DIY Radon Mitigation. A Step-by-Step Guide to a Radon-Free Home

Airthings
June 7, 2016

Introduction

Radon mitigation systems are great ways to remove Radon from your home, but they can be tricky to install. DIY Radon mitigation is no small feat, but for those confident enough in their abilities Airthings have provided a step-by-step instructions to a DIY Radon Mitigation system installation.

Why Do it Yourself Radon Mitigation?

Radon mitigation system installation can be expensive, and if you have high Radon levels you may feel like you cannot avoid that expense. You certainly should not go without a mitigation system if you know your home has high Radon levels over a long period of time. So, how do you mitigate the expense, as well as the Radon? Perform a DIY Radon mitigation installation.

We hinted at this above, but it requires repeating: installing a Radon mitigation system is a serious task. Check out the steps in this article to see if you’re up for it. If any part of the installation steps make you uncomfortable, hire someone to install your system. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache, time and potentially money. Nothing is worse than spending countless hours and dollars on a DIY Radon mitigation installation only to check your Radon levels and see no improvement!

Basic overview of DIY Radon mitigation

Installing a Radon mitigation system involves several steps. The basic goal of the system is to remove high levels of Radon gas from the home. Radon comes up from the ground Therefore the way removing it is accomplished is through drilling a hole in the home’s foundation and actively sucking the air up from the ground. This air is expelled from the house via the roof. You heard that right: the air must travel from the ground below the house, through the foundation, up through piping that runs through the inside of the house, and up and out of the roof.

Connecticut_Radon_Mitigation

So, the system will require installing PVC pipe through multiple stories or at the very least through a slab of concrete and out through the roof. This also requires drilling holes in the basement foundation and roof, both of which must be properly sealed. This is to ensure Radon gas does not escape from the pipe in the basement foundation, and to prevent moisture entering though the roof seal.

The next crucial element that must be installed is a fan. A fan creates suction in the pipe, drawing air out of the soil beneath the house and pushing it out above the house, allowing it to disperse. The fan should be situated in the attic or usually at the top of the system. If the pipe does run through the attic, it should be insulated to make sure the warm air from the bottom of the house does not hit the cold air at the top of the house and cause moisture to condense. It would be a shame to solve one problem, Radon, only to create another, moisture and mold in the attic.

The final element of the Radon mitigation system is a pressure gauge (manometer). This is usually a fluid gauge that tells you if the fan is working or not. It does this by creating a pressure differential in the pipe.

Of course, after your system is installed a long term Radon detector is needed (you may have one from before, which told you your levels were high in the first place) to ensure that the system is actually working to reduce the levels inside of your home. 

The next part of the article provides a step-by-step guide on exactly how to install a Radon mitigation system in your home. 

If you want to check out the steps in video form, check out this video

For the full step by step breakdown with links to the products you’ll need, keep reading this DIY Radon mitigation guide.

Steps for DIY Radon mitigation

1. Get an initial Radon reading

The first step to mitigating the Radon in your home is to understand where Radon levels are high in your home and how high they are. To do this, you need a Radon detector. The detector you buy depends on your budget, but we recommend a long-term detector. They are more expensive than short-term detectors, but they discreetly and continuously measure Radon levels for years. Short-term detectors only give you readings over several days and then they are done; they cannot be reused.

What is more, you are going to want to monitor Radon levels before, during, and after installation of the system, so a long-term tester is actually more economical than buying multiple short-term tests.

2. Consider the age of the building

The age of your home must be considered in order to plan the DIY Radon mitigation system and its installation. If it was built before the 1970s, the fill used beneath your cement slab foundation is probably not ideal. The ideal fill is porous, meaning it lets gas breathe. This allows the air to be removed relatively easily. In comparison, fill that is dense like rock or wet earth is not ideal. Dense fill requires more effort as you need to figure out how to draw out the air through a thicker, less cooperative substance.

3. Structure

Before installing pipe through your foundation, home, and roof, you should analyze your home’s structure for a couple key details.

Firstly, consider the physical additions to your home. If sections of your home were added after the initial construction, you may need to mitigate Radon from multiple areas. This would be the case if your foundation slab is not fully continuous, meaning that there are pockets of air beneath the building. Each of which would require different mitigation systems. This would then complicate the DIY mitigation system, and perhaps its time to call a professional. 

Secondly, inspect the current drainage systems. Do you have a french drain or a drain tile inside the house that you can use to draw radon up out of? If so, you may not need to drill through the foundation slab.

Thirdly, inspect the soil composition. You may be able to contact the original builder of the property to find out what type of fill was used beneath your foundation slab. If not, one option is to drill a hole and check. Gravel-like fill is preferred because it promotes airflow. Wet sand or earth allows much less airflow. If there is wet earth, place your arm into the drilled foundation hole and dig out a foot or two in each direction. This should allow the pipe, situated well above the bottom of the pit, to pull up an adequate amount of air.

