Test for radon leak before starting to fill cracks

Friday June 22, 2001

Q: I have two questions. I have cracks in my concrete basement floor from which I believe radon gas is creeping in.  

What is the best way to seal those cracks? How can I decide what type of heavy-duty snow shovel to buy? I want one that doesn’t get its edges rolled up by snow and ice. What should I expect to pay? 

A: Before you do anything about that cracked floor, test for radon first. Better yet, have a professional make the test for you.  

Another reason for contacting a professional: You might need to install a system to exhaust the vapors if the radon is present in a dangerous concentration. The concentration of radon should be checked both before and after the concrete is sealed. Sealing the cracks in the floor of your basement might be all that you need to do.  

Then again, maybe more work will be needed.  

Perhaps you will not have to install the exhaust system we mentioned. In any event, use a polyurethane concrete caulk.  

Remember: You are dealing with simple, old-fashioned gas vapors.  

There doesn’t seem to be much pressure associated with radon vapors, so most any concrete caulk will do. We have recommended the type that bonds the best and that holds up the longest. 

As to snow shovels, we suggest that you contact someone at your local tool rental store for unbiased advice. The brand that they buy will be the one that probably holds up the best and will more than likely have been purchased locally, and therefore, should be readily available to you as well. 

Q: Chris asks: The paint on my outside wall is peeling. What is the best way to remove it before I put on a new coat of paint? 

A: Paint removal by a do-it-yourselfer is most easily accomplished with a pressure washer. Although pressure washers are available for rent, if you are a homeowner, we suggest you consider purchasing one. Its uses around the house are endless.  

Be careful. If you aren’t, you can damage the siding below. Pressure washing takes patience, attention to the matter at hand and a careful touch. Once you have finished pressure washing, you might want to touch things up with a paint scraper.  

Also, sand those areas where the pressure washer lifted the wood grain. Finally, use sandpaper to feather in all the edges between the remaining paint and any bare wood. Next, apply a coat of high quality, oil-base primer and then your finish coat. We suggest high-quality acrylic latex.