Radon gas is a radioactive, colorless, odorless gas emitted from rock and soil from the ground. It can be contained in confined areas and or well water of a home. Radon gas is considered by the EPA to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
I have been asked many times why a basement, when it exists, was not tested for radon. To answer this question you must reference the EPA Guide: Protocols For Radon And Radon Decay Product Measurements In Homes. This guide is considered the go to reference for radon tests on residential real estate transactions.
Many home inspectors will test a basement area by default. Fair judgement and interpretation of the guide must be used. If the EPA intended on all basement areas to be tested, the guide would simply state to test the lowest level of the home.
It is important to clearly identify when to test a basement as to not erroneously impact a real estate transaction due to an inappropriately located test.
In review of the guide, page 18. The test shall “be performed in the lowest level of the home which is currently suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that is currently lived-in, or a lower level that is not currently used (such as a basement, which a buyer could use for living space without renovations).”
To meet this criteria:
A) A basement suitable for occupancy shall include a finished space.
B) A basement suitable for occupancy must have two means of egress of escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. A basement lacking two means of egress shall not be considered livable space per most building codes.
C) A basement suitable for occupancy shall have a bedroom.
B) A basement suitable for occupancy will not require renovations to be able to be lived-in.
Furthermore, page 11 states, “If the occupants’ living patterns change or renovations are made to the home and they begin using a lower level (such as a basement) as a living area, a new test should be conducted on that level.”
If an unlivable basement becomes livable through renovations, the basement space shall be tested at that time.
Be aware, the presence of a laundry area and/or workbench does not immediately deem a basement livable. Inspectors must be careful not to imply that a basement area is livable by testing inappropriate basements by default.
The inspector may deviate from the criteria if a basement is finished or has finished areas, but lacks a secondary means of egress, however, the inspector should clearly state in their home inspection report and/or separate writing that the test was performed in a basement area lacking safe egress and per building standards may not be considered an occupied/livable area of the home without secondary means of egress.
Bald Eagle Inspection Services, LLC is an International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants Certified Professional Inspector. I provide this service in Saratoga and a Certified Advanced Radon Measurement Technician. Springs, Ballston Spa, Malta, Clifton Park, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Rensselaer County areas and many more surrounding areas. If you require a radon retest to verify high or low results or as part of a complete home inspection service, contact Bald Eagle Inspection Services today!