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Why Worry About Radon in An Empty Crawl Space

Thursday, April 21st by Tim Snyder

"Nobody goes into the crawl space, and the crawl space isn't connected to the house, so what's the big deal if it has radon?"

A crawl space is empty and unused, so where's the radon risk in that? It's certainly true that the average crawl space isn't visited very often. Who wants to spend time in a cramped, dark, dirt-floored foundation? I'd only do it if I were paid, like the plumber who comes to service the water heater once or twice a year. Can radon gas really accumulate in the crawl space? It sure can! Let's learn about crawl spaces and how they affect our home environment.

Crawl Space or Foundation?

A crawl space foundation is popular in many parts of the country because it's far easier and less expensive for builders to construct, in comparison to the excavation necessary for a basement. While materials and labor costs are also minimal, there aren't any structural disadvantages! Some crawl spaces are left with dirt floors, while others have floors of poured concrete. And, the shorter crawl space walls can provide the same structural support as full-height basement walls. Sure, a basement and crawl space differ, but a crawl space isn't a downgrade.

However, the main problem with many crawl space foundations is their "of sight, out of mind" character. But here's the truth: like it or not, what goes on in the crawl space can have an effect on the living space above and on the people who dwell there.

How A Crawl Space Affects Your Home

A stairway may not connect the crawl space to the main living space of the house, but the crawl space is connected by unintentional gaps, cracks and openings that exist in the first floor.

There are many intentional connections made, such as plumbing lines, electrical and cable wires, and ductwork that run in the crawl space all enter the above living space through holes made in the floor.

Combine these two types of openings and you've got plenty of potential for air movement between the crawl space and the living space. That's why health hazards in the crawl space, most especially mold and radon, present a serious threat to homeowners.

Inspect Your Crawl Space for Radon

Regardless of how well you've separated your crawl space and home, it's critical to have this sublevel inspected for mold and moisture damage. It's also critical to have the crawl space and the first floor tested for radon.

This cancer-causing gas can easily make its way into the above living areas and pose a serious health hazard. Because radon can't be recognized using any human senses, the only way to determine a home's radon concentration level is through testing.

Radon Testing

You can buy radon test kits online, or have a licensed radon mitigation contractor perform a radon test on your home. If the results indicate that you and your family are being exposed to hazardous levels of radon, don't worry. There are proven, well-established ways to reduce high radon concentrations down to more acceptable levels. What's not acceptable is assuming that your crawl space isn't connected to the rest of your house, thus leaving room for neglect.

Maintain your crawl space, test your home for radon, and enjoy a safe and healthy home environment.