If the soil underneath of your home contains high levels of radon, it may drift upwards through your concrete foundation and accumulate in your home. Radon gas is dangerous in high concentrations since it's a carcinogen. Constantly breathing in radon will increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
If your home has high radon levels, you may have considered applying concrete sealer to your basement floors or foundation in order to prevent radon gas from entering your home. Many sealers are marketed for this specific purpose. However, relying on sealer alone isn't usually the best choice to reduce radon levels. To learn more about how concrete sealers work and why they're not very effective at preventing radon from moving through concrete, read on.
How Does Concrete Sealer Mitigate Radon?
Concrete looks solid to the naked eye. If you were to look at it under a microscope, however, you'd notice that it's filled with many gaps that create tiny channels throughout a concrete slab. These channels are why concrete will absorb water, and they're also the reason why radon gas can move upwards through your concrete foundation and into your home.
The primary purpose of concrete sealer is to prevent concrete from absorbing water. However, it can also reduce the amount of radon gas that travels through concrete as well. Two types of concrete sealer are commonly used for radon mitigation. Acrylic concrete sealer creates an acrylic barrier on the surface of concrete that blocks the movement of water and air. Penetrating concrete sealer is absorbed into the concrete, where it bonds with the concrete and forms crystals that fill the tiny channels running throughout it.
Both types of sealers are very effective at stopping water absorption, and they'll block the movement of radon gas through the concrete slab as well. Unfortunately, using a sealer as your sole radon mitigation strategy is not recommended — it doesn't have a very large effect on your home's radon levels.
Why Does Concrete Sealer Have Little Effect on Radon Levels?
Radon gas is a very tiny molecule, and it's very difficult to completely block its movement through a concrete slab using sealer. Some channels within the slab may remain open after using a penetrating sealer, allowing radon to migrate upwards through the slab. An acrylic sealer can develop cracks in the surface, which radon gas can easily move through.
Even if you manage to completely block air movement through the slab after applying concrete sealer, it's unlikely to stay that way. A concrete slab will develop microscopic cracks due to soil movement underneath it, which will allow radon gas to drift upwards from the soil. Since completely sealing a concrete slab is difficult and new channels are likely to open over time, concrete sealer often has very little effect on your home's radon levels.
How Should You Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home?
Active radon mitigation is the best strategy to keep the radon levels in your home in the safe range. When you have an active radon mitigation system installed, holes will be drilled in your foundation in order to install ventilation pipes. The pipes will be connected to an exhaust fan that constantly draws air from underneath your home's foundation and vents it above your home's attic. An active mitigation system prevents radon gas from coming near your concrete slab, so the fact that concrete is porous doesn't matter — radon gas is harmlessly ejected into the atmosphere before it can migrate through the concrete into your home.
Overall, relying on concrete sealer alone to keep radon out of your home isn't a good idea. Applying concrete sealer to your home's concrete floors can help prevent them from becoming stained and stop water from damaging them, but it typically has little effect on radon. If you want to keep radon levels in your home low, contact a radon mitigation service and have an active mitigation system installed — it's the best way to ensure that no radon gas is able to enter your home.
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