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mikewof

DIY radon mitigation ...

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A coworker loaned me his little electronic radon count gauge. I have a brand-new house, I figured I might see my reading inch up to 4, maybe I'd pull a 5. The little fugger gets back to me a few days days later ... 14. Shit. A couple days later, it inches up to 17. I figured "okay, but nobody lives in the basement, it's not that bad." I plug it in on the third floor near the bedrooms, I assumed it would be negligible, radon sinks, right? Nope, not when you have a modern, high-performance Energy Star home! Everything is locked up so tight in this house, that every friggen molecule is molested by the energy cops before it is allowed to go outside. The upstairs reading was lower ... 16.

Now I'm kicking myself for having been ignorant of this mess for two years. I can't even relax in this house without thinking of alpha emitters in our lungs. So now I'm doing a rush radon mitigation this long weekend. We have the French drain, so I won't have to drill into the slab, I'll just need to attach the sump cover seal, hack into that, run the duct through the wall, and I have one of those "slimline" radon fans picked out, at least it looks good outside the house.

Anyone here ever done a DIY radon job? Any suggestions as to how far above the sump level I should hang the bottom of the pipe? How did you seal the sump cover to the slab? I looked for some kind of giant wax ring, but I can't find anything. Pretty much everything that I find on the Google machine is for drilling into the slab, next to nothing for using a sump pit. The pros don't seem to share that info too freely.

Thanks.

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You might want to contact your local building code official to avoid future misery.

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3 hours ago, mikewof said:

A coworker loaned me his little electronic radon count gauge. I have a brand-new house, I figured I might see my reading inch up to 4, maybe I'd pull a 5. The little fugger gets back to me a few days days later ... 14. Shit. A couple days later, it inches up to 17. I figured "okay, but nobody lives in the basement, it's not that bad." I plug it in on the third floor near the bedrooms, I assumed it would be negligible, radon sinks, right? Nope, not when you have a modern, high-performance Energy Star home! Everything is locked up so tight in this house, that every friggen molecule is molested by the energy cops before it is allowed to go outside. The upstairs reading was lower ... 16.

Now I'm kicking myself for having been ignorant of this mess for two years. I can't even relax in this house without thinking of alpha emitters in our lungs. So now I'm doing a rush radon mitigation this long weekend. We have the French drain, so I won't have to drill into the slab, I'll just need to attach the sump cover seal, hack into that, run the duct through the wall, and I have one of those "slimline" radon fans picked out, at least it looks good outside the house.

Anyone here ever done a DIY radon job? Any suggestions as to how far above the sump level I should hang the bottom of the pipe? How did you seal the sump cover to the slab? I looked for some kind of giant wax ring, but I can't find anything. Pretty much everything that I find on the Google machine is for drilling into the slab, next to nothing for using a sump pit. The pros don't seem to share that info too freely.

Thanks.

Mike - 

Radon gas seeping in thru basements is a concern on our area.   My radon mitigation system is nothing more than some 4" PVC pipe w/a "S trap" (like your sink drain) going thru the basement floor, w/a low power air pump maintaining a vacuum in the pipe, venting above the gutters of the house.   It has a liquid vacuum gauge so that you can see it's working - but, I'd bet that you could assemble the thing yourself for $50 worth of PVC and the price of the pump.   

Pics here: http://wpb-radon.com/Radon_system_photos.html  are very similar to my installation. 

HTH - 

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the two worst parts of the radon system is getting the pipe through the wall to outside air, above the roof line, and cutting the hole in the concrete slab in the basement to make the suction pit.

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-install-radon-mitigation

https://certi.us/cms/radon-training/state-radon-training-requirements/81-resources

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33 minutes ago, mikewof said:

Why the S-trap? I was going to pipe straight into the French drain and then seal the top of the drain pit with one of these;  https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-Radon-Mitigation-Basin-Cover-THD1085/300484358

Would the s-trap also trap water that I would prefer to fall back into the sump pit?

Dunno - I didn't put it in - it's just there.  

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5 hours ago, mikewof said:

...radon sinks, right? Nope...

we've looked at houses with radon mitigation systems installed and they all vented through the roof. with the french drain don't you have a gutter around the perimeter of the basement? ours did. how is just covering the pump going to work?

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I just went through this as we're selling the house.  Radon level came back at 4.9 and buyers wanted radon mitigation installed prior to sale as the levels are above EPA stated minimums.  I'm a DYI'er, but there are some things I just do not want to tackle, like Radon mitigation.  Quotes came back from two good local contractors recommended by our realtor at $1350.....with a guarantee the radon level will be 2 or less.....I'll write the check this this.  Considering digging into the concrete basement floor, running PVC pipe through the foundation wall into the garage and through the garage roof (brand new roof last year) the $1350 is a deal....

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When I sold a couple years the buyer did a radon test, it came back at something around 7. They wanted me to install mitigation, I told them no. House sold, they never added it.

Here's a little light reading about radon. I'm more concerned with my sun exposure than radon.

http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html

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1 hour ago, bmiller said:

When I sold a couple years the buyer did a radon test, it came back at something around 7. They wanted me to install mitigation, I told them no. House sold, they never added it.

