If you’re having a brand new home built, we’re sure that you’ve realised that there are many things to consider and so many different choices to make. How many bedrooms do you need? Is the kitchen going to be big enough? Do you really need that rumpus room? You might also be concerned about environmental issues, such as the fumes emitted by new building materials and furnishings. But have you considered radon?
What you should know about radon
Basically, radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the soil. It is produced from the natural breakdown of uranium, found in most rocks and soil. As it further breaks down, it emits atomic particles – which are in the air we breathe. Radon exposure is one of the leading causes of lung cancer (after smoking) – about 21,000 people die each year in the United States from radon-related lung cancer. It is diluted in the open air, but can build to dangerous levels inside a house.
Radon can enter our homes through cracks and other openings in the foundation. Differences in air pressure between the inside of the building and the soil around it can also play a role in this – if the air pressure inside the house is greater than the soil beneath it, radon will remain outside. Because it comes from the soil, the good news is that the geology of an area can help to predict the potential for elevated indoor radon levels. Look at this before buying land.
Talk to your builder
Fortunately, you and your builder can design your new home to be radon resistant. Some simple steps can be taken to prevent it from entering your home, including: installing a layer of clean gravel or aggregate beneath the slab, laying polyethylene sheeting on top, including a gas-tight venting pipe from the gravel level through to the roof of your home, and thoroughly sealing and caulking the foundation. These steps will be familiar to reputable builders.
The only way to tell if your new home has a radon problem or not is to test. It is suggested that indoor radon levels should not exceed 4.0 pCi/L. If your home has been built with a passive radon system, you should test it as soon as moving in to ensure that the levels are below this. And remember that, if your radon levels exceed 4.0 pCi/L, a fan can be easily installed to lower the levels. It’s always worth adding a radon control system during construction, however.
We hope that the information provided above has given you a lot to consider when it comes to the construction of your new home, particularly if radon wasn’t even on your radar previous to this. To put your fears to rest, we recommend speaking with your home builders before construction is under way. They will be able to tell you what they’re doing to lower the risk of radon exposure and can add to this if you don’t think that their efforts will be enough.