According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon gas, while existing in small quantities everywhere in the air around us, is a toxicant that can exist in large quantities in the ground. This poses a potential danger, as it can seep into the foundations of homes and other buildings. Because the majority of the air people breathe while inside comes from the crawl space, radon mitigation with the help of crawl space vapor barriers is a crucial aspect of regulatory compliance and safety.
What is the Importance of Radon Mitigation?
Radon is a class A carcinogen, which means there is evidence that it causes cancer in humans. Radon gas is odorless, colorless, and inert, and yet it is the second leading cause of lung cancer, only to smoking. The EPA estimated that over 21,000 people in the US alone die from radon-induced lung cancer annually.
A radon mitigation system is any system or steps designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air of a building. The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home’s indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 148 Becquerels per meter cubed (148 Bq/㎥) or 4 picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) or higher.
What are the Different Types of Radon Mitigation Systems?
Common systems of radon mitigation use epoxy or rubber-based paints or surface sealers to stop radon. However, a layer of paint has no chance of stopping radon atoms, and the EPA’s testing has concluded that they are not effective. Moreover, alkalis carried by moisture from inside the concrete attack paints and cause cracking and peeling.
Even thicker materials, such as sheetrock, wallpaper, plaster, or polyethylene sheets, do not stop radon — neither does covering the floors with carpeting or linoleum. Radon can even penetrate several inches of concrete.
While a regular vapor barrier has the tools to keep water vapor, rot, and mold away from your foundation, it does not have the capacity to block radon gas alone. A crawlspace vapor barrier is an essential part of a “radon-resistant” construction. However, it merely reduces the flow of soil gas — it cannot stop the diffusion of radon and its accumulation underneath the floor. Thus, the EPA labels vapor barriers as a “soil gas retardant” membrane.
Crawlspace Vapor Barriers for the Best Radon Mitigation System
The best way to mitigate radon is to install an Active Soil Depressurization (ASD) system. A well-designed ASD system uses soil gas collectors, fans and piping in partnership with a vapor barrier to create a low-pressure environment that collects radon underneath the house. This system is installed in new homes and can be easily installed in older homes.
“The most important feature of a vapor barrier for Radon is that it has a Radon Diffusion Coefficient, which means it has been specifically tested for use with Radon or other gases,” said Jason Treiger, a 28 construction veteran and Account Manager at Americover.
These high-performance vapor barriers at Americover are made from high-grade virgin polyolefin resin, with a low radon diffusion coefficient, and which meets ASTM E1745 compliance standards. Because these membranes are engineered for the sub-slab environment, and the resins offer better protection than poly, it means less radon and other soil vapor will be able to move into the home. Thus, higher-performance vapor barriers are an important component of healthy, resilient, efficient, and overall sustainable homes and buildings.
Related Article: What is ASTM E96, and Which Vapor Retarder Does it Require?
Below are some recommendations by Americover experts on the best vapor barriers for radon mitigation systems:
Pro Crawl Anti-Mold Vapor Barrier with MPT™: this class 1 vapor barrier passes ASTM E1745 class A, B, & C. Its perm rating blocks more vapor transmission than the leading competitor’s 10 mil vapor barrier with a permeance of only .022 perms.
VaporBlock® Plus Vapor Barrier: this high-performance underslab vapor barrier is designed to retard moisture migration through concrete slabs-on grade while exceeding ASTM E-1745 Class A, B, and C requirements.
Vapor Barrier Retarder: this barrier is composed of polyolefin resins to create a puncture-resistant vapor barrier for use under concrete slabs to stop moisture migration and reduce mold, mildew, and fungus.
String Reinforced Plastic Sheeting: These durable yet lightweight plastic sheeting options are made by laminating layers of virgin high-strength polyethylene with a heavy-duty scrim reinforcement between the layers. Ideal for both short-term and long-term applications. For a tough, 3-ply laminate combining 2 layers of U.V. stabilized coextruded virgin polyethylene and a high-strength cord grid, try 14 Mil Tuff-Scrim™ Black White Reinforced Poly Sheeting.
Vapor Barrier Yellow: this sheeting is composed of polyolefin resins to create a puncture-resistant vapor barrier for use under concrete slabs to stop moisture migration and reduce mold, mildew, and fungus.
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