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Thursday, January 19, 2017

National Radon Awareness Month

January is National Radon Awareness month. Radon is a big issue in the Milford area and throughout the Huron Valley. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that naturally percolates up through the soil, especially in areas with heavy gravel and sand content in the soils. Thanks to the glaciers that used to cover much of Michigan or local soil conditions are conducive to Radon getting into basements. Radon bubbles up under the foundation and seeks any crack or hole through the basement floor slab to get into the house.

Why is Radon a big deal. Radon is known to be the third leading cause of deadly lung cancer in America. If you want to scare yourself, go read about it here. Of all of the issues that one can hit in a house that they might buy, Radon is the most serious health risk. It is also the easiest to deal with, so don’t panic if your home inspector reports a higher that acceptable level of radon. Radon remediation systems are relatively easy to install and, once in place, remove the danger forever.

Radon remediation system vary in price, depending upon the size and configuration of the house, but
generally they run between $800 – 1,500. The “system” usually consists of a vacuum pump and piping to exhaust the Radon gas away from the house. The vacuum pump pickup is placed underneath the basement floor slab by either using an existing sump pump well or cutting a new hole through the floor slab. If the sump pump well is used, the top is sealed shut and the sides are broken out to allow the gas to be sucked into the well. While Radon “bubbles-up” through the soil it is heavier than normal air, so it seeks the lowest levels. The sump pump well is usually placed in the lowest level of the basement. 

Most old houses in the Milford area were originally built with Michigan Basements, most of which had dirt basement floors. Many people concreted over the dirt, but many still have some dirt areas. In cases where the basements are not used there is likely no reason to worry about the Radon risk; however, as old homes were updated many were converted from their original steam or hot water radiator heating systems into forced air systems. Now, the Radon that was hovering around in the basement might be picked up by the heating system and blown throughout the house. It’s worth getting the basement checked for Radon if you have one of those old houses and it has been upgraded to forced air heating and cooling. It might be a bit more of a challenge to remediation in an old home that still has some dirt floors.

Many homeowner of more modern homes seem to believe that if they have a walkout basement that will remove the threat of Radon. That is not true. Opening and closing that doorwall or door may help lower the level temporarily, but is does not remove the threat. Radon health risks, like the risks from smoking build up over time and the time that you spend down in a finished basement area, even if it does have a doorwall, will let the Radon accumulate in your longs a little at a time. Eventually it will cause a major health problem..

Home owners can get free (or low cost) Radon test kits from the Oakland County Health Department.
You can also buy test kits at home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot. National Radon Awareness Month is as good a time as any, since homes closed up for the winter will give you the most accurate readings of the Radon levels in your home. Getting the basement checked and remediated, if needed is a much safer and less expense things to do, rather than taking that risk.

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