Radon Testing – Frequently Asked Questions

Radon Testing – Frequently Asked Questions2019-07-05T11:18:36-05:00
How invasive is the inspection?2020-02-16T14:56:36-06:00

It’s important our clients understand this is a visual inspection only. We make observations and test operational functionality of home systems and major appliances but we are not diagnosing specific issues like why the gas fireplace won’t start or why the dishwasher purrs a little too loudly. We recommend hiring industry-related professionals to diagnose these specific issues. 

If we come across a sealed attic-hatch we will need written permission from the seller to break that seal. It is always our goal to leave a property exactly as we found it unless specific requests are agreed upon (and are documented in writing) by both buyer and seller.

Is this home inspection the same as a building code inspection?2020-02-16T14:58:12-06:00

This inspection is NOT a building code inspection; building code is inspected as the property is being built. 

What items are sometimes difficult to inspect due to seasonal limitations?2020-02-16T15:06:25-06:00

Our home inspections are considered a “point in time” inspection; there may be items we are unable to inspect on a given day, like: the roof due to snow/rain, the air conditioning system because the temperature is too cold to operate it safely without damage to components, and some of the exterior as it was also covered by snow.

It is our goal to provide you with the most comprehensive home inspection available on a given day while also considering the safety and well-being of our inspectors.

What do I have to fix once I receive the inspection report?2020-02-16T15:08:07-06:00

There is nothing in our inspection report that has to be done. Our report findings are or you and your realtor or other advisors to go through and determine what steps you would like to take next. Our goal is to inform you, not to rate a house. 

 

What happens if I have a question months after my inspection?2020-02-16T15:15:50-06:00

It’s not unusual for clients to call us months after their inspection with a home-related question and we always do our best to help!

Do I need to attend the inspection?2020-02-16T15:36:53-06:00

We prefer you not attend the whole inspection but rather just the “inspection walkthrough” which happens the last hour or so of your inspection window.

Once you’ve scheduled your inspection, you should receive a confirmation email indicating the precise time you should arrive for your inspection walkthrough. (The walkthrough usually takes 45-60 minutes, depending on the age and size of the property.)

Your inspector will use the “walkthrough” time to provide you (and your realtor or other advisors present) a summary of the most significant inspection findings displayed on a tablet. You will have ample time to ask your inspector questions.

Your inspector will continue to work on your report following the walkthrough. We must ensure all images and video taken onsite are uploaded with specific comments to best help you understand our recommendations. Your report will be emailed to you as soon as it is ready later that same day, often late-evening, assuming payment has been confirmed.

When will my inspection report be ready?2020-02-16T15:42:50-06:00

Our inspectors work very hard to complete their inspection reports the same day the inspection was performed (oftentimes this means it will arrive late in the evening).

During your inspection walkthrough, you will have the opportunity to review a summary of major findings but the actual FULL report will not be completed until later in the day. Your inspector must ensure all images and video taken onsite are uploaded with specific comments to best help you understand the recommendations.

Your report will be emailed to you (and your realtor if specified) as soon as it is ready later that same day, often late-evening, assuming payment has been confirmed.

How do I pay?2020-02-16T15:51:18-06:00

Thanks for asking!

You have 3 options:

  • Bank Transfer
  • Cash
  • Check

We will email you an invoice (typically the day prior to your inspection) that includes a link for you to pay simply via bank transfer if you wish, or you may bring cash/check to the inspection walkthrough.

Please note our inspectors may not release their final reports until payment has been confirmed.

 

Oops, I forgot to include radon testing, can I still add it?2020-02-16T16:12:48-06:00

No problem at all! You have a couple options when it comes to adding any additional service to your existing inspection:

  • Call us at (612) 440-8466 to add another service to your inspection
  • Email us and in the subject line, simply write: “PLEASE ADD RADON TESTING TO MY INSPECTION” or whatever service you wish to add-on

You should receive a new confirmation email reflecting the change. Most likely your walkthrough will be pushed back by 30 minutes to allow for radon testing or 60 minutes, if a moisture intrusion investigation is added.

