QUESTIONS BY BUILDERS
Should homes be built with radon piping already installed?
The EPA recommends that the best time to address radon in a home is WHEN its being built. The installation of "passive radon piping" when the house is constructed has the homeowner's best interests in mind. Not only can the pipes be "hidden" in walls and never seen, but fixing a problem with radon that already have pipes installed will save a homeowner considerable money versus having to have it "retrofitted" later.
What determines if radon pipes are installed?
Some counties across the country have adopted "radon resistant construction" requirements as a part of their building code. Greenville County is the only such county in South Carolina (at the time of this posting) with this mandatory requirement (since 1998). If your home is built in other SC counties you can work with your builder to have it included but it NOT (repeat NOT) "mandatory"!
Will adding a passive radon pipe during construction guarantee I wont have a radon problem again?
Not quite! First, radon gas is "heavier" than air. It won't simply "rise" on its own. To be removed it needs to be "drawn" to the surface by placing a slight "vaccum" on the slab or crawl space. (This means adding an appropriately size radon fan to the existing piping). Second, the critical part is that the passive piping was installed correctly. We have had homes where: 1) The pipe was clogged with concrete 2) There was a tight medium under the slab (no porous gravel). A few
If the cost of installing passive radon piping during constrution is 2 to 3 times LESS than the cost of having it put in later why don't all builders do it?
We can't speak for every builder. But we surmise that the "rationale" often used is that every dollar spent on" building a house" will increase the "selling price" of the house. However, ultimately its going to be "homeowner" who pays for it. I think you would find most of the ones we later "retrofit" systems for wishing they had been installed when their home was built so they dont have to pay so much to have it added "later", (usually when get go to sell it!).
How can I know if the passive radon piping is installed correctly at the time of construction?
Great question! In fact, its something that perhaps county or city building officials should answer! We can't tell you the amount of times we have been called to a home to address a radon problem and discover that the "system" the builder installed in the home was deficient in several ways. In slab homes, piping is suppose to be mounted in a permeable, (min 4") gravel medium covered by a vapor barrier. The concrete foundation is then poured. That pipe proceeds up through the house (in walls) and penetrates the roof. However, we have found that when we "activated" the system with a radon fan, there is little "air flow" because 1) the pipe is clogged with concrete or 2) "Washed stone" was not used under the slab but rather something tighter ("crush and run") or "aggregate with 'moon dust' qualities' ". On a handful of homes we have encountered a "clay medium" under the slab. To fix the radon problem in these situations, we must do whatever it takes to create a sufficient "negative pressure" under the slab to successfully remove the radon gases. (On a few houses we have had to install complete NEW systems!). In crawl space homes, we typically find that the pipe that is suppose to be covered/sealed with plastic sheeting is simply "laid up against the walls" with the pipes exposed. Furthermore, the thickness of the platic sheeting used is what we affectionately call "Home Depot plastic" (very thin). If a fan is placed on a passive system and there are tears or punctures in the plastic then the "integrity" of the system vacuum is compromised. If construction debris was not cleared prior to the installation of the plastic then there is "great potential" for the plastic to be punctured and torn when contractors come to service a water heater or air handler located in a crawl space.
We can work with builders to provide the expertise and proper oversight to install these passive system correctly so that they will eventually work successfully in lowering the radon to acceptable levels. If the customer so desires we can also go ahead and "activate" the passive system with a fan. If properly installed, this will guaranee that radon will NOT be a problem in the future. We use "Energy Star" rated fans for this purpose. We also provide a "performance guarantee" on the systems we work with which state that they will work properly or WE will keep coming back until they do!