Do Condominiums need to be tested for radon? This is a question that comes up frequently and the answer is dependent on several factors so let’s address them all.
Since radon is the natural breakdown of uranium in rock and soil, floor level in a condominium matters when testing. Units closest to the ground will be those affected if radon levels are elevated.
Condo floor level in a multiple unit building will identify if radon testing is needed. For example, you have a high rise masonry building which has units in the basement and on the first floor, radon testing for these levels are recommended. Do you need to test the 7th or 8th floor for radon? If the buyer is concerned and peace of mind is obtained from testing, then test. Otherwise, it is highly unlikely there will be elevated levels at this height.
Are you purchasing half a multi-family home that has been converted to condos or a side by side townhome whereby there is living space in the lower level? This type of condominium is highly recommended to test for radon in the lowest level of living space. If there are any areas with a first floor slab on grade extension, then the first floor in this area should be tested as well since the structure is sitting directly on the slab which is in direct contact with the soil.
Most real estate transactions involve having a radon test performed to identify if the radon levels are elevated hence signaling a possible serious health threat. Radon testing during a real estate transaction is typically performed during the buyer’s due diligence period. Some buyers choose to waive a home inspection as well as a radon test to be more competitive to have their offer accepted. Some buyers will have their home inspection and radon test after the transaction has closed or not at all.
The radon testing performed for most real estate transactions are set by the home inspector and completed in 2 days with closed house conditions for 12 hours prior to deployment. There are two basic techniques used to test for radon short term and those are active and passive.
If the active method is used, meaning electronic testing, a Continuous Radon Monitor (CRM) is used which will provide an hour by hour breakdown of radon’s alpha particles. The home inspector will collect the machine at the end of the testing period, analyze the data electronically and provide the results to the appropriate parties of the transaction. Many CRM’s have a motion detector installed so it can be viewed if the machine was moved or if tampering/interference was attempted. The technician or home inspector setting up the machine will collect the machine as well. The CRM is a solid state device that is tamper proof so it makes for a great testing tool during an arm’s length real estate transaction.
If the passive method is used, meaning non-electronic testing, it comes in several forms that typically contains a charcoal medium with a specified moisture content for the radon alpha particles to attach to. Passive testing containers can be found in a plastic vial form, a metal canister and/or pouches all with the similar medium to collect the alpha particles. The home inspector or technician setting the test should also collect the test however more times than not with passive devices, the real estate agent or homeowner will be capping the passive test then forwarding to the lab. This is not acceptable during a real estate transaction as there is no way to track if the passive test was tampered with or if the timing was accurate. It is the responsibility of the home inspector or technician to complete the job properly. Analysis of passive tests is completed by sending the specified container to the lab at which time a liquid scintillate is added to release the radioactive radon alpha particles. These radioactive strikes are then read and reported to the appropriate parties in the transaction.
To obtain accurate radon results, it is imperative that proper protocol is followed. Radon has been looked at by some in the real estate industry as an annoyance of yet another process to do before closing. Radon is an insidious Class A carcinogen that has been proven to cause lung cancer and other forms of cancer are being discovered as research continues. Since radon is invisible, odorless and colorless, some feel it is a non-issue. Radon is real and a serious health threat! Act today by testing your home every +/- 2years for a safe internal environment.