All posts by Christopher Bice

Permits, Penalties and Real Estate

As a Radon Professional and Consultant I’m often asked about permits and whether or not they are really necessary. All too often we hear “The other bids I’ve obtained didn’t mention anything about a permit??” Our reply is simple….it’s because they weren’t planning on pulling one and are assuming you, the client, won’t know any better !! Ridiculous and Insulting !!

Permits not only protect you as the consumer for the job at hand, it has an incredible legal extension and implications. Did you know that before a permit can be pulled by a homeowner or contractor, the Village has required beforehand an active file containing the contractors General Liability Insurance, Workers Comp Insurance and active licenses for the task at hand. They’ve basically done some homework for you!! It also beats the alternative which would be to get caught and the incredible fines that come along with that snafu.

The legal ramifications are significant. Did you know that permits for work do not have a statute of limitation in and Illinois Real Estate Transaction??? That’s right!! Let’s explore and example:  Something awful happens years later and a home has an electrical fire. The insurance company does their due diligence and learns that it was faulty wiring in your finished basement. As the investigation continues, they learn that work was done without the appropriate permits being pulled. ***It does not matter, who owns the home at the time, or how many years lapsed. The owner at the time the work is performed is held responsible!!!*** Now, can you imagine if your radon system was faulty and a future homeowner got sick??? You see where I’m going here?

What’s the best way to find out? Call your local Building and Zoning Department and simply ask. Some communities require permits for Radon Mitigation, others simply do not. Be sure your contractor is in full compliance with your community. Do your homework. And of course, ask questions!

Guardian Radon Mitigation & Electrical Services, LLC is a full time, licensed Radon Mitigation Company that is also bonded and insured. Give us a call with your radon questions!  630.768.9836, our office is open!

How to select the “right” Radon Mitigation Professional

Whether you are a homeowner or a real estate professional ~ there are some guidelines to use when selecting the right Radon Professional for the job!

How should you select a contractor?

As with any home improvement project there are some “must haves” when evaluating your professional.

1.) Did the contractor inspect your home prior to providing an estimate?

We receive calls daily from perspective homeowners and real estate professionals as well as attorneys asking “Can you give me an estimate on the phone or do you have to come out?” Yes, they should “come out.” The purpose of an onsite estimate is to properly evaluate the home in the state it is in ~ to avoid surprises, and that goes for the client and the installer. Perhaps the home has a finished basement along with a gravel crawl space. What does that mean to you when having the work performed? How will that contractor reduce radon levels in both areas?

2.) Will the contractor provide photographs of work and/or references?

Easy enough to ask for and you should!!

3.) Did the contractor explain to you what work needs to be done? Did they set your expectations on length of the job, materials used, and how the system will “work” after installation?

Many people just don’t know, some are not interested and others don’t think of asking. It’s okay to quiz the potential contractor about these things. Why leave people guessing??

4.) Did the contractor ask for the pre mitigation test levels and the report? 

It is important as a mitigation professional to understand what you are working with. For example, a finished basement has some natural limitations as you do not want any part of the system to be visable in your finished area. Understanding your pre mitigation levels will help the contractor determine how many suction points need to be used, what type of fan to use (one size does not fit all) and other potential road blocks during installation they need to look for. It’s more important than you may think.

5.) May I see your insurance please?? How bout seeing that license too?

Absolutely!! Look for not only their General Liability Insurance as a business, ask for their Worker’s Compensation Insurance too. What if they were hurt while working at YOUR home? Make sense?? Protect yourself.  Ask to see their Radon license. You’d be surprised…there have been some companies here in Illinois that market themselves as “Environmental Experts” – that does not necessarily mean they are licensed to do radon work.

The Contract

Every contract should contain the following at a minimum ~ scope of work, warranty terms and exclusions (yes there are some), start date and completion date, total cost of the job, transferability of the warranty and payment terms. Pretty basic stuff but quite important.

In Closing

We can’t stress this enough, all radon mitigation systems are not created equal. Be sure and select the contract providing the best value. Take into account that a less expensive system may have higher overall operating costs – those costs never go away! Take into account the type of building materials and the technique best suited for your home. Will this system be in line with the aesthetics of your home or will is stick out like a sore thumb? Here in Illinois you can visit the IEMA website to find licensed radon mitigation professionals in your area – the rest is up to you!

