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Old 05-14-2013, 11:03 AM   #1
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


I have a small (35x35) 2 story hillside bungalow outside of Chicago, IL, built in 1913. I have a finished basement with an inaccessible crawlspace, ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet from the subfloor to the ground, on a post and pier foundation. In the winter I have a radon level of 8-12. When the windows are open in the summer it goes down to 4-6, I haven't lived here for a whole summer yet but for now am planning on getting a few window units as there is no central AC unit. There is a vapor barrier on the soil but it is not sealed, and sealing it would be too big a job given the amount of room to work with.

I am considering first trying to create a sealed barrier over the subfloor, thoughts?

If that doesn't suffice, I am assuming either a continuous exhaust or a heat exchanger is the way to go to reduce the radon levels and tame the "old house" odor?

Am I going to have humidity issues? If so, dehumidifier?

All advice helps, thanks!


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Old 05-14-2013, 10:11 PM   #2
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


You will want to follow your local Building Code for closed crawl space and ventilation, pp. 6, and pp.11 for Radon; http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...ance-and-codes

Over damp areas, or needing a warm floor under your feet, lol; Fig.7; http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...n-crawlspaces/

You may need an ignition barrier over the foamboard, check with local AHJ.

Gary
PS. Either way, you need to dig clearance under the wood floor framing; see #1; http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/ic...9_3_sec017.htm

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Old 05-15-2013, 09:31 AM   #3
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


Definitely not enough space for spray foam or board in 80% of the crawl...

Regarding the joist clearance code - does that clearance need to be there or does the use of "naturally durable wood or wood that is preservative-treated " suffice?

If the clearance is necessary, I have a lot of digging to do! I'm not planning on selling any time soon so I'm not worried about getting to code as much as I'm hoping to reduce the radon and improve indoor air quality...

Which brings be back to the original posting, would some kind of exhaust/exchange fan work as a cheaper, temporary fix until I have the means to tear up the 2 bedrooms, bathroom and laundry room in the basement to seal?

It also seems like most sites are saying definitely contact professional mitigators, although there are a few DIY sites covering the topic. Thoughts?
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:56 AM   #4
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


I would not put any expense into mitigation. If you are stating that the levels go down, once you open windows to get air flowing through the structure, right there that is telling you how to solve the issue.

You need to get continuous airflow through the crawlspace area. As for insulating the floor, it depends on how much space there is for someone to get under the structure. A lot of times, they have to hand dig underneath, so that they can get in there and be able to have enough room to either back crawl, or belly crawl, while dragging stuff in behind them.

Other times, they will dig enough to be able to kneel under.
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:59 AM   #5
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


I agree with gregzoll. Radon mitigation is nothing more than a scam to separate you from your money.
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:09 AM   #6
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


Even if the radon isn't an issue, I'd still like to tame the "old house" odor...

So, continuous airflow... exhaust fan? heat exchanger? And if the humidity gets high, dehumidifier? The floors don't get too cold as the carpet acts as a decent insulator, but maybe pulling in cold outside air will change that?

And can anyone clarify the code specifications for the space between the soil and joists?

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Old 05-15-2013, 12:08 PM   #7
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


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Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
I agree with gregzoll. Radon mitigation is nothing more than a scam to separate you from your money.
Only because there are too many companies out there that are trying to create a bandaid for a situation, that should have been taken care of during the build.

The biggest argument has been, that the so called "professionals" that still have not proven after all of these years true evidence that Radon is the number one cause of Lung Cancer. They have no way to prove that a person residing in a home had the gene that caused the lung cancer, so they have to prove it on something.

It is like stating that blondes are more prone to causing accidents, or running Red lights, more than teens behind the wheel. Also like stating that cellphones are more of the cause of behind the wheel accidents, than just the fact that the person is why they are the cause, not a device.

Could keep going on about arguments without facts to back them up. Another would be like stating that guns are the number one cause of deaths over vehicular manslaughter, when it is the person behind the weapon.
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:16 PM   #8
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


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Originally Posted by iamjonwalker View Post
Even if the radon isn't an issue, I'd still like to tame the "old house" odor...

So, continuous airflow... exhaust fan? heat exchanger? And if the humidity gets high, dehumidifier? The floors don't get too cold as the carpet acts as a decent insulator, but maybe pulling in cold outside air will change that?

And can anyone clarify the code specifications for the space between the soil and joists?
You are in Illinois. Humidity is a common occurrence during Summer months. Inside our house, we keep the Rh (relative humidity levels) for basement & main living area (first floor), between 46 to 59. Right now it is between 48-52 for main floor, 60 in our basement, and 22 in our attic (temp at 88 in attic, 72 on first floor, 67 in basement).