Here's a little light reading about radon. I'm more concerned with my sun exposure than radon.

http://www.forensic-applications.com/radon/radon.html

Thanks for that Bmiller

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Not intending to be insulting...really not.......before you commit large amounts of agony, I think you'd be well served by rechecking with another instrument? Do you know that the one you used was calibrated properly (I don't even know if they require calibration)? Caveat....I know nothing about radon detection instrumentation. I simply draw on the instrumentation experience I have had when I managed our Haz Mat Response Team for a few years. Depending on the instrument, one out of calibration could produce wildly inaccurate readings while another out of calibration might produce nearly imperceptible differences....depends on the instrument and what is is measuring.  

 

I have nothing else to offer. Good luck. 

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2 hours ago, derelicte said:

we've looked at houses with radon mitigation systems installed and they all vented through the roof. with the french drain don't you have a gutter around the perimeter of the basement? ours did. how is just covering the pump going to work?

I'm running the 4-inch pipe out of the basement and then up to the roof along the outside of the house. The pump will be outside. I like the interior one, but it seems a lot harder to do.

The French drain was installed under the house, it's already there, I just need to cover the sump pit with an airtight cover, so the pump sucks air from under the foundation, rather than from inside the house. But yeah, the internet hasn't been too helpful with the specifics of how I set up the pipe in the sump pit.

BMiller, I read the link, thanks, it took some of the edge off. I'm still wary of alpha emitters, but radon is a noble gas, so hopefully whatever radon my kids, have inhaled, they've then exhaled before it could do much damage.

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Just now, Point Break said:

Not intending to be insulting...really not.......before you commit large amounts of agony, I think you'd be well served by rechecking with another instrument? Do you know that the one you used was calibrated properly (I don't even know if they require calibration)? Caveat....I know nothing about radon detection instrumentation. I simply draw on the instrumentation experience I have had when I managed our Haz Mat Response Team for a few years. Depending on the instrument, one out of calibration could produce wildly inaccurate readings while another out of calibration might produce nearly imperceptible differences....depends on the instrument and what is is measuring.  

 

I have nothing else to offer. Good luck. 

It was supplied to me by an ex-NASA engineer, and is supposedly calibrated by the manufacturer. When my friend reset and measured after his mitigation, it came back with a reading of 1.0, what the installers found with their own sensors.

But yes, you have a good point, it's a, cheapish (around $125) electronic sensor, I was wary too. I looked into it a bit, radon sensors are apparently a reverse smoke detector. In a smoke detector, when the alpha source is interrupted by smoke, which absorbs the alpha, the alarm goes off. In a radon tester, the each time the sensor detects an alpha count, it just ticks up once. It's a pretty simple design.

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20 minutes ago, mikewof said:

It was supplied to me by an ex-NASA engineer, and is supposedly calibrated by the manufacturer. When my friend reset and measured after his mitigation, it came back with a reading of 1.0, what the installers found with their own sensors.

But yes, you have a good point, it's a, cheapish (around $125) electronic sensor, I was wary too. I looked into it a bit, radon sensors are apparently a reverse smoke detector. In a smoke detector, when the alpha source is interrupted by smoke, which absorbs the alpha, the alarm goes off. In a radon tester, the each time the sensor detects an alpha count, it just ticks up once. It's a pretty simple design.

Understood...but they don't have to be complicated instruments to be FUBAR. I'm sure you know that. Good luck.

 

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1 hour ago, mikewof said:

I'm running the 4-inch pipe out of the basement and then up to the roof along the outside of the house. The pump will be outside. I like the interior one, but it seems a lot harder to do.

The French drain was installed under the house, it's already there, I just need to cover the sump pit with an airtight cover, so the pump sucks air from under the foundation, rather than from inside the house. But yeah, the internet hasn't been too helpful with the specifics of how I set up the pipe in the sump pit.

BMiller, I read the link, thanks, it took some of the edge off. I'm still wary of alpha emitters, but radon is a noble gas, so hopefully whatever radon my kids, have inhaled, they've then exhaled before it could do much damage.

ok. that's what I remember them looking like. but one house we looked at did manage to run it through the walls to the attic.

the french drain in our house was added after it was built. there was a 1" trough (gutters?) in the floor where it meets the concrete wall. the troughs ran to a sump pump so just covering the sump wouldn't have been too effective. luckily that house never had a radon issue and even if it did if the buyers wanted it fixed we would have told them to get lost. gotta love a seller's market! :)

I'd try another test first too, though. buy the canisters at the local bog box store and send them off for testing. 

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Not an expert, but I understand there is a strict protocol about testing with respect to even opening doors while exam going on.  From own experience buying a house with radon inspection part of process, our sellers kept opening the doors/windows despite seals placed by inspectors, invalidating the test and had to be repeated.  Sounded like you couldn't be opening any doors or windows for test to be valid too.

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iirc you aren't supposed to keep doors and windows open, but you could quickly open and close them. ideally you'd start the test and go away for the weekend.

 

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The take away from the posted article, for me, is safe versus acceptable exposure. 

