Radon and Your Home’s Safety

Radon is known for being invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Why do you need to be aware of it?

Radon is known for being invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Why do you need to be aware of it?

What is it?

Radon is naturally occurring and found in differing levels across Canada and the United States. It occurs as part of the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock, and it’s more common in certain parts of North America.

In both countries, radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after smoking, which is why it’s important to be aware of its presence where you live.

In the US, its the continental states where the highest concentrations occur, particularly across northern states, including many in the Midwest and some parts of the Pacific Northwest. Pockets occur elsewhere in the US, including California, Nevada, Colorado and Kansas.

In Canada, the highest concentrations are seen in Yukon, the northern and southern interior of British Columbia, around Calgary, across most of Saskatchewan, parts of Manitoba and Ontario (including high levels in our own home area of Eastern Ontario), and the Nunavik region of Quebec, as well as parts of the Maritimes.

We have provided links to interactive radon maps for both countries so that you can quickly check your own locale:

Testing for radon

If you’re concerned that higher radon levels may be an issue in your home, order a test kit.

If you’re planning a new home, you can plan to undertake testing, but also rest assured that radon barriers are frequently required as part of the building permit process in many places across Canada and the US now.

EkoBuilt takes protection from radon exposure very seriously, and we follow strict protocols in our own builds and in the guidelines we provide to local builders implementing one of our passive house kits.

A colour coded map showing the percentage of homes with high radon levels by province and territory in Canada
This map can be seen in its full interactive mode on the Government of Canada’s Radon webpage.
The EPA's interactive map for radon occurrence across US states. Click to visit the interactive map.
This interactive map of radon occurrence across US states can be seen on the EPA’s website. The map also includes information for outlying states and territories.

Important to bear in mind:

“It doesn’t matter where you’re located or what the levels are in your neighbours’ homes. It doesn’t matter whether your home is old or new, small or large. While it’s true that some communities have higher than average radon levels, each house is different and high radon levels can be found anywhere.” Government of Canada

Radon symptoms

“Possible symptoms [of radon exposure] include shortness of breath (difficulty breathing), a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.” American Cancer Society

Retrofit applications

If you have an older home and find higher radon levels, it is possible to retrofit radon mitigation systems, so be sure to take action.

EkoBuilt’s radon protection

As part of our service in supporting local builders implementing an EkoBuilt passive house kit, we provide a detailed builder’s guide. This guide includes visual and textual guidance on many of your home’s elements, including radon barriers and mitigation systems.

As radon tends to accumulate at ground level, our radon mitigation approach includes a 6mm poly vapor barrier under the slab when implementing a slab on grade foundation.

For a full basement, we tend to use ICF (insulated concrete forms), and in that instance the implementation is similar, with the poly being taped directly to the styrofoam layer using blue tuck tape. Again, detailed instructions with sequencing and visual guidance are provided for builder and homeowner confidence.

Radon vent system

For homes in areas known for high levels of radon, where an actual mitigation system is warranted or preferred, we install a pipe with t-fittings at either end to collect radon gas at soil level. The piping then directs any accumulating radon to the utility room and is then directed upwards, out of a vent pipe in the roof system.

A simple graphic for radon mitigation.
A graphic taken from EkoBuilt’s builder handbook addressing radon mitigation techniques.

Learn more about the support offered to local builders by EkoBuilt.

Passive house resources for homeowners

Radon is just one of a plethora of possible concerns to consider when planning your new custom home.

Don’t get bogged down in the details — help is at hand!

We hear again and again how valuable our webinar for homeowners is in answering questions, clarifying details, improving plans, and saving money along the way.

The next webinar is August 15th! If you can make time for it, you’ll be so glad you did. Details here.

Poster for EkoBuilt's passive house webinar series for home owners - click to learn more

Ready to discuss your new passive home? Give us a shout!

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