Q: I am remodeling a 145-year-old house in Minnesota where radon is a problem. What can I do during the remodeling process to help reduce the radon level? I'm trying to avoid the cost of hiring a contractor to come in and perform an abatement process.

— Kim, Lanesboro, Minnesota

A: Tom Silva replies: Well, I'd like to know whether you want to remove radon just under construction, or are they going to do it afterwards, I mean during the process of remodeling. Basically it comes down to ventilation. To remove radon you have to vent the roof with a plumbing stack that goes through your basement up to the roof. You have fans that go into the ducts. So if you have a basement and it's a stone foundation, the dirt floor needs to get covered with stone, and around the perimeter you put a pipe, and then a series of pipes through the basement floor, all connecting into a T. You pour a vapor barrier, and then concrete over that piping system. And then, somewhere along the line, wherever the best location would be, you have another T and the pipe gets put up through the roof. Then inside the pipe is a fan that draws air up out of the basement slab. It's important to use the stones to cover the basement floor first, which allows air to travel all the way under the slab, and vent up and out. Another way to do it is to put an electronically activated, louvered fan in the foundation. When the fan comes on the louvers automatically open, pulling air out of the basement. You just want to make sure not to place the fan under a window, because the radon will end up going back into the house.
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