 

If you’ve found this article to be helpful, consider sharing it on your social media page! Christopher Bice is the founder of Guardian Radon Mitigation & Electrical Services, LLC. Christopher is a licensed Radon Mitigation Professional through the IEMA.

03*Special thanks to the EPA for providing some of this content. 

Recent FAQ’s From Our Clients

Day to day we are asked many of the same type of questions from our potential clients. Our role is not restricted to mitigation installers only. When it comes to Radon, Guardian’s role is not only installation, but education and awareness also. Today we wanted to share a few questions that seem to have a recurring theme to them and truly are considered an “FAQ!” Hope you find this information to be helpful.

Q: Recently a former client from Naperville, IL asked us:  “I’m thinking of buying a home with an existing radon mitigation system already in it. How would I know if it is working properly?”

A: You can do a couple of things here to verify the system is functioning properly. First, inspect the manometer on the radon pipe inside of the house. This will be U-shaped tube typically with red or blue dye in it. If it is showing offset, the system appears to be functioning. Second, locate the actual fan/motor unit and feel or hear that it is working. Third – TEST THE HOUSE. This will ensure that the levels are still within the “acceptable” range for radon gas. 

This next customer just called this a.m.! Thought it was fitting to include it ~

Q: Recently a former client from Plainfield, IL asked the question: “I’m selling my house and they tell me I have elevated radon levels. I’m skeptical, can I retest to be sure?”

A: That’s a great question and one we hear quite frequently. When you are living with a condition that you are unaware of, it’s a hard concept to understand. The answer is this ~ You must have some grounds to invalidate the radon test assuming it was done by a professional testing company. If there are no grounds to do so, then some type of radon reduction method must be performed before you can test again. And in most cases, a reduction method alone (i.e. seal the sump lid, or seal foundation cracks in the basement) is met with limited succes, ultimately costing the seller more time and money. 

If you’re house has tested elevated for radon, an active radon mitigation system is strongly encouraged. Remember, although it seems like a stumbling block, it not a reason to stop your closing.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on your social media page!!

#plainfieldradon #napervilleradon #jolietradon #guardianradonmitigation

 

Radon and Homeowners Insurance ~ Is it covered??

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is a product of decomposing Uranium in the earth. Through the decomposition process, radon gas seeps into the Earth’s soil, then providing the opportunity to build up levels and inhabit your home. Radon Gas is found in all 50 states of the U.S. and it’s presence in homes can certainly raise serious health concerns. Radon is not a sudden event or “accident” therefore your homeowner’s policy will most likely not cover the cost of mitigation or health related effects.

Radon Facts and Occurrance

Radon has no color, no odor and is invisible to all of us. Testing for radon gas is strongly recommended for those involved in a real estate transaction. Radon comes from many sources, including our own outdoor air. The dangers increase when we expose ourselves long term to concentrated amounts, such as our indoor air of our homes. Because it is not evident whether or not it is present, radon testing should be conducted. No one gets sick quickly being exposed to radon gas, it’s very different than carbon monoxide. It can however provide ample opportunity for lung cancer. Currently in the U.S. 21,000-23,000 people annually, who are “never-smokers” will have their lives taken by radon induced lung cancer. **Be sure and test your home.

Homeowners Insurance

Lenders and Banks most times make up at least 80% of the homes value in cash therefore will require homeowners insurance to fund the loan. Homeowners is there to protect you from unexpected loss or damage of your property. Loss may occur as a natural event such as tornado, fire hazard, vandalism, theft and other covered events. It will also cover you in the event someone is hurt at your home or on your property. The insurance does not cover the cost of radon mitigation. 

Testing Your Home

Every home when tested will report some level of radon gas. As a matter of fact, there will not/should not ever be a reading of “0” pCi/l and if there is….something went wrong with the test. Outdoor natural occurring radon levels are around .3 pCi/l and the EPA will recommend mitigations for any home that tests over 2.0 pCi/l. **This is for homes not involved in real estate transactions, currently the disclosure level for radon in real estate is 4.0 pCi/l. Testing comes in many convenient options. There are charcoal canister tests available as well as electronic monitors that run continuously in your home and of course professional testing with highly calibrated equipment and lots of data. If you should test the home yourself as a homeowner, please be sure and adhere to the strict instructions to prevent an inaccurate reading.  

