EPA Lead-Safe Program Takes Effect – Contractors Beware

Matt Gibson

While attending a proDialog contractor focus group in Denver earlier this year, the contractors were in heavy discussions about the new EPA Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP) and the certification program which takes effect April 22.  I had first heard of the issue 6 months earlier and had dismissed it, thinking that it did not apply to the type of work that our contractors perform.  The excitement of the attendees at the Denver proDialog meeting prompted me to revisit the policy and enroll in a local training class for contractors to learn lead-safe work practices.  The class experience and the implications for the renovation industry were eye-opening, to say the least.

Beginning April 22, when a contractor is quoting work to be performed on homes, child care facilities and schools built prior to 1978, they are required to test the work surfaces for lead paint.  If testing shows the presence of lead paint, an informational brochure entitled Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools outlining the practices and procedures required during the work needs to be provided to the property owners to review and sign before the work can begin.  Currently the homeowner can potentially opt out of the required work practices if they meet certain conditions. There are very stringent requirements in the policy that outline practices to be taken before, during and after work is to be performed. These requirements apply to both interior and exterior projects, and can significantly increase the labor and material costs of a project.

Over the last three months, I have seen an increase in the awareness level regarding this issue, but there are still many contractors and installers who may be at risk because of lack of awareness. This is a mandatory policy affecting contractors performing renovation work on homes built prior to 1978. Contractors and remodelers need to be aware of this policy because it may pose adverse health risks to the contractor and building occupants and the penalties for non-compliance can be costly to both the company and the individual performing the contracting work, and can include jail time.

For some contractors they see this as a way to get out ahead of their competition by signing-up early but for others, they prefer to take a “wait and see” attitude.  One contractor in Colorado who is very well versed in this policy said he planned to avoid contracting jobs on homes built prior to 1978 for at least six months after the policy goes into effect to see what types of legal actions arise.

This policy has really hit home with our siding contractors because it directly affects work with replacement windows. While both interior and exterior work have square footage minimums that need to be met prior to implementing the procedures, all window replacement work undertaken requires compliance with this policy. While our industry as a whole has suffered in the last few years, the Energy Tax Credit has been critical in driving the sale of replacement of windows to improve energy efficiency.  The contractors I have spoken with recently agreed the impact of this policy will increase the prices charged for replacement window installation, potentially by as much as 30 percent.

While we applaud the efforts that the EPA has made in writing this policy, we encourage them to continue to evaluate and refine it further. Many industry experts that I have spoken with agree that there are elements of the policy that are inconsistent or unclear and could use further clarification.

As a building materials manufacturer, we urge building professionals to understand and comply with this new ruling.  We will be following this issue so watch for future posts.

Matt Gibson is Manager, Contractor Programs for CertainTeed Siding Products Group