Radon-Resistant New Construction (RRNC)
Builders: Basic Techniques
All of the techniques and materials described below are commonly used in home construction. No special skills or materials are required when adding radon-resistant features as a new home is being built.
While the techniques may vary for different house foundations and building site requirements, the five basic features that builders should include to prevent radon from entering a home are:
1: Gravel: Use a 4-inch layer of clean, coarse gravel below the “slab,” also called the foundation. This layer of gravel allows the soil gases, which includes radon, that occur naturally in the soil to move freely underneath the house. Builders call this the “air flow layer” or “gas permeable layer” because the loose gravel allows the gases to circulate. NOTE: In some regions of the country, gravel may be too expensive or unnecessary. Alternatives are allowed, such as a perforated pipe or a collection mat.
2: Plastic Sheeting or Vapor Retarder: Place heavy duty plastic sheeting (6 mil. polyethylene) or a vapor retarder on top of the gravel to prevent the soil gases from entering the house. The sheeting also keeps the concrete from clogging the gravel layer when the slab is poured.
3: A Vent Pipe: Run a 3-inch or 4-inch solid PVC Schedule 40 pipe, like the ones commonly used for plumbing, vertically from the gravel layer (stubbed up when the slab is poured) through the house’s conditioned space and roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases outside above the house. (Although serving a different purpose, this vent pipe is similar to the drain waste vent, DWV, installed by the plumber.) This pipe should be labeled "Radon System." Your plumber or a certified radon professional can do this.
4: Sealing and Caulking: Seal all openings, cracks, and crevices in the concrete foundation floor (including the slab perimeter crack) and walls with polyurethane caulk to prevent radon and other soil gases from entering the home.
5: Junction Box: Install an electrical junction box (outlet) in the attic for use with a vent fan, should, after testing for radon, a more robust system be needed.
The cost to a builder of including radon-resistant features in a new home during construction can vary widely. Many builders routinely include these features in some of their homes. The cost to the builder of including these features is typically less than the cost to mitigate the home after construction. New home buyers may ask the builder about these features, and if not provided, may ask the builder to include them in the new home. If a home is tested after buyers move in and an elevated level of radon is discovered, the owners’ cost of fixing the problem can be much more. Constructing with RRNC in new homes can add value by protecting health and reducing costs for your customers.