Mitigating Your Home

Radon mitigation is a process in which a combination of suction point(s), pipework, radon fan and caulk sealing is installed to reduce indoor radon levels. The type of process most common in the Midwest is called Sub Slab Depressurization. It’s a fancy title that basically mean, to create more negative pressure under your foundation, than already exists in your house. Thus the result is the movement of the gas to an exhaust point and significant reduction levels. In Illinois, radon is a licensed trade and you can find a local mitigation professional on the State of Illinois website. Most systems are installed in as little as one day and begin to work immediately. You must also retest your home after the installation of the system – this will provide you with the new “norm” of reading in your home. The average cost of a radon mitigation install will range from $1000 – $2500. Some systems depending on design and need of the home may fall below or above the state range. An onsite estimate and review of your home is highly recommended. 

Special thanks to the IEMA and UALC for providing some of the content above. 

If you like this post, please consider sharing through social media. Help us get the word out about Radon Gas!

 

Fun Family Activities to Enjoy in Kendall County, IL

Let’s take a look at some family-friendly activities to enjoy around beautiful Kendall County, IL. Nothing says summer like packing a picnic lunch, grabbing some comfy shoes and headed out with friends and family to enjoy our local scenery and happenings!

1.) How about checking out your local park district???

Being from Oswego, IL, I’m still amazed how our local park district has grown and the services they offer to our residents. We love taking a dip in the pool and can’t wait to check out the newly renovated Winrock location. The park district also boasts several running trail and local parks for your enjoyment.

2.) Your local library

Your local library is not just about checking out awesome books anymore, our daughter participated in a drawing/sketching class this summer, also got a chance to read to some therapy dogs, attend an arts/crafts event and more….all FREE!! What a great deal!

3.) Ellis House Family Fun Nights

Come out and enjoy Ellis House & Equestrian Centers the first Friday of each month (not available on 4th of July) for face painting, pony rides, good ol’ fashioned tractor hay rides, nature trails, bon-fire and board games. In addition, they offer summer camps for kids ($), Pony Birthday Parties ($) and of course riding lessons ($)

4.) Silver Springs State Park

What a beauty practically in our own backyards. Enjoy the many hiking trails, have a picnic, do some local fishing boating (no gas motors), canoeing and canoe rentals, hunting and even camping. Open year around, Silver Springs offers great amenities and has plenty of cold weather activities too like cross country skiing, sledding, ice skating and more.

5.) Raging Waves

Forget fighting traffic trying to get up North, Raging Waves right in Yorkville, IL offers family fun at any level. Enjoy the lazy river, get your thrills on the gi-normous water slides, rent a cabana and relax!! ($$) Be sure and keep an eye out for any Living Social and Groupon deals as they run then often to save some money!

6.) Splash Pad in Oswego

Kids and adults alike can enjoy a spray of cool water on those hot days. Did we mention this was FREE?? Stop in for a few, run ’em around and wear them out. Isn’t that our job as parents?? LOL. Love, love, love this place

7.) Skate Parks

Oswego offers Chesterfield Skate Park and PrairiePoint Skate park. It’s a BYOB, bring your own boards and safety gear and enjoy. Parks are open from the a.m. until dusk. 

8.) Keller’s Farmstand

What a gem to have right here in town! Keller’s offers wonderful produce in the summer months, is definitely a family destination in the fall during harvest season. Love the hayrides, pumpkins, corn maze and more. Keller’s also works with local school districts and preschools during the school year to accommodate field trips.

9.) Movies in the Park

Check out your what your community has to offer. Oswego provides movies in the park during summer months. This is offered by the Oswego Cultural Arts Commission and offers a full line up for the season. Check them out on line or at the Village of Oswego website. Don’t forget your popcorn, lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray!!

10.) A Whole Host of Festivals!!

