It's been nearly 15 years since Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act — the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 —was signed into law; a decade since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that contractors would be required to notify homeowners of the potential hazards of remodeling in areas containing lead-based paint; and 7 years since contractors have been required to disseminate “Lead: Protect Your Family” pamphlets. With the EPA's release of a new proposed rule in January, the issue is heating up again.

According to an EPA fact sheet, the rule would apply to renovations disturbing more than two square feet of lead paint. The proposal is for the rule to be implemented in two phases. The first phase would apply to rental and to owner-occupied housing built before 1978 in which a child with an elevated blood lead level resides (the rule would not require that remodelers have children tested, just