Investing Basics

Have You Tested Your Rental for Radon?

Have You Tested Your Rental for Radon?
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Radon is a naturally occurring, odourless, invisible gas posing significant health risks. Radon forms when uranium—a ubiquitous natural element found in soil, rocks and sediment—begins to decay. As the uranium decays, some of its toxic radioactivity becomes radon gas.

Table of Contents - Have You Tested Your Rental for Radon?

Radon occurs in all types of buildings, whether they were constructed 100 years ago or finished yesterday.

It enters the home through a type of suction action, occurring because the temperature inside is different from the temperature in the ground below the home’s foundation. This causes the air in the home to suck up air from the ground below, locked away underneath the home’s foundation. Drafty homes and homes with tight, energy-efficient envelopes can all trap elevated radon levels.

Radon is a problem in both rural and urban areas. Health Canada estimates as many as one in 14 Canadian homes has elevated levels of radon gas.

As a real estate investor, it’s your responsibility to provide your tenants with a safe, healthy living environment. Radon poses a significant, invisible health risk to your residents. Investing in radon testing and, if necessary, remediation can help you ensure you’re exercising due diligence in caring for your tenants.

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Why is radon such a big problem?

Exposure to radon gas over time leads to the development of lung and other types of cancers. After tobacco, radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer deaths in Canada.

Lung cancer caused by radon is preventable, but only if the exposure is caught early enough. Because the gas is odourless and colourless, most people don’t know they’ve been exposed to radon until after they begin to develop symptoms.

Testing for radon gas is the best way to prevent radon-related lung cancer. Home radon testing kits are often affordable and easy to use. Additionally, Health Canada offers a nationwide map demonstrating areas with elevated risks of radon gas development.

Testing for radon

Health Canada says as many as 16 percent of lung cancer diagnoses stem from radon exposure, resulting in 3,200 deaths each year.

Testing homes and commercial buildings for radon regularly is the best way to stem the tide of radon-related deaths. Most people experiencing exposure don’t even know their living space is contaminated until they begin suffering from symptoms.

Lung cancer isn’t the only health risk associated with radon. Sometimes, groundwater can absorb radon. If your drinking water contains this radioactive gas, it can lead to a wide range of chronic and fatal health problems.

Thankfully, testing for radon is easy and cost-effective. Here are the steps associated with conducting a radon test at your rental property:

Purchase a home test kit

Home test kits are cheap and effective. Plan to buy a test kit that measures radon levels over an extended period, like three months, because radon levels often change from season to season. Make sure you buy a test kit approved by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP).

Call a professional for confirmation

If the readings on your radon test kit appear to be higher than Health Canada’s recommendation, reach out to a professional radon inspector for confirmation. They’ll take a look at your radon test kit and may perform additional readings. If they confirm the results of the test kit, they’ll provide you with radon remediation recommendations.

Test every few years

Plan to conduct radon tests every few years. Levels can change dramatically over time, especially in areas with changing topography and climates. As a rule of thumb, you should plan to conduct a radon test every three years. If you’ve never tested a building for unsafe levels of radon gas, it’s advisable to plan more frequent testing.

Radon remediation strategies

Radon enters the home through cracks in the walls, pipes and floors of your building. Often, remediation begins with addressing these cracks and crevices.

The average radon remediation system is cost-effective, though the final cost will ultimately depend on the extent of work needed to make the building radon-free.


Most radon mitigation strategies rely on a technique called active soil depressurization. This strategy sucks the radon out of the soil beneath your home before it has the opportunity to rise into your living space. Using active soil depressurization, the radon is collected in a basin and vented up through your home’s roof.


Improving ventilation at your rental property is another important step you can take to reduce your tenant’s exposure to radon gas. Keep the windows of the home open at base level whenever weather permits. Also, consider installing a whole-house fan to suck air inside from the outdoors and vent it out through the attic.

Consult with the experts

If you’re looking for a radon remediation strategy, it’s usually wise to consult with several different contractors in your area. They may offer slightly different approaches to radon remediation that are equally effective. It’s always best to have multiple options when you’re looking for ways to remove something as dangerous as radon gas from your investment property.

While dealing with radon may seem like a rather frightening aspect of real estate investing, it’s easy and costs a minimal amount. The best way to ensure you’re meeting your responsibilities as a property owner is to test regularly for radon gas at your investment properties and remediate when necessary.

Radon is a surmountable issue

It’s almost always possible for savvy real estate investors to remediate a home with high radon levels for an affordable price. Don’t let the prospect of potential radon contamination scare you away from a prospective investment property. It’s advisable to ask about prior radon test results before closing a building’s sale.

If you’re unsure about where to start with radon testing and remediation, reach out to members of your local real estate investing community, or even a representative of your local health department. They’ll be able to help you find resources like cost-effective radon test kits, and can also recommend remediation contractors, when necessary. A radon issue is serious but solvable.

Mike Holmes on Radon

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