Saving what we feel is the best for last….all of the local festivals that are offered in Kendall County, IL. Did you make it to PrairieFest this year?? Just keeps getting better and better and definitely a local favorite. Any plans to visit Yorkville’s Home Town Days – always loads of fun and a great place to run into someone you know! Let’s know forget the Kendall County Fair. We love the magic show, animals and exhibits, of course the rides and the atmosphere of the communities that so many of us call HOME!

Get our and enjoy your family, friends and neighbors and great happenings here in beautiful Kendall County, IL. Signing off for now….and if you haven’t yet, be sure and test your home for radon gas!

 

 

Radon Mitigation

Radon Testing Options

Radon testing is big business in Illinois. On January 1, 2008, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Radon Awareness Act. This was a huge step for the State getting the word out even further regarding the dangers of Radon gas. The law applies to residential real estate transactions on properties with no less than one and no more than four residential dwelling units. Of course as with anything, there are exceptions to the rule:

 http://illinoisrealtor.org/iar/newsreleases/releases/radon.html (easy to read press release!)

Although Guardian Radon Mitigation is not authorized to do radon testing (as it is a conflict with the State), our services very often go hand in hand with the testing profession. There are times when homeowners are conflicted with testing. They are unsure what is expected, how to go about it and the interpretation of the results. Well here goes some tips for having a radon test performed.

Option 1: You are not currently involved in a real estate transaction

As a homeowner your options are much more plentiful as you do not have the same restrictions that usually follow a real estate contract. 

Canister test: Canister tests are quick, economical ways for homeowners to test for radon. They are readily available at many local home improvement stores. Here is Kendall County, Il. they are offered at a discounted rate from the Environmental Health Division. For only $6 per test (current pricing as of June 19, 2014), you may purchase the test kit(s) and the subsidized pricing includes not only the actual kit, but also the lab results too. Another option for our residents in Illinois is to order one directly from the IEMA (State). They too offer reduced cost test kits from  various vendors. The item is shipped directly to your door and includes all material for testing and the lab fee too along with a detailed radon report. Here we’ve provided the link: 

http://www.state.il.us/iema/radon/MeasurementLabsPriceList.asp

**The one caveat we must mention ~ if you choose to utilize one of these kits, be sure and follow the instructions carefully. You cannot “set it and forget it” as they say. Radon has a half-life of approximately 3.8 days which means it continues to decay. Delaying the timing of your test kit will absolutely dilute the test results and provide too much margin of error.

Constant monitors: These monitors are really cool. They look very similar to a carbon monoxide detector and you just plug it in and let it do it’s job. I keep one of these plugged in at all times in my own basement. **I will add, I still have had my home tested by a professional to ensure I’m not getting a false reading. It has a numeric LED display, you can set it for short term or long term testing and it updates air samples once per hour. These run about $120 and can be purchased online. We’ve have not found any of them available at the retailers. Amazon offers many options here.Safety Siren

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professional Test (Continuous Monitor): Taking nothing away from this profession, hands down this type of test will provide you with the most comprehensive data and accurate readings for radon gas. The IEMA which governs the licensing of all radon testers and radon mitigators in Illinois go to extensive lengths to ensure that all testers are licensed, have accurate monitors (as they are required to be calibrated after so many hours of use), radon reporting standards and other compliance related standards. This ultimately protects you as the consumer.  These monitors take 4 radon reading per hour for duration of the test (never less than 48 hours). With the ample amount of data collected, you can be sure you will have accurate results. 

Option 2: You are currently involved in a residential real estate contract

Simply stated under these terms you are most likely dictated by the professional advice of your Realtor and/or Attorney. And I might add….listen to them! As a buyer you have the option of testing the home for radon gas. As mentioned in the beginning, the Radon Awareness Act dictates disclosure only, not requirement of testing. If you ask me, it’s pretty “cheap” insurance to have a test done in relation to the grand scheme of things. 

Often in real estate transactions, the verbiage will read “have the home professionally tested” and that is fantastic advice. It avoids any potential collusion or user error and gives you the information that you are looking for in an accurate and timely fashion. The radon report puts everything in perspective and your tester, realtor and attorney are always more than helpful interpreting the results. 

In closing, one cannot “assume” based on the home/structure whether or not the radon levels are elevated. Radon has been found in all 50 states. Testing is the only way to provide that information. Now that you are  “armed and dangerous” consumer, do your due diligence and don’t put off testing any longer.