Lastly, look for any compromises in the current foundation. Check where pipes go through the foundation to make sure they are fully sealed and plug cracks, even hairline cracks, in the slab. These efforts will make the slab airtight, allowing the mitigation system to get a good level of suction.

4. Planning the pipe

If all of the above checks out, installing the pipe may be possible. 3 to 4 inch PVC pipe should be used. This means you will need to drill 3 to 4 inch holes in different levels of your home.

Once again, there are a couple of specific details to consider regarding each individual home.

Firstly,  avoid running the pipe through your living areas as it looks unsightly. Find out if there is a path you can take which avoids areas that are often frequented. Perhaps via the basement into an attached garage and out of the garages roof or through a closet inside the home.

It is a good idea to keep the PVC running inside the home to reduce condensation and limit its exposure to the elements. This helps the system to last longer.

Secondly, the pipe needs to come out of the roof at a point that is at least 10 feet away from any windows and on a horizontal plane. This is because the pipe expels radon gas, and if it’s too near a window it can come back into your home through a window.

The pipe, which is often several different pieces of pipe fitted together with necessary elbow joints or other joints and PVC cement, must also extend 1 foot above the roof’s surface.

Purchase sandpaper and a hacksaw (or equivalent) to section the piping and deburr it (which is necessary to keep a tight seal).

5. Fan Placement

Place the fan so that it is outside the living area of your house. For example, in the attic, in the garage, or outside  which is the least preferred method. This will prevent leaks at the fan site. These leaks could mean pools of Radon form as the fan pulls up the Radon gas but fails to expel it from the home.

Again, this is why it is essential to constantly monitor Radon if you have a mitigation system installed. The intake/outtake hole size of your Radon mitigation fan will dictate the size of the PVC pipe you should buy.

6. Drilling holes

Firstly, find a good location in the foundation to drill. An ideal spot is near a wall that you can bracket the PVC piping to.

Once you are ready to drill, measure a hole slightly larger than your PVC diameter. Using a jackhammer, drill through the foundation until you hit the fill below. Take necessary steps if this fill is dense. A roto driller will help to create the initial ground hole beneath your foundation hole.

A handsaw or a wide-diameter drill will help to get through the various walls, floors, and roofs involved in running the pipe from the foundation to the roof.

7. Laying pipe

Run the pipe from your roof to your basement. Start with the roof and make sure the entire piping system is sealed and bracketed in place from the roof to the basement. As part of this process you will need to attach the fan to the piping structure, ideally in an attic-like space. If the piping does run through a space that might be a different temperature than the rest of the house (attics and garages), insulate the piping in those spaces. 

Insulating the piping helps to avoid condensation forming. Put the final pipe in the hole you’ve drilled in the foundation and seal it into the system.

You are now ready to make the structure airtight.

8. Sealing Holes

In order to seal the holes, apply caulk and hydraulic cement to seal the roof and foundation respectively. You should also have some backer rod to fill the space between the PVC pipe and the foundation hole before applying hydraulic cement to the seam.

9. Testing the System

Finally, you need to make sure your system mitigates radon. To do this, turn on the fan and, with a small hole at another point in the foundation (drilled for testing purposes) use a smoking piece of burning paper to see if air is being sucked into that hole. This tells you the system is up and running, sucking air from across the foundation to the site of the mitigation piping. Finally, install a manometer on the basement piping. This will tell you whether or not the system is creating the pressure differential, which is necessary to suck air up from the ground.

Product List for DIY Radon Mitigation:

  • 3 to 4 inch PVC (depending on intake/outtake hole of your fan)
  • Elbow joints as needed by your home’s structure
  • Piping insulation (depends on the size of your PVC)
  • Piping brackets (depends on the size of your PVC)
  • PVC cement
  • Radon Mitigation Fan
  • Manometer
  • Hydraulic cement
  • Backer rod
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper to deburr the pipe
  • Jackhammer (suggest renting rather than buying)
  • Roto driller (suggest renting rather than buying)
  • Buzz saw

Summary

You have a lot to think about in undertaking a DIY Radon mitigation system installation. If you are comfortable with all these steps, you can do the job yourself.

More often than not, however, people choose to get a system professionally installed. After the installation of the Radon mitigation system, it’s important to keep testing for Radon. You wouldn’t want to stop checking radon, trust the system, and then not notice a system malfunction. A long term Radon detector gives you accurate results of the Radon levels in your home to help you decide if you should mitigate. They can also be used after mitigation to confirm if it has worked.

So, a long-term Radon detector is also a good investment as you install your radon mitigation system. Especially because your Radon levels fluctuate daily and are attributed to a variety of extraneous factors. 

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