We have the air on, because we close our house up during the day, but also have a Golden retriever that stays inside, so we try to keep the house around 72, may bump lower if the a/c does not cycle, which also keeps humidity levels at the right area.

As for yours, going back to my side bar, you just have to get things at the right mid point. Air movement in the crawl space helps, but you will always have a humidity level of around the mid 60's to low or mid 70's, because of the nature of most crawl spaces.

As for the house, it really depends on if you have a heat pump or a/c and how old the hvac system is, and if the house attic is insulated, you have sealed around doors, windows, outlets, pipes going into the attic, around the attic hatch, etc..

Getting the house to behave how you want it, takes time, and actually thinking as if you are the home, by sitting down and looking around to see what stands out as a problem.

We did end up in our house having to put in a power vent attic fan, due to even with the venting we had on the roof, and that we do not have soffits, we still had temps at 130-140. Put in the vent, humidity went down and same as the temps.

They make fans for crawl spaces, that you can set at a certain humidity & temp, and they will kick on at that set point, same as louvered vents, that will close when the temps drop outside, but open when the temps rise, so air will circulate under the home.
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Old 05-15-2013, 12:56 PM   #9
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


gregzoll, what do the attic temps have to do with the crawl?

the attic is insulated. it's hot up there!

I am concerned with the radon in the basement but even more concerned with the overall air quality as there are many gaps between the living area and the crawl (the furnace+water heater are in the middle of the basement and seemingly impossible to seal the exposed crawl area from the living area)

No central AC, planning on using window units when needed.

My worry with a controlled vent is exposing that outdoor humidity to the crawl, I know that I can set to shut off at a certain humidity, it's frustrating that there is so much contradicting information out there regarding this issue. It seems like there used to be a passive vent they sealed up a while back.

I've got a child on the way and hoping to use the bedrooms downstairs, can't stop worrying about the "what ifs".
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Old 05-15-2013, 03:01 PM   #10
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


It all matters, because it all works together in how air moves through the home. If your crawlspace is not vented, and the attic is not moving air, the main living will pull air from the crawl and attic, which in turn makes the living are uncomfortable and with your issue of your radon levels going up, when the house is closed up.
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:42 PM   #11
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


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I agree with gregzoll. Radon mitigation is nothing more than a scam to separate you from your money.

AMEN! What a crock of Bovine Scatology. There was a guy that posted on these forums that was a Nuclear Officer on a Nuclear Boat, and he said it is a total scam, and I believe him. If you read up on it you will soon find out it is a crock, and the so called protocol for mitigation has no relationship to reality. It is simply a money making scam.
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:59 PM   #12
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Radon/odor in inaccessible crawlspace


radon has its uses,,, in nj, it got me a very NICE sailboat

louvered foundation ventsn0n 1 side & louvered exhaust vents on the other side - control 'em w/humidistat5,,, that's our story & we're stickin' to t
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:16 PM   #13
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AMEN! What a crock of Bovine Scatology. There was a guy that posted on these forums that was a Nuclear Officer on a Nuclear Boat, and he said it is a total scam, and I believe him. If you read up on it you will soon find out it is a crock, and the so called protocol for mitigation has no relationship to reality. It is simply a money making scam.
Not so much as Bovine Scatology, as it is that those who use the good ole scare tactics, that if you do not vent under the slab, you could die any day. Just like those that go around neighborhoods and push Cancer insurance, because it is a easy way to make money, because they not only study up on those in the neighborhoods who live there and have lost loved ones to cancer, because they scour the obits for this info, but also by using metrics of how many people in a populated area have some form of cancer, so of course, people are going to pay for it.

Too many scams out there, and Radon is right up there. Bad thing is, you cannot even sell a home these days, without forking out a few hundred dollars to prove that the house has no high Radon levels.

I remember also one story, where someone took the tester and placed it out in their yard after the company that placed it in their basement left, then placed it back into the basement before they came to pick it up. Readings were zero.

We know that because anywhere close to the Great Lakes, or even like New York, because of the strata that those areas sit on, have higher levels of Radon from the natural occurring breakdown of the strata layers, but also because most of those areas absorbed more radioactive fallout from the Nuke testing in the 50's, and along with Chicago had a Nuclear reactor right under Soldier field, without the proper shielding, there is question as to how much off gassing from the reactor testing was let out in the air, and has settled into the soils surrounding the Chicago area within a 100-150 mile radius.

You also have to account with Argonne National Lab's had a reactor in place also up until the 90's, that is also responsible for certain radioactive isotopes in the soil layers.

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