**If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider sharing it on social media. Help Guardian Radon Mitigation get the word out about the dangers of Radon Gas. 

Getting The Most Value From Your Radon Mitigation System

When it comes to radon mitigation systems, not all systems are created equal. Here is Illinois, radon mitigation is a licensed profession by the State of Illinois therefore mitigation standards have been set and must be adhered to. With that being said ~ a system may meet all compliance standards but not pass the approval of the homeowner(s). 

Starting with some basics, a radon system must have a few basic necessities to function properly. They consist of suction point(s), a minimum of 3 inch piping, the right amount of pitch, a manometer, commonly referred to as a U-tube,  a radon fan, sometimes plastic sheeting depending on the needs of the home and other small hardware items  to assist in mounting the system properly. Lastly, what I feel is just as important is the craftsmanship and aesthetics of the system and how it will coexist with your particular home.

So what does all of that mean? Well for starters, Guardian Radon Mitigation will not put a discount system on a higher end  house. For that matter, we won’t install a discount system on a discount house!! System location, having unnecessary turns, the use of white pvc pipe vs aluminum downspout for exterior systems will all have an effect of the overall look of your system. They type of radon fan used deserves its own mention. How energy efficient if that fan? How much noise will it make? What type of warranty is offered? You want to take into consideration how you are currently using your home and more importantly, how may the home be used in the future??

Let’s turn our conversation to meeting local compliance standards. Be sure and verify that your contractor has the proper insurance and bonding in place and is registered to work in your community (if necessary). Is a permit involved? If so, did the contractor disclose that to you? Have they pulled the necessary permit(s) for your radon system? Call your local Village office to inquire about this. What about if you live in a development that is managed by a home owners association? Has the HOA approved your installation and type of technique used? Will your contractor work with your HOA?

It’s a bit more involved than just “price shopping.”  Most system installs will range between $800 – $2500 nationally according to the EPA. Drilling down a bit more, the majority of systems will fall between $1000 – $1200 for homes that have just one “footprint” (i.e. just a basement, or slab only etc.).  The take away is, when you are making your buying decision, base your decision on the whole picture and the lowest cost of ownership as well as best results – not just price.

We leave you with this:  “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get!” – Warren Buffet

quote-price-is-what-you-pay-value-is-what-you-get-warren-buffett-26797

Radon Levels and Renters ~ What Every Tenant Should Know

Unlike homeowners, many renters do not have the professional guidance such as a realtor or attorney when they are looking to sign for a new lease. Renters therefore infrequently will do their due diligence with regards to having any home inspection performed, or environmental testing such as a radon test prior to signing their lease. Here lies the problem ~ as a renter you may be signing for lease unaware of any potential dangers in the home or apartment. As of December 29, 2011 approximately one-third of Illinois housing was being rented (Source: IEMA Press Release)

Illinois passed a  “new” law on January 1, 2012 to help renters learn more about Radon levels in their home.  If the building that you are living in has been previously tested for Radon, the landlord is required to inform you in writing that a radon problem may exist. Prior to signing your lease, be sure and ask about this. If the home or building has NOT been tested, then conduct your own radon test either with a home test kit or licensed testing company. The IEMA recommends that all homes be tested below the third floor. Because Radon is a soil gas, the highest levels are likely to occur in the lowest levels. 

What can you do if you find elevated Radon levels in your place of residence?

Because radon mitigation is considered a remodel project and requires repairs to the building, it is often the landlord or building owner that would have to authorize having the repairs done – not the tenants. If your home has high levels of Radon there are steps that you as the tenant can take to see that the problem gets fixed.

1.) Inform the building owner in writing that the home has tested elevated for Radon 
Gas. Be prepared to provide a copy of the radon results. Ask for details from the owner on how they plan on fixing the problem. 

2.) If you live in an multi-unit building, share your information with your neighbors and encourage them to do their own testing. Remember, just because your unit has tested elevated, there may be other areas of the building that do not. Once others have confirmed, we recommend the same steps be taken. Present the information in writing to the building owner. 

Useful Tenant Checklist:

*Check the building that you live in. Has it been tested for Radon? If so, ask for the results in writing. If it has not, perform a test yourself or hire a licensed testing company to do so. 

