Radon: What home buyers need to know

Purchasing your dream home is an exciting experience we all look forward to but in your new property, there might be a dangerous, colourless and odourless gas seeping into the building.

Many people hear about radon for the first time when they are buying a new home. When going through this process, your solicitor will carry out various checks, often referred to as searches, on the property and the area surrounding it. One of these checks will uncover if the building is in a radon affected area and if it is, don’t worry, we can help!

So what do home buyers need to know?

What is radon?

As radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can affect properties of all types, ages, locations and uses, it’s important that you get your new home tested before you move in.

The gas is formed when uranium in the soil and rocks beneath us decays. When it permeates the ground into open air, it is quickly diluted to low concentrations, however if it rises into a building, it can become trapped and build to dangerous concentrations.

Homes across the country can have different radon levels

Every building contains a level of radon but in some parts of the country and due to some styles of construction, many homes may have higher levels.

The chances of a higher level of radon depend on the type of ground the property is surrounded by. For instance, higher levels of radon are often found in parts of the country which are rich in granite, such as Devon and Cornwall.

You can find out the levels of radon surrounding your property by using the UK radon map, which will show the levels of radon in your area, however this is only a guide and remember, all buildings carry an element of risk.

According to the UK Radon Association, areas of the country where it is estimated that less than 1% of properties will contain high levels of radon are termed ‘Lower Risk’ areas. Areas where it is estimated that between 1 – 10% of properties will be affected are termed ‘Intermediate Risk’ areas, and areas where over 30% of properties are estimated to be affected are termed ‘Higher Risk’ areas.

Properties with basements or cellars are at a high risk of radon exposure

If your new home has a basement or cellar, the property is considered to be a higher risk. This is because there are extra surfaces in contact with the ground through which the gas can permeate into the building.

What should you do to make sure you’re not at risk?

There are multiple steps you can take to evaluate the risk level of your property.

Firstly, you should ask the vendor whether any radon testing has been carried out within the property and if so, request to see a copy of the results. If no tests have been carried out, we would recommend that you arrange for the property to be tested.

You could also carry out a risk assessment by checking the building’s postcode against the UK radon map.

If the building is not in a high risk area and doesn’t have a basement or below ground area, this is the end of the process. Nevertheless, if you do still want to check the property for radon you can as the radon map is by no means definitive.

However, if the property is in a risk area, or it does have a basement/below ground living area, you need to contact a property preservation firm, such as ourselves.

What happens next?

As radon mitigation specialists, we know that the only way to get an accurate reading of the radon levels in a building is to use a specialist detector, which must be placed in the property before being sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Testing for radon is simple, inexpensive and involves small and discreet detectors being placed in the property for a period of time.

As radon levels fluctuate according to seasonal and occupational variances, a three-month period is required to take such inconsistencies into account, however shorter tests are available.

The number of detectors required depends upon the size, layout and usage of the building, and we can advise you on this.

Following the testing, the detectors are analysed in a laboratory to determine the level of radiation they were exposed to, before a written report detailing the results is provided.

The result is given in a unit called Becquerels and expressed as Becquerels per cubic metre of air (bq/m3).

Public Health England recommends that action should be taking if a property shows an average radon level of more than 200 Becquerels per metre cubed (200 Bq m-3) and states the ideal level of radon should be around 100 Bq m-3.

If work is required, we will then design the best system and implement it at the client’s request.

So don't leave it to chance, if you discover that your new home is in a risk area or if you are simply unsure, then please contact us 01325 728039 or e-mail info@bcspreservation.co.uk.