*Radon testing requires 48 hours so if you have a next-day inspection, we’ll have to set your radon during your inspection and pick it up two days or 48 hours later. Your radon test results will be emailed to you the day we pick-up the unit(s).

 

 

What is mold?2020-02-13T13:24:49-06:00

Mold is a fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. Mold is natural to our environment; some level of mold is present at all times. Outdoor mold can be found in shady, damp areas such as where leaves lay or where vegetation is decomposing. Indoor mold is found when moisture levels rise above 60% relative humidity and a food source exists. There are many food sources in indoor environments.

Why is mold growing in my home?2020-02-13T13:25:13-06:00

Mold reproduces by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. Indoor mold is found when moisture levels rise above 60% relative humidity in areas like attics, crawl spaces, basements and bathrooms. There are many types of indoor mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

Is a 100% mold-free space possible?2020-02-13T13:25:38-06:00

No, mold is ubiquitous; you can expect to have invisible air-borne mold present anywhere you go, both indoors and out.

Can mold cause health problems?2020-02-13T13:26:09-06:00

Mold has the potential to cause health problems. Mold produces allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both allergic and non-allergic people. It is important to see a healthcare provider familiar with the health impacts of mold exposure if you believe mold is causing a health problem.

Is mold testing necessary?2020-02-13T13:26:36-06:00

Surface sampling may be useful to identify a particular type of mold or to confirm an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is only needed to support disputes or to identify mold species if desired. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals like Tom Geoffroy at Branch Property Investigations who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results.

What if I suspect mold but can not see any?2020-02-13T13:28:28-06:00

You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold may be hidden in places such as the backside of drywall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top side of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), under boxes in storage areas, inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or condensation from moisture vapor). Even concrete block can sustain mold growth with the food source a biofilm from dust, dirt, or other organic sources.

Should I try to find the source of the hidden mold?2020-02-13T13:28:49-06:00

Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional. Removal should only be done in a controlled environment with designed air management and the proper use of personal protective equipment.

How do I get rid of mold?2020-02-13T13:29:22-06:00

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. There are many local companies who specialize in mold cleanup; we recommend reading online reviews to find the best one to suit your needs. Keep in mind that if you clean up the mold but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

How can I prevent mold issues in my home?2020-02-13T13:30:14-06:00

When water leaks or spills occur indoors, act quickly! If wet or damp materials are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.

Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.

Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.

Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.

Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter (hygrometer). For basic readings, a small, inexpensive hygrometer is available at many hardware stores.

If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes, act quickly to dry the wet surface and reduce the moisture/water source. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.

How can I reduce humidity in my home?2020-02-26T11:26:53-06:00

Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and heaters to the outside where possible.

Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed.

Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering.

What is radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

Radon is a radioactive gas. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It enters your home the same way air and other soil gases enter your home: through cracks in the foundation floor or walls, hollow-brick walls, and openings around floor drains, pipes and sump pumps. Unless you test for it, there is no way of telling how much radon is present.

Radon is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water. Low levels of uranium occur naturally in the ground and can be found in all 50 states (although the average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the national average!) Once produced, radon moves through the ground to the air above. Some remains below the surface and dissolves in the water table flowing underground. 

When radon undergoes radioactive decay, radiation is emitted in the form of alpha particles. It also produces decay products, often called progeny, some of which are also radioactive.

Unlike radon, the progeny are not gases and can easily attach to dust and other particles. Those radioactive particles can be transported by air and can also be inhaled.

How does radon cause cancer?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

Radon causes cancer when the radon decay product is inhaled and becomes deeply lodged in the lungs. These particles radiate and can penetrate bronchial cells, mucous membranes, and other lung tissues.