*If your radon levels are at 4.0 pCi/l or higher, present to the building owner in writing with a request for further testing and/or installation of a radon mitigation system. 

*If your rented home or unit has elevated levels and you are in need of further assistance, contact the IEMA Radon Hotline at 1-800-325-1245

Lastly, with regards to Radon levels in any type of real estate transaction –  purchase, lease or rentals, Illinois has mandated a “disclosure law” only. Be sure and do your due diligence and protect yourself and your family. With this law now in effect, it is a step in the right direction for tenants in Illinois. 

*Special thank you to the IEMA for providing some of this content

Additional links:

http://www.iema.illinois.gov/HomePage_Content/PressRelease12_29_2011_RadonTennants.pdf

http://www.state.il.us/iema/radon/pdf/RadonGuideForTenants.pdf

 

The Worst Excuses We’ve Ever Heard About Radon

Seems to be that the folks we talk to in the field fall into two categories. Believers and Non-Believers. Unfortunately many of us only learn about the effects of elevated radon gas when involved in a real estate transaction or personal tragedy. Then there is the rest of the world – and that’s a whole lot of people. Certainly everyone is entitled to their thoughts on the subject but today we thought it would be a good idea to share “The Worst Excuses We’ve Ever Heard About Radon.”

Excuse #1: “We’re okay because we really don’t even use our basement much.”

 In todays homes, there is duct work for the heating and air system. This duct work transfers the air around your home. In other words, basement air becomes upstairs air and vice versa! The best is when the person(s) of the home are very physically fit and we find all of this exercise equipment in the basement. Worse yet, that’s where the kids toy room is set up. You gotta wonder…..

Excuse #2: “My neighbors house tested fine, so we must be o.k.”

As logical as that may sound, radon may or may not affect homes around each other. The only way to know is to test your own home.

Excuse #3: “I’ve been in this house so long – what difference would it make now?”

If you hadn’t  gone to see a Dentist in a few years does it make sense to never go again?? Of course not. You will reduce your risk of Radon related illness as soon as you have a system installed. Therefore your exposure rate is much less the remainder of the time in your home reducing your risk.

Excuse #4: “If it’s so dangerous, why haven’t I heard about it more?”

Simply put….the State has no money to promote it. They do what they can but the information must be sought out, it’s tough to come across it unless you are looking for it. There has been a big push from local counties on radon awareness and state education. Unfortunately there have been a series of famous celebrities that died of lung cancer as non-smokers. This gets the most media attention of all. Celebrity illness usually gets the word out for at least a while. Donna Summer is one of the casualties: http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/18/showbiz/donna-summer-dead/)  

Remember Dana Reeves? Superman Christopher Reeve’s wife? (http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/03/07/reeve.obit/)

 Now, Valerie Harper is fighting the terrible disease – and YES she is and always has been a non-smoker. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-lung-association-teams-up-with-valerie-harper-and-kellie-pickler-to-launch-lung-force-national-public-health-initiative-to-fight-lung-cancer-in-women-2014-05-13?reflink=MW_news_stmp)

What do these three have in common?? All non-smokers and all affected by lung cancer.

Excuse #5: “Radon, Schmadon, cancer is everywhere anyways.”

This is the worst one by far. Information is available but it’s difficult to get people to read about it on their own. And yes, unfortunately cancer is always in the news making headlines. But does that mean you should throw in your towel? Do you wash your fruits and veggies before eating them? Do you not wear you seatbelt because it’s highly unlikely that you will get into a car accident? Of course not. We as humans still take logical steps to ensure our health and safety – why not test for radon in your home?

Excuse #6: “No one ever worried about it before and now that I’m selling my house, the buyers just want more money out of me.”

Real estate transaction as a buyer or seller is a very emotional time for most. The truth is Radon Gas falls under health and safety issues – much like mold. It’s pretty realistic for the buyer’s to ask for a remediation. It’s not the same thing as asking for new carpet or light fixtures. This is the time to separate fact from fiction. It doesn’t have to stop the transaction and like we always say – it is a fixable problem.

Help Guardian Radon & Electric get the word out about Radon Awareness. If you’ve enjoyed this blog then please, share it on your social media sites.