Right now everyone of us is inhaling radon, carbon monoxide, particulants and many other substances that will kill you in the right concentration.

The only "safe" level is zero. But the same can be said for ETOH, yet most of us temp that fate regularly. Hell you can overdose on water.

The "acceptable" levels vary around the world. The EU has standards for radon higher than here in the US. 

Best way to sell product is work to get the standards really low then tell people "it's gonnna kill you" if we don't install the XYZ thingy. Not saying I believe radon is harmless just looking at it rationally.

YMMV

 

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Personally, I’m trying to optimize my house to collect Radon. Kinda hoping to turn into Spider-Man. 

In all honesty, this is rather interesting. I’ve never even thought to test my house for radon. 

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Turns out that the depth of the radon tube isn't an issue, the vacuum draws from the top of the sump cover. I took off the old sump cover, disconnected the sump, added the new high-tech sump cover. The cover is secured to the concrete floor with mason screws, and a bead of silicon, the hammer drill cut into the concrete pretty easy. Then all the in-outs like the sump cord, the sump pipe, and the radon duct are sealed with more silicon, and the sump cover comes with different gasket sizes, and the main radon duct screws into the top. I have that part done, and the sump reconnected. I need to run the radon duct out of the house next, and then connect the air pump and the duct to the roofline. Oddly, it all calls for a 4-inch duct, but the output from the sump-cover is fixed at 3-inches, so I'm just going to use 3-inch all out.

I haven't found much DIY guidance on the process, but so far it's not all that tough.

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On 2/13/2018 at 1:08 PM, bmiller said:

 Best way to sell product is work to get the standards really low then tell people "it's gonnna kill you" if we don't install the XYZ thingy. Not saying I believe radon is harmless just looking at it rationally.

I think that maybe for adults, if the radon isn't above 6 or so, it might be okay to avoid a mitigation. Our's was 17 in the basement and even up on the third floor near the bedrooms it's over 7. With three kids up there, I didn't want to fuck around with it. Yeah, radon is a noble gas, but it does emit alpha particles, and it's clearly proven to be the number one cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. I'm happy that I'm taking care of it now, but a little pissed at myself that I didn't get to it right after the house was built.

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My DIY radon mitigation took a while, but I now have the 18 picoCuries per liter down to less than 2. I just need to now run the duct chimney to the roof. Gotta go rent a 30-some foot ladder today. This is going to suck dealing with that monster ladder.

It was a fun DIY ... concrete work, a little carpentry, electrical, plumbing and a touch of design to make it look right. I wouldn't mind doing them professionally if I get laid off from my job.

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4 hours ago, bmiller said:

Why do you have to run it to the roof? It's out.

Noise, and dispersion of the concentrated radon.I just put a 90 degree corner on the end, and a duct screen to keep out the squirrels or birds.

But I couldn't finish, it's windier than a whore's hooha out there. I couldn't even stabilize the ladder, let alone climb up on it.

My dad remembered a uranium mine on the other side of the hogback, it's likely that our neighborhood was built on some of the tailings from that mine.

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Did you do anything special for make up air? Curious about what effect this will have on your heating bill. My neighbors had an expensive system installed only to have it ripped out when their gas bill skyrocketed.

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10 hours ago, bmiller said:

Did you do anything special for make up air? Curious about what effect this will have on your heating bill. My neighbors had an expensive system installed only to have it ripped out when their gas bill skyrocketed.

There shouldn't be any need for makeup air, their system must not have been installed right.

When it's done right, it just pulls air from below the slab, it shouldn't pull any air from the conditioned space. The goal isn't to remove the radon from the house, but remove the radon from the below the house, before it gets into the house. So sometimes the sump cover or hole isn't sealed well, then it pulls air from the house, which isn't the right way to do it. I saw a hole once that didn't even have a cover over it, the duct just pulled air from a hole in the slabs filled with rocks. So that pump was pulling heated air out of their house, not right. A properly installed cover should have no leaks. If the slab is leaky, or if there isn't a slab, then it either needs to be sealed with sealant, or a a plastic cover needs to cover all the dirt and seal to the edge of the foundation for the house.

All in, my costs for the fan, the sump cover, the PVC pipe, the fittings and electrical was about $500. My install took me about 12 hours, because it was the first time, I could do my next one in 4 hours, maybe eventually 3 hours. But any delusions that I had about doing it professionally just evaporated today. It turns out that I've turned into a monumental pussy with climbing ladders. They never used to bother me, now they do. I was like a scared kitten on that ladder, I kept cursing at the wind, talking myself through every movement, I choreographed everything before I went up. It just amazes me what a gigantic pussy I am now with heights. If I did it for anyone else, I would have to use scaffolding, and that would be a huge PITA, any half-decent roofer or house painters would laugh their asses off at me.

And it turns out that adding the pipe to roof dropped the radon another 1 pC/l, from 2 to 1. Before, the radon was apparently just falling back into the foundation when it came out, now that it's near the roof, it disperses better. I'm kind of pissed at myself that I had my kids sleeping in 7 pC/l air for so long, and using the basement with that 17 pc/l, but at least I have it taken care of now.

 

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