Do I need a home radon test?

Your prospective home will undergo many required inspections and tests before you buy it. You want to make sure that the home you're making an offer on is in a good, livable condition. A home radon test will measure radon levels in the house. If radon levels are high, you can perform repairs and interventions to reduce those levels.

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What causes radon?

Radon — an odorless radioactive gas — occurs as the result of uranium breaking down in soil and water. It can enter your home through cracks in the foundation and can even be found in well water. Prolonged exposure to radon gas in homes has been linked to serious health problems such as lung cancer.

What is the home radon test process?

When deciding how to test a home for radon, you have two options such as hiring a qualified radon tester or using a DIY radon testing kit.

1. Hire a qualified radon tester.

A qualified tester will either have passed a state-run radon program or completed courses via the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) or the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB). Contact your state's local radon programs to find qualified professionals in your area. A professional will perform a home radon test and explain your results. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends enlisting the help of a professional radon tester.

2. Use a DIY radon testing kit.

Contact your state's radon program for information about DIY home radon testing kits and where to obtain them. Be sure to follow the kit's directions closely, as any deviation could result in inaccurate readings. The two types of DIY kits are short-term and long-term. Short-term kits will test your radon levels over the course of 2-90 days. A long-term kit will test levels over more than 90 days.

A long-term test is recommended because the more data you obtain, the more accurate your results will be. The process generally involves placing a measuring device in the basement or lowest level of your home, three feet off the floor.

Is radon testing required to sell a home?

While no federal mandates are in place with specific radon requirements, certain states and localities may require a radon test before selling a home. The EPA has set guidelines and recommends that a radon reading of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or greater be addressed with repairs and further inspections. A pCi is a measure of the rate of radioactive decay of radon.

When buying a home, the seller may have already performed home radon testing. In this case, the results should be shared with you. If the seller has not had the home tested for radon — or if the test results are more than two years old — you can request another test be performed. It may not always be required, but knowledge of potential health hazards is crucial when buying a home. Learn more about what to look for when buying a house and more about home inspections.

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