What remodelers need to know about the new lead paint rules

The new lead paint regulations are set to take effect April 22, 2010, and that will mean a big change in the way many remodelers do business.

September 30, 2009
Important dates for new lead paint regulations

With only six months to go until the new lead paint regulations take effect, remodelers are still faced with a lot of uncertainty. What we do know is that starting April 22, remodelers will have to start using lead-safe work practices as defined by the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule; be certified to use those practices; and keep detailed records to verify they followed the rules. (The full rule is available at http://epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.)

Click here to listen to a podcast with Paul Toub of Kachina Contractor Solutions, a firm that will be offering lead certification training for remodelers.

1. Are the rules still changing?

Probably. In late August, the EPA announced plans to propose two new rules as part of a settlement with several groups, including the Sierra Club.

The first would eliminate the "opt-out" provision. Under the original rule, homeowners could sign a waiver stating they had no children nor pregnant women in the home. With that waiver, the remodeler is not required to use the EPA-defined lead-safe work practices. The EPA is expected to officially propose the rule by the end of this month, with it set to take effect by April 22.

The second change would be the implementation of third-party post-project clearance testing instead of the original "wipe test" in which remodelers were responsible for their own post-project evaluation. NAHB estimates that this would cost $500 to $700 per project. EPA plans to propose this rule by April 22 and make it final in July 2011.

Once the rules are proposed, they will be posted at www.epa.gov and open for public comments, which will shape the final rule.

2. What projects will this apply to?

Any project in a pre-1978 home that disturbs more than 6 square feet of interior painted surface or 20 square feet of exterior surface. While the opt-out provision seems to be going by the wayside, remodelers can still avoid following the procedures if the home is tested and declared to be free of lead paint by a certified inspector.

3. What training and certification do remodelers need?

Firms must have at least one person on staff who is trained in lead-safe work practices. This requires an eight-hour course provided by an EPA-certified trainer. As of this writing, there are only 62 firms certified to train remodelers. (A full list is available at www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/trainingproviders.htm.) Training costs average $200 a person. Remodeling companies also have to be certified by the EPA. Firms can start applying this month for the $300 certification. The training and certification have to be renewed every five years.

4. How will the rules be enforced?

Right now, it comes down to paperwork. Remodelers have to keep records for three years that show they followed all of the various procedures. At any time, those records can be audited by the EPA. States can create their own enforcement arms as well, so your local situation may vary.

5. What will stop some remodelers from ignoring the new rules?

The same thing that stops them from working without a license or insurance. In other words, if that doesn't worry them, this probably won't either.

"Those who have too much to lose, the larger professional firms, are going to do this," says Robert Hanbury, president of House of Hanbury Builders in Newington, Conn. Hanbury has spent years working on the lead paint issue with NAHB and was part of the group that negotiated with the EPA on the initial rule.

6. How much will this add to the average project price?

Certainly more than the $35 the EPA originally estimated when they published the rule. Remodelers and trade associates have given estimates ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It will have a bigger impact on smaller projects, Hanbury says, on a percentage basis.


Important dates for new lead paint regulations

Now: Since December 2008, remodelers should have been providing the new EPA lead paint brochure, "Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools," to all clients living in pre-1978 homes.

Oct. 22: Firms can start applying to the EPA to become certified to renovate pre-1978 homes.

April 22: Starting on this date, remodelers working on homes, home daycare centers or any other "child-occupied facility" built before 1978 must be certified, follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination and keep detailed records.


EPA Lead Paint Site

NAHB Lead Paint Guide 

Q&A with Matt Watkins, NAHB environmental policy analyst 

EPA Lead Renovation Certification Now Available

Lead Inspector Nailed After Ignoring Paint Dangers

Sierra Club Wins, EPA Toughens Lead Paint Regs

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