Getting the lead out

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When I started to investigate what all the fuss was about concerning the EPA's impending rule regarding lead-safe work practices, I was of the opinion that this would probably end up being much ado about nothing.

November 01, 2005

 
 Mike Morris
 Editor in Chief

I'm not usually the type of person who worries until there's actually something tangible to worry about. When I started to investigate what all the fuss was about concerning the EPA's impending rule regarding lead-safe work practices, I was of the opinion that this would probably end up being much ado about nothing.

It's still entirely possible that the net effect of what the EPA intends to impose on contractors in January or February will be minimal. But I've come to believe, after talking to NAHB policy analyst Gary Suskauer, that the EPA's ruling has potential to land a devastatingly costly blow to the industry.

And that's obviously why the NAHB Remodelors Council is in the early stages of putting together a study of remodeling jobs where lead particles are present in the air — to prove that the current voluntary lead-abatement practices are sufficient.

If the EPA does impose stricter rules regarding lead abatement to homes built prior to 1978 (which accounts for approximately 68 percent of the existing housing stock in the U.S.), it is estimated to cost the remodeling industry between $2 billion and $4 billion annually. That estimate, however, is six years old and is certain to be substantially higher now.

In relative terms, remodelers could end up being saddled with lead-abatement practices that would easily double the cost of certain renovation jobs.

"I hesitate to give you a number off the top of my head, but from conversations we've had with other people, we're talking several hundred percent," says Suskauer. "It would depend upon the scope of the project, obviously. But from what we understand, it could be several times the cost of what the project would have been initially."

And that won't be a very palatable selling point to a potential client who wants to renovate their older home but also has the option of selling that home and moving into a newer one instead. That's where the impact on remodelers would be felt the most.

Which makes this study extremely important to you if your business is located in an area of the country with a lot of homes more than 30 years old.

It's not too late to get involved. Suskauer and Remodelors Council Executive Director Therese Crahan are currently looking for potential projects for the study, so contact them at 800/369-5242 if you think you've got a project that should be considered. Or to learn more about this issue online, log on to www.nahb.org.

630/288-8057, michael.morris@reedbusiness.com

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