DIY Radon mitigation
Radon mitigation systems have grown in popularity over the last 20 years or so, as more and more homeowners are becoming educated on the dangers of radon gas in the home. Radon mitigation is one of the only proven and reliable methods of removing dangerous radon levels from a home indefinitely and aesthetically most radon systems look pretty simple. Because of this, many DIY’ers view it as a project that can be done without professional assistance.
Not only is installing a radon mitigation system tougher than most people think, it can also cause thousands of dollars in damage if done improperly. Certified radon mitigation professionals should almost always be hired to perform this work.
In this article we will explain how radon mitigation systems are installed and what it would take to do one on your own.
Radon Mitigation Basics
What is Radon Gas?
Radon is a naturally occurring noble gas that derives from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Once it has been formed, it rises up from the soil and typically will dissipate into the outdoor air. When a structure such as a home or commercial building blocks its path, it begins to find the paths of least resistance to continue rising. These paths can include cracks in the foundation, the sump crock, open dirt or gravel crawl spaces, and the pores of the concrete. After entry into a structure, radon will begin to build up to unsafe levels as it has nowhere to go. As radon gas starts to decay, it releases radioactive particles that attach to dust and water molecules in the air. Over an extended period of time, breathing in these particles will damage the lining of the lungs and can ultimately cause lung cancer. According to the EPA, radon gas is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and causes 21,000 deaths per year in the US.
What is Radon Mitigation?
Radon mitigation systems consist of PVC piping, a specialty in-line radon fan, and a manometer. To properly remove radon gas from a structure, a negative pressure must be achieved underneath the slab to divert the rising gas into the PVC piping to be routed above the roofline so it can dissipate into the outdoor air. In some homes, the suction point may be the sump crock and in many others, this requires coring into the slab and digging out a suction pit. When installed properly, radon mitigation systems will reduce radon levels in the home indefinitely.
Steps to Install a DIY Radon Mitigation System
1. Test your Home
The crucial first step to removing radon gas is determining what type of levels are currently in your home. Radon testing is an affordable process that typically will take anywhere between 2-11 days to get results from depending on the type of test performed. The DIY option for radon testing is the charcoal testing kit which can be set up in your home on your own and mailed to a testing lab to be analyzed. These test kits can usually be purchased for under $30 and can give you a good idea of what your average radon levels are. If you prefer to have a professional conduct the radon test in your home, you can hire a company like us to set a digital monitor in your home for 48 hours. Digital testing allows you to see an hour by hour report of your levels and is proven to be the most accurate radon testing option around. Digital radon tests typically will fall between $100-$150 depending on where you live. If you wish to check your radon levels at any time during the day and generate digital reports on your own, there are some great in-home options from Airthings. Personal digital radon detectors like the Airthings Home or Airthings Wave allow you to check your radon levels at any time either on the device itself or on your smartphone. The only drawback of personal detectors is the accuracy, which can start to stray a bit as the device gets older. Whichever choice you pick to test your home, you want to make sure that the average is below 4.0 pCi/L. If your readings are at or above that number, you will need to have a radon mitigation system installed.
2. Determine Placement
Placement of the radon mitigation system is crucial to installation, not just for the aesthetics of the home, but also for the effectiveness of the system. Aesthetically there are basically two options of where the system can vent out of the home that follow code. The first option is to run the PVC up the basement wall, through the joist and continue the piping up the exterior to vent above the roofline. This is known as an exterior style system. The other option for venting is through the garage. For a garage style system, the piping begins in the basement along the common wall between the basement and garage and vents up the basement, through the garage, and through the roof to vent out above the garage roof. Both styles of systems are quite difficult to do on your own unless you are a trained mitigator, but the garage system is especially difficult for most untrained homeowners due to the roof work needed and the coring into the basement floor to be able to start the piping on that side of the home.
For the effectiveness of the system, placement also has to be determined by the type of home. If the home has a sump crock and drain-tile system under the slab, the system will need to be tied into that. If the home does not have a drain-tile system, a proper collection point will need to be dug out under the home to attach the pipe to. This is done by coring a hole into the slab and removing around 5-10 gallons worth of material.
Note: There are significant risks to coring a hole into your basement slab if you are not trained.
3. Call a Professional
Unless you are trained in radon mitigation, you should not attempt this type of project on your own. We have had countless calls from DIY’ers who attempted to do things on their own and end up spending much more money on materials and repairs, when they could have just called a professional to do things right the first time. Unlike a paint job, or a simple fence installation, radon mitigation requires tools that most homeowners do not have access to, and the risks that are involved with coring holes into your slab and manipulating the drain-tile system are much too high. Additionally, if installed improperly, poorly made systems can actually increase radon levels within the home and even draw in carbon monoxide into the living space. For around $1000, you can have a radon mitigation system installed by a professional with a guarantee of levels below 4.0 pCi/L and a 5 year fan warranty (As most fan manufacturers will only warranty fans installed by certified radon professionals). Give us a call today for a free quote!
Brian S. Thompson