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Healthy Home Basics: Building a New Home? Consider Radon-Resistant Techniques

When building a new home, there are certainly many considerations to take into account. These can include anything from roofing to the HVAC system to the light fixtures you plan to install. While you are starting your list of must-have’s in your new home, make sure health is a priority.


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Radon prevention is one important health priority to consider. Even if you live in an area where radon levels are commonly low, individual house levels can vary and a passive radon removal system is often recommended. (Although this article focuses on radon removal, a passive system can also remove other gases found in soil.)


The Dangers of Radon

While you can’t see or smell radon, it is present all over the world in varying amounts. This is because it is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results when radium decays in the soil. While naturally occurring, it is second leading cause of lung cancer. This is because radon easily seeps up from the soil into cracks in a home’s foundation and into the living space. There it becomes trapped, especially in tightly built homes, where its concentrations may build to unsafe levels.
Installing a passive system during construction to exhaust radon gas can save a lot of money in the long run. Most sources estimate prevention techniques will cost only $250 to $750 during home construction, but will cost $1200 to $2000 after construction is complete. If you have hired a contractor to build your home, ask if he/she can incorporate these passive radon-resistant measures into the home design.

Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNW)

How It Works

In RRNW, a passive system is installed that uses what’s called a “ passive stack effect” to move air from below the house up through a vent pipe to the roof where it is expelled. A passive system for removing radon gases is usually compromised of these four components.
  • Gravel or Aggregate Layer - This is a gas permeable layer that goes under the concrete slab or flooring. This allows radon to move freely into the vent pipe.
  • “Energy improvements should not be done without radon testing in existing homes” - Tad Duby (
    Gas Retarder Layer - This layer of vapor retarder (usually a plastic-type sheeting) goes above the aggregate layer to prevent gases from entering Radon Vent Diagramthe home.
  • Vent Pipe - This PVC pipe goes from the aggregate layer up through the home to exhaust radon through the roof - minimum of 3 inches in width.
  • Caulk or Sealant - This is used to fill in cracks in the foundation and walls to prevent radon gas from entering.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure your attic has an electrical junction box so that an active system can be installed there later if needed. An active system uses an inline fan to remove the radon-filled air from the soil below a home. After your new home is constructed, you’ll want to test for radon inside your home and determine if an active radon removal system is necessary. If the radon action level is above 4 PicoCuries per liter (PCi/L), an active system is recommended. (Other measures can also help remove radon from your home, such as balanced mechanical ventilation systems.)





Photo Credit: Environmental Protection Agency




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Healthy Home Basics: Building a New Home? Consider Radon-Resistant Techniques:  Created on March 11th, 2013.  Last Modified on March 15th, 2013


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About Allison Rathey Kirby

Allison Rathey Kirby is Healthy House Institute's (HHI’s) Associate Editor and Director of Social Media. Formerly HHI's Tool Listing Editor, Allison has been with HHI for seven years - managing, editing, and contributing "healthy" content to the site. Allison is also the Associate Editor for HHI's sister site, The Housekeeping Channel.



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