Radon watch part two

Some day is TODAY

By Paul Scissons

At first I kept putting it off.

Like most homeowners in Ontario, I was becoming more and more aware of radon, an invisible, odourless, naturally occurring gas found in soil that can seep into your home and put you at risk for cancer. I knew some day I’d have to look into it.

I had found a radon tester and tested three locations in our home. The results were above the recommended level, but I wasn’t sure what to do. A year went by.

And then I read some disturbing stories about radon – in this very magazine, in fact — Fall 2022: “An Invisible Killer”, about a young woman’s terrible experience with radon and how it impacted her whole family; and “What do we need to know about radon?” with radon expert Rob Mahoney from Radon Works).

I turned to Rob Mahoney, who advised me to do some caulking to see if I could reduce the radon that was seeping in. A short-term retest afterwards showed it didn’t, at least not enough.

That was last spring. I knew I couldn’t put it off anymore, so through the summer I took Rob’s advice again. He directed me to Radon Canada online to register and purchase a long-term test kit. It was a simple process. The test kit arrived in the mail a week later; the instructions were simple to follow; the cost was around $50; and in 15 minutes I was set up to do a long-term radon test over a period of three months.

When the long-term test was complete, I packed up the unit and sent it to the Radon Canada certified lab. Soon afterwards I received notification that it had been received and the results would be available within 30 days.

Good, I thought. Nothing to do now but wait for a month.

But a month came and went. Nothing. I checked the website. It said, “Due to a shortage of labour, your results are pending, but rest assured we are working on it.”


After awhile I checked again. Still nothing.

Finally, after a few more weeks, I called and left a voice message. I also sent an email. But that didn’t seem to work, either.

Meanwhile, I called Rob at Radon Works to tell him I was hoping for my results shortly and that they would probably be above the acceptable level. He said he would assess the installation of the test unit for me and provide a written quote. I would submit his quote with the test results to Tarion. Tarion is the new home warranty program that protects new-home buyers by making sure they receive their statutory warranty coverage. My home was nearing the six-year mark of my seven-year warranty.

My test results were finally posted by Radon Canada, and they showed 525 Becguerels per cubic metre (Bqm) average over the 90 days – yikes!  Health Canada says that people exposed to radon levels in excess of 200 Bqm over long periods of time have a higher risk of developing cancer.

Rob sent me his formal quote and I went to the Tarion website. It took a few hours to sort out passwords and validate some information, but that was mainly because I hadn’t been on my account for a few years.

Tarion was helpful in assisting me to make my claim, upload my test results and quote. I also called my builder to let them know what was happening. They responded quickly because they are immediately informed by Tarion of any claims.

As part of Tarion, new-home owners are entitled to a certified remediation installer. My builder was planning on using his own people, but they weren’t certified. I insisted that they had to be, and that the job must only be done by a CARST (Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists)-qualified company. I specifically asked for Radon Works (because, for one thing, they have installed more than 4700 remediation systems), and introduced the builder to Radon Works.

Rob Mahoney arrived on a Tuesday at the end of August. He made a few trips from the van to the basement and took some measurements; we discussed where things were to be located in the mechanical room, and he was off to work.

Rob drilled a 1-inch hole through the floor where the 4-inch pipe would be installed. Then in a location about 30 feet from the first hole, he drilled a small 3/8-inch hole. Using an electronic digital manometer, he performed a test to determine the base measurement, then went back to the first hole, where he attached a vacuum hose, flipped on the vacuum and returned to measure the flow of air from the second test hole. The measurement was -31.4 Pascals which meant the aggregate under the slab was correct and porous enough to allow for an excellent draw of air to depressurize properly.

He inspected my caulking job and confirmed I had done a good job. He said it was a good situation and the system would easily take care of my radon problem. Great news!

From that point on, Rob went to work. He drilled a 4-inch hole through the slab (which was full thickness and slightly over code) and removed about 1.5 gallons of aggregate to form a void for the 4-inch pipe. He notched the bottom of the pipe to ensure good air draw and to prevent any moisture pick up.

Once the pipe was through the floor, he cut a hole through the wall at a predetermined location and assembled the fan and pipe to make the connections. He glued everything, wired a plug, and turned the system on. Using his electronic digital manometer again, he tested the draw of air in the test hole. The measurement was -52.9 Pascals – more than enough. Success!

Next he installed a manometer so I could be sure the system was operating, then completed the inspection and labelling.

He showed me the outside pipe location (complete with squirrel guard), which he had thoughtfully placed away from the sitting area of our deck so we didn’t have to listen to a fan.

And that was that. He packed up his tools, we shook hands, and he rode off into the sunset.

The adventure is over. It has been interesting and educational, and I’m glad to know that my home is safe and sound for my family.

A huge “thank you” to Rob Mahoney of Radon Works for his support, patience and professionalism in working with me through this project. Thank you to my builder, too, for stepping up and honouring the Tarion warranty claim. And to my long-suffering wife, Cecilia, for putting up with a mad professor for the last year.

Note: I’m planning on doing a Radon test in the middle of the winter to check how efficiently the system works.

Official label showing a certified installation.
A low-volume "Energy Star" fan uses only 28 watts and 120 volts. It plugs into any outlet. No electrician is required.
The core from drilling through slab was more than four inches thick.
Rob Mahoney removed 1.5 gallons of aggregate for proper air flow.

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