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How To Select A Contractor

  • Get Estimates

Choose a contractor to fix a radon problem just as you would choose someone to do other home repairs. It is wise to get more than one estimate, to ask for references, and to contact some of those references to ask if they are satisfied with the contractors work. Also, ask your State radon office or your county/State consumer protection office for information about the contractors. Use this check-list when evaluating and comparing contractors and ask the following questions:

  • Will the contractor provide references or photographs, as well as test results of 'before and 'after radon levels of past radon reduction work?

  • Can the contractor explain what the work will involve, how long it will take to complete, and exactly how the radon reduction system will work?

  • Does the contractor charge a fee for any diagnostic tests? Although many contractors give free estimates, they may charge for diagnostic tests.  These tests help determine what type of radon reduction system should be used and in some cases are necessary, especially if the contractor is unfamiliar with the type of house structure or the anticipated degree of difficulty.  See section "Radon Reduction Techniques" for more on diagnostic tests.

  • Did the contractor inspect your home's structure before giving you an estimate?

  • Did the contractor review the quality of your radon measurement results and determine if appropriate testing procedures were followed?

Compare the contractors proposed costs and consider what you will get for your money, taking into account: (1) a less expensive system may cost more to operate and maintain; (2) a less expensive system may have less aesthetic appeal; (3) a more expensive system may be best for your house; and, (4) the quality of the building material will affect how long the system lasts.

Do the contractors proposals and estimates include:

  • Proof of State certification and/or professional proficiency or certification credentials?

  • Proof of liability insurance and being bonded, and having all necessary licenses to satisfy local requirements?

  • Diagnostic testing prior to design and installation of a radon reduction system?

  • Installation of a warning device to caution you if the radon reduction system is not working correctly?

  • Testing after installation to make sure the radon reduction system works well?

  • A guarantee to reduce radon levels to 4 pCi/L or below, and if so, for how long?

 

  • The Contract

Ask the contractor to prepare a contract before any work starts. Carefully read the contract before you sign it. Make sure everything in the contract matches the original proposal. The contract should describe exactly what work will be done prior to and during the installation of the system, what the system consists of, and how the system will operate.  Many contractors provide a guarantee that they will adjust or modify the system to reach a negotiated radon level. Carefully read the conditions of the contract describing the guarantee. Carefully consider optional additions to your contract which may add to the initial cost of the system, but may be worth the extra expense. Typical options might include an extended warranty, a service plan, and/or improved aesthetics.

Important information that should appear in the contract includes:

  • The total cost of the job, including all taxes and permit fees; how much, if any, is required for a deposit; and when payment is due in full.

  • The time needed to complete the work.

  • An agreement by the contractor to obtain necessary permits and follow required building codes.

  • A statement that the contractor carries liability insurance and is bonded and insured to protect you in case of injury to persons, or damage to property, while the work is done.

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Figure 176: Carefully read ALL contracts before you sign them!

  • A guarantee that the contractor will be responsible for damage and clean-up after the job.

  • Details of any guarantee to reduce radon below a negotiated level.

  • Details of warranties or other optional features associated with the hardware components of the mitigation system.

  • A declaration stating whether any warranties or guarantees are transferable if you sell your home.

  • A description of what the contractor expects the homeowner to do (e.g., make the work area accessible) before work begins.

  • What to Look for in a Radon Reduction System

In selecting a radon reduction method for your home, you and your contractor should consider several things, including: how high your initial radon level is, the costs of installation and system operation, your house size and your foundation type.

  • Installation and Operating Costs - The cost of a contractor fixing a home generally ranges from $800 to $2,500, depending on the characteristics of the house and choice of radon reduction methods.  The average cost of a radon reduction system is about $1,200.

  • Most types of radon reduction systems cause some loss of heated or air conditioned air, which could increase your utility bills. How much your utility bills will increase will depend on the climate you live in, what kind of reduction system you select, and how your house is built. Systems that use fans are more effective in reducing radon levels; however, they will slightly increase your electric bill. The EPA Installation and Operating Cost Table Figure 182 on lists the installation and average operating costs for different radon reduction systems and describes the best use of each method.

what to look for in a radon reduction system

Figure 177: Consider all factors when selecting a radon reduction method for your home.

  • Radon Reduction Techniques

There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the house and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the house where it is quickly diluted.

Any information that you may have about the construction of your house could help your contractor choose the best system. Your contractor will perform a visual inspection of your house and design a system that considers specific features of your house. If this inspection fails to provide enough information, the contractor will need to perform diagnostic tests during the initial phase of the installation to help develop the best radon reduction system for your home. For instance, your contractor can use chemical smoke to find the source and direction of air movement. A contractor can learn air flow sources and directions by watching a small amount of smoke that he or she shot into holes, drains, sumps, or along cracks. The sources of air flow show possible radon routes.  A contractor may have concerns about back drafting of combustion appliances when considering radon mitigation options, and may recommend that the homeowner have the appliance(s) checked by a qualified inspector.

Another type of diagnostic test is a "soil communication test." This test uses a vacuum cleaner and chemical smoke to determine how easily air can move from one point to another under the foundation. By inserting a vacuum cleaner hose in one small hole and using chemical smoke in a second small hole, a contractor can see if the smoke is pulled down into the second hole by the force of the vacuum cleaner's suction. Watching the smoke during a soil communication test helps a contractor decide if certain radon reduction systems would work well in your house.

Whether diagnostic tests are needed is decided by details specific to your house, such as the foundation design, what kind of material is under your house, and by the contractor's experience with similar houses and similar radon test results.

radon reduction techniques

Figure 178: There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home.

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