The carcinogenesis process is believed to begin from the ionizing radiation energy affecting the bronchial cells. Radon-related lung cancers are generally seen in the upper airways, but radon increases the frequency of all types of lung cancer, including: Adenocarcinoma, Small Cell Carcinoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Lung cancer resulting from breathing in radon decay products is the only known risk associated with radon. Smoking tobacco multiplies the risk of radon-induced lung cancer by an average of 10 times.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, every 25 minutes, a person in the U.S. dies from radon-related lung cancer. It is the leading environmental cause of cancer deaths and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Is my pet also at risk?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

Elevated radon levels pose a real threat to both your family and your pets. Pets typically spend more time in the house than their owners so their radon exposure could prove even more hazardous. Also, because pets are regularly kenneled or use a litter box in the basement, they visit radon-heavy areas more often.

Due to the carcinogenic effects of radon, when your pets inhale the decaying particles, it puts them at risk for lung cancer as well as other types of cancers and diseases. Some cancerous radon symptoms include lack of appetite, fever, masses on the body, difficulty breathing, coughing, or excessive vomiting. If you have noticed these symptoms, bring your pet to a veterinarian and get your home tested for radon.

Why should I test my home for radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

The MN Department of Health recommends that all Minnesota homeowners test their homes for radon because it is widely believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer. A radon test is the only way to find out how much radon is in your home. Hiring a licensed radon measurement professional is recommended when an unbiased, third party is needed, such as in a real estate transaction. The result from a properly performed radon test will help you decide if you need to reduce your home’s radon level.

The MN Department of Health estimates that 2 in 5 homes exceed the 4.0 pCi/L action level. The best way to know if you have a dangerous radon level in your home is to have a licensed professional test for it.

What is a picocurie (pCi)?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

A pCi is a measure of the rate of radioactive decay of radon. One pCi is one trillionth of a Curie, 0.037 disintegrations per second, or 2.22 disintegrations per minute. Therefore, at the EPA’s recommended action level of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter), there will be approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air during a 24-hour period.

Should home buyers ask about radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

If you’re buying a house, ask whether it’s been recently tested for radon. If it has, ask to see the results. If it hasn’t, it would be wise to have the home tested by a professional. It is common for the buyer to perform a radon test alongside the home inspection and can be a contingency of the purchase contract.

The EPA recommends that to improve indoor air quality, people should consider installing a mitigation system to reduce radon levels below 2.0. While 4.0 is the number that triggers seller action (usually), the lower the radon, the less cumulative impact on health.

Should home sellers test for radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

If you’re selling your home, it’s a good idea to test it for radon before you put it on the market. That way, if your test reveals elevated levels of radon, you can take care of it before scaring off potential buyers. Be prepared to share test results and any mitigation efforts.

The EPA recommends that to improve indoor air quality, people should consider installing a mitigation system to reduce radon levels below 2.0. While 4.0 is the number that triggers seller action (usually), the lower the radon, the less cumulative impact on health.

Will my neighbor’s radon level indicate whether or not my home has a radon problem?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

No. Radon concentrations vary from house to house. All homes have some radon, but even houses next to each other can have very different radon levels. The only way to measure your radon risk is to test your home.

Is radon more prevalent in Minnesota than other states?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

Radon is a serious public health concern in Minnesota. According to the MN Department of Health, the average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the U.S. radon level. This is due to our geology and how our homes are operated. Minnesota homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Minnesota, more than two in five homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk.

There’s no way to predict exactly where radon might show up, but you can check the EPA’s color-coded map to see predicted averages for every county in the continental United States.

How often should I test my home for radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

According to the MN Department of Health, all Minnesota homes should be tested for radon and then retested every 2-5 years (and homeowners should save their test results). Additionally, homes should be tested after making changes to the foundation, heating, cooling or ventilation system. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level. Also consider testing before a major remodeling project to determine if radon mitigation should be added into the project and then retest after adding a radon mitigation system to make sure it is working properly.

If a test result is less than 4 pCi/L, what should be done next?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

The EPA recommends that to improve indoor air quality, people should consider installing a mitigation system to reduce radon levels below 2.0. While 4.0 is the number that triggers seller action (usually), the lower the radon, the less cumulative impact on health.

Because radon levels can change over time, the MN Department of Health recommends retesting every 2-5 years, especially if use patterns change or perhaps a lower level of the home becomes occupied or used more frequently. Renovations, changes in ventilation, earthquakes, settling of the ground beneath the home, and other changes may cause indoor radon levels to change over time. 

If a test result is 4 pCi/L or higher, what should be done next?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

The Environment Protection Agency claims that in order for a home to be deemed safe, the radon levels should not exceed 4 pCi/L. If your test results come back slightly elevated you may want to consider a follow-up test in order to confirm whether radon levels are high enough to warrant mitigation. If the average of the initial test and the second test results are equal to or greater than 4 pCi/L, then radon mitigation is highly recommended. If the average of the two test results are less than 4 pCi/L, consider testing again sometime in the future. Additionally, because radon levels can fluctuate between seasons or during varying weather conditions by a considerable amount, a retest following the initial test may be wise.

I have a newer home; do I still need to test for radon?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

Yes. Your home can have high radon levels whether it is old or new, well-sealed or drafty, and with or without a basement. Every new home should be tested after occupancy, even if it was built radon-resistant. If radon levels are still in excess of 4 pCi/L, the passive system should be activated by having a qualified mitigator install a vent fan. 

New homes are often built with radon-resistant features. Radon-resistant construction techniques can be effective in preventing radon entry. When installed properly and completely, these simple and inexpensive techniques can help reduce indoor radon levels in homes. In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier and less expensive to reduce radon levels further if these passive techniques don’t reduce radon levels to below 4 pCi/L. 

Why should I hire Branch Property Investigations to perform the radon test?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

The professionals at Branch Property Investigations use industry-leading, continuous radon monitors. Our radon testing devices are verified by the EPA for accuracy and approved for radon testing in real estate transactions. Our monitors are widely considered to provide a more accurate picture of radon levels than the charcoal canister test kits you may have read about. Additionally, we have our monitors calibrated on an annual basis to ensure their accuracy.

What can I expect if I hire Branch Property Investigations to perform the radon test?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

When you schedule a test from Branch Property Investigations, one of our radon testing technicians will come to your home and identify the lowest living area in your house. For most homes in Minnesota, this is the basement.

Our technician will set up the radon monitor at the lowest living area of your home, and configure it for 48 hours of continual monitoring. (If additional levels of a foundation system are discovered, extra radon unit(s) are required by the MN Department of Health and will need to be added for an additional fee.) 

12 hours prior to the start of your test and during the two days your home is being tested, you will need to avoid opening any windows and ideally should not run your air conditioning system. Normal opening and closing of your entrance door is okay, but you should not leave it propped open for any reason. The radon monitor should not be moved for any reason. After two days, the technician will return and collect the tester, and we begin the process of analyzing the results. Typically the test results and report are made available to the client later that same day.

What is a radon mitigation system?2020-01-31T09:23:44-06:00

A radon mitigation system is any system or steps designed to reduce the radon level in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends you take action to reduce your home’s indoor radon levels if your test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. 

Mitigation system costs vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. We are happy to recommend a qualified radon mitigation contractor in the Twin Cities area.

What cities are included in your service area?2020-03-03T15:38:23-06:00

We service the Twin Cities and surrounding metro area including, but not limited to the following cities: Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hopkins, Edina, Richfield, Shakopee, Savage, Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Rosemount, Woodbury, Oakdale, Maplewood, Roseville, Blaine, Golden Valley, and St. Louis Park.

If you are outside our normal service area (30 miles any direction from Bloomington), an additional travel fee may apply and will be visible to you in the online scheduler. Please don’t hesitate to call (612) 440-8466 or email with specific questions!

