Learn From Our Mistake: Test For Radon When Buying A House!

Thank goodness we learned something from buying our first house and decided to pay a few hundred dollars for radon testing this time around. As part of our new home’s inspection, we paid a local radon company to conduct a multi-day test to ensure that dangerous levels of radon aren’t present (for any locals who are wondering who we used, we went with Radon Ease, because they don’t remediate, they only test- so there’s nothing in it for them to find radon).

Sure enough the readings came back above a 4… which means there were dangerous levels of radon present in the home – enough to call for professional remediation as the solution. But instead of that 2K investment falling on our shoulders, since we tested during inspection the sellers kindly agreed to fully remediate for us – and even did a follow up test to determine that the radon issue had been completely resolved. Talk about a money saver!

But let’s rewind to the good ol’ days when we learned our radon lesson the hard way. We opted not to pay the few hundred beans to have our first house tested during inspection, and just used a $15 test from Home Depot once we moved in. Horror of all horrors, our house was teeming with highly unsafe amounts of lung-cancer-causing radon (akin to smoking around five packs of cigarettes a day!) – which left us scrambling to pay thousands of dollars to remediate things without the help of the sellers (since we skipped that test option at inspection). It involved installing a semi-elaborate system in our crawl space that vents up through the house and out the roof to suck in and direct all of the naturally occurring radon from under our house through the pipe instead of letting it hang out in the inside air that we breathe. Tres annoying. But effective. Here’s more info on that debacle (and on radon testing and remediation in general).

Long story short, we considered it to be a (somewhat expensive) learning experience and we’re so glad we officially tested things this time around during our inspection period! The great new is that results came back suuuper low after mitigation (around .5, which is amazing – even lower than outside air). So to anyone living in Virginia (which is especially known for dangerous radon levels) or anywhere else with radon issues, we definitely recommend testing your house. Click here to see if your county lies in one of the red “danger zones” from the EPA’s map, pictured above. Even if it’s well past inspection or moving day, you can buy charcoal test kits at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot and it can save you (and your babies, pets, and family members) from inhaling the equivalent of a carton of cigarettes a day. Le gross.

Have any of you dealt with the house bummer that is radon? Let’s commiserate.

Map image courtesy of the EPA.

Psst- We went nursery crashing again over on BabyCenter. Click here to see that charming baby bedroom.


  1. Caitlyn says

    I made a point of pushing for the radon test when we bought two years ago in Hampton, VA because of the issues you had. Our real estate agent didn’t even know what radon was, so I am glad I heard about it from YHL! Luckily we didn’t have that issue, but better safe then sorry.

  2. Dawn S. says

    Congrats on catching that early instead of paying for your 2nd mitigation system in so few years!

    We close on our first house tomorrow and didn’t pay for a radon inspection only because we knew the foreclosed house meant the seller (bank) wouldn’t pay for mitigation anyway. So we’re saving money on the inspector to do the home-kit test just in case we do have to shell out some beans for the mitigation afterward!

  3. Amy says

    Our level came back around 3.5. I was REALLY worried at first, and spoke to the local radon officials for my county (I’d recommend that to anyone, they were so helpful). We haven’t done anything yet, and since the level was below 4, we couldn’t get the seller to do anything. So I expect that we’ll have to put in a remediation system for $2500 or so. But first, I’ll try sealing the cracks in the basement. Our Realtor said it was because the house had been closed up for so long, which may be true, but it was also summer. Levels tend to be higher in winter. Thanks for the reminder! I need to get on this pronto. After my initial freak out, my concerns fizzled. I live in western MA, and it is really common here too.

  4. says

    A house we almost bought (but didn’t due to many reasons) tested at 10.2!! I felt bad for the poor elderly woman who had lived there her whole life and had many health problems, several possibly related to the mold and radon we uncovered at inspection time. Agreed! So important to test and know!

  5. Liz says

    I’m so glad your sellers helped with the cost. When we bought our house 2.5 years ago and had it tested, it was way high. Our sellers told us they thought the whole Radon thing was a HOAX! Umm. yeah, not so much. We ended up footing the whole bill ourselves.

    Jokes on them though, they bought the house right across the street from us and our whole neighborhood has a problem.

  6. Ginny says

    I live in Texas, which historically isn’t a high radon area, but again, better safe than sorry. There is a state program right now to provide FREE radon kits for Texas residents (there are also some other states listed too).
    Go to http://www.drhomeair.com/ and select your state under “State Programs” and fill in your address!

  7. says

    We paid for the radon testing during our inspection process. It came up high, too, and we had to seriously finagle with the seller to get them to put in a radon system before we moved in. She wasn’t keen on paying the whole cost, and it ended up that the buying and selling agent each forked up part of the cost in their commissions. Super nice, I’d say, because radon would have been a complete dealbreaker for me. Now we’re down around 0.7 (the original testing company – who also didn’t do remedial – came to test again after the work was done).

    Definitely worth having checked during the inspection process! A few hundred dollars is way better than that big surprise down the road. Unlike your old house we actually had it piped ground level out the front of the house (the bedrooms are in the back of the house). Saved a bit of money on routing through the ceiling, and still just as safe.

  8. Shannon says

    I did not have this done when I bought my house 5 years ago, but the new owners had the testing done this Fall and it was just under 4. I was so glad I didn’t have to pay to remediate it (I wouldn’t have had the money to do so), but I definitely would have fixed it if I was intending to stay there longer. I had never even heard of radon testing before the buyers asked for it.

  9. says

    I am always learning something new from your blog. I would have never known to look for this.

    Also, since I missed the first airing of you guys on Nate Berkus I am DVRing it to watch later since I’m at work thanks to Comcast having an app on iPhone that lets me control my DVR and change channels from afar so I can trick my bf. :)

  10. Alex says

    The things you wish you knew before you bought… get it all checked out

    We had two problems, the first one was not so big. We LOVED the big tree in our front yard and figured it looked pathetic because it was winter. Spring came, and almost no leaves popped up. We had a tree-expert (wonder what you actually call them?) come out who told us that our tree was dieing and could not be saved. Cost of tree removal and stump grinding: $800

    Bigger mistake: When buying our home we were concerned about little cracks in the drywall, however our inspector confidently told us it was the settling of our old home. We let things slide, but two years later my worries got worse and I had an inspection done on the house: its sinking. Cost of repairs: $5,000

    Our next home we will pay the fees to have it all checked out, but whats hurts the most is that I never knew a foundation inspection was free! At least we were smart enough to get our roof checked out…

  11. Melanie says

    Totally not gonna lie, I didn’t even know you were supposed to test for this! I checked the website you linked to and got to TN’s website but their free Radon testing kits are all spoken for so I’ll head out to Home Depot. I’m curious to see how bad it is, it shows our county as Zone 1. Thanks for posting this!

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