPTCHA image

When I spoke to Ben at ABI over the phone he seemed very knowledgeable.  He was a little more expensive than some of the others that i had called, but I liked how he answered my questions thoroughly without making me feel stupid.  He spent several hours at the home performing the inspection.  He walked my wife and I through each room of the house pointing out problem areas.  At no point did we feel rushed, and Ben made sure that he had answered all of our questions satisfactorily before moving on to the next part of the house.  He emailed a copy of the report to us the same day and we were incredibly impressed with the level of detail provided.  It was very thorough, including photos, and descriptions of each area that would need work.  We were able to purchase our home for $8,000 less than what we had originally offered based on Ben’s inspection.  I highly recommend Ben and ABI home inspection.

Steve Royal

Ben recently completed a home inspection for me on a house from 1938. As a first time homebuyer, his expertise was invaluable, and worth far more than the reasonable price he charged. He was critical of the home (as he should be), but realistic and made sure to assuage any concerns that I had; I highly recommend him, and am glad that I found him through Angie’s List.

Bethany Lee

I was looking for someone I could trust to do an honest inspection of a home I wanted to purchase. I was amazed at how thorough the report was and the measures that had to be taken in freezing temperatures to get those details. I had a lot of questions and Ben took the extra time to go into detail, making sure I was comfortable. He even gave me tips for what to look for during a walk through of any future homes I may want to purchase. I have already recommended ABI to others who were looking for an inspector they could trust. I will be using them again.

John Leonard

Ben was right on time and walked me through everything during the inspection and schooled me on what to look for and remedies. Ben is very knowledgeable and has a great passion for his work. I highly recommend using ABI….you wont regret it.

Kyle Morris

I made the decision to start ABI Home Services after spending nearly a decade in the home remodeling field, working my way from helper to job foreman. That time has afforded me the ‘hands-on’ experience that a home inspector needs to really understand how a home should be constructed and maintained. Although classroom time and education are important factors in becoming a home inspector, I believe that nothing can replace the actual experience of doing the work yourself.

I have chosen to take the road less traveled by many home inspectors, and invest in cutting-edge technology for ABI Home Services. I carry a vast array of specialized equipment to assist in our work. Without this equipment, you simply cannot get a thorough inspection. This sizable investment has given us not only the ability to give you, our client, the home inspection you deserve, but allows us to convey our findings in a understandable way.

I realize that you have a multitude of choices when it comes to getting your home inspection, and I thank you for taking the time to consider ABI. If you have any questions for me, or about ABI Home Services, please feel free to give me call. I will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.

Ben Hendricks, CRI, BPI Certified Building Anaylst

502-938-5190 KY-HI-3039

ABI Home Services, LLC