What is moisture intrusion?2020-02-16T11:57:58-06:00

The term refers to unintended moisture that enters through the “Building Envelope”.  The building envelope consists of the exterior shell of your home that’s designed to repel the elements. Examples include: the roof, basement, windows & doors, exterior walls and the drainage plane, foundation waterproofing, exterior house wrap, ice and water shield, and roofing felt, that is behind the exterior finishes. Moisture intrusion can be obvious and easily found or very subtle and require instruments and testing to locate the source.

How is moisture entering my home?2020-02-16T12:03:53-06:00

There are three main “moisture transport vehicles” that create avenues and allow water into your home.

1. Bulk Water Movement

The most common moisture intrusion issues I see in Twin Cities’ homes are a result of “bulk moisture movement”, also known as liquid flow (rain, snow, ground water). This type of intrusion is typically immediate, easily discovered and also the most damaging. Three conditions are required to allow bulk moisture flow into a building: 1) a source of water 2) an opening or failure in the drainage plane of the building and 3) a driving force such as gravity or pressure.

2. Capillary Action

Capillary action refers to the ability of water to travel up against the pull of gravity through a porous material. It works because the friction of the moisture against the wall surface (adhesion to the wall) actually exceeds the cohesive forces between the water molecules. Although not as serious as bulk water movement, capillary forces are both destructive and secretive, since they often work and accumulate in commonly unobserved areas. They can potentially cause significant damage over a period of time without a homeowner’s knowledge.

3. Air Transported Moisture and Diffused Air Flow

Air-transported moisture (water vapor hitchhiking on air) can leak into, or out of buildings. Both uncontrolled pressure sources (wind) and controlled sources (fans and air handlers) can move significant amounts of moist air past a home’s exterior through openings and improperly flashed transitions. A similar process known as “diffused air flow” forces small amounts of moisture in the form of water vapor to pass directly through a building’s envelope. The amount of diffused air flow (vapor) that occurs in a home is determined by two things: the driving force that pushes it and the permeability of the building material the vapor is passing through.

I think my home has a moisture issue, what’s next?2020-02-16T12:10:07-06:00

Eliminating moisture intrusion sources as early as possible is critically important in caring for your property. Examine your house regularly to look for any new staining or moisture. Sometimes, your nose can be a good guide. If you smell a musty odor, follow your nose and see if you can find a probable cause.

If you know moisture is coming in, but can’t find it, it’s time to bring in the professionals.  The longer you wait to solve a moisture intrusion source, the more expensive the fix becomes.

To assist our clients, Branch Property Investigations provides specific moisture intrusion testing, inspection and consulting services for property buyers and owners to verify that building envelope systems have been installed correctly. We have nearly 25 years experience solving moisture issues. For more information, contact us at (612) 440-8466 or schedule a “Moisture Intrusion” investigation online.

I’m worried that moisture is leading to mold growth, what should I do?2020-02-16T12:18:06-06:00

Branch Property Investigations performs mold testing in residential homes and commercial buildings. So what makes our company unique? We apply 20+ years experience as a mold remediator and water loss specialist to identify likely locations for mold growth. If desired, we can perform a detailed moisture investigation of the entire home as an added service to mold testing. It is important to not only find the mold problem but also understand why it is growing and to eliminate the moisture source so it won’t reoccur. We don’t perform remediation work so we don’t have any conflicts of interest.

To learn more, visit our Mold Testing page to learn more about our different service offerings and frequently asked questions pertaining to mold.

What is a Radon Test Notification Form?2020-01-31T09:26:37-06:00

Radon testing is highly regulated in the state of Minnesota. According to MN Statute 144.4961, a license is required for anyone who performs a radon test in a home they do not own or lease.

The Radon Test Notification Form is a document provided by the professional radon tester, per the state’s requirement. This document gives written notice of required test conditions to the party responsible for the property. It also contains a requirement to request a signature on a noninterference agreement.

Please click this link to access a copy of Branch Property Investigation’s Radon Test Notification Form.