If you live in Guelph, I’m sure you’ve heard about Radon Gas by now. But what the heck is it and what can we do about it?
Radon is a odourless, tasteless and colourless radioactive gas that forms naturally when uranium in rock, soil and water breaks down. Radon can seep into our homes through cracks and holes in the floors and/or foundations which in turn can affect our health. Radon is an issue in many parts of Ontario and Canada. Sounds scary, right? Since radon gas is a natural occurring gas that exists everywhere, there is nothing you can do to avoid it. But thankfully, the Ontario Building Code and City of Guelph are taking steps to help prevent long term damage for people who live in homes with high radon levels (especially with new construction).
How can radon gas affect us? Radon is linked to roughly 16% of lung cancer deaths in Canada. The national guideline in Canada is 200 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). When radon levels come in higher then this in your home, remediation work should be considered. In The City of Guelph, 18% of the 131 randomly tested buildings exceeded Canada’s recommended guidelines, according to the residential surveys completed by Health Canada. So in turn – especially if you or your family are spending a lot of time in the basement of your home – radon gas can put you at a higher risk of long term illness.
It is important to remember that radon gas occurs naturally and is an issue in many parts of Ontario and Canada for that matter. But don’t worry – Guelph is awesome place to live because the City of Guelph has put a Radon Gas Mitigation Program in place and heres how it works…
For New Builds
This program requires in all new buildings that radon gas mitigation measures are implemented, with permits applied for after August 31st, 2015 (all in compliance with the Ontario Building Code as well). Guelph requires builders to implement one of the following 3 options in a new low-rise residential dwelling:
Option 1: Rough-in soil gas pipe and require purchaser to have mandatory radon gas testing
Option 2: Soil Gas barrier on the foundation walls, under the basement floor slab and voluntary radon gas testing.
Option 3: Soil gas barrier on the foundation walls, active sub-slab depressurization system, and voluntary radon gas testing.
Unfortunately, most builders building in Guelph are going with option 1. But the bonus of this, is all new home owners in option 1 are required to have a mandatory Radon Gas test. If your house requires a mandatory test and the test comes back above 200 Bq/m3, then the builder will be responsible for remediation work. Generally, this will include finishing the radon pipe in your basement up through the house and venting it through the exterior with a fan. Every home and situation is different, so remediation work may vary. If the results come back below 200 Bq/m3 then you are able to carry on with your day to day living or you could pay to finish the venting at your own cost.
If your builder chose Option 1, the builders representative should point out the radon gas pipe on your PDI (pre-delivery inspection). It will be a white pipe sticking out of the foundation that should be labeled “soil gas pipe” (or something similar), so it is never confused with a bathroom waste pipe. If your representative does not point out or explain how the testing works before the PDI is over, make sure you and/or your real estate agent ask.
In option 2 & 3 where voluntary testing results come back over 200 Bq/m3, the owner should contact their builder and Tarion Home Warranty to figure out the next best steps for their home. Again, if the results come back below 200 Bq/m3 then you are able to carry on with your day to day living.
After you move into your home, you will get a letter in the mail (generally) around the beginning of winter from the City of Guelph. This letter will remind you if you require mandatory or voluntary radon gas testing. The letter will give you contact information for the testing company that the City of Guelph is working with to set up a time for the company to come in and start the testing. The test company will send a representative to put a small devise (almost looks like an old film container for photos) in your basement. Upon completion of the test (generally 3 months) you will have to send the test devise back to the company by pre-paid postage or by dropping it off in person. You should then receive your test results approximately 2 weeks from when it was sent back, but there is no guarantee.
When building a home you can also request the builder to do a different option if you would prefer. The builder probably needs to know before permits are applied for as it will be done around the time the foundation is poured.
Pre Existing Residential (Permits for your home were applied for before August 31st/15)
All this is great if you’re buying a new home.. But what if you live in an existing low rise dwelling? Is there ways to protect yourself?
Yes! Regardless of the age or location of your home you can test your home for Radon Gas. I would recommend calling the city for a reliable company that they are using for testing. Again – if the tests level exceeds 200 Bq/m3 on the lowest occupied floor then remedial measures should be taken. Generally, the remedial measures will include breaking the concrete and adding a pipe that vents radon gas out of the house. Price and style differs for every home.
If you have questions or concerns of radon gas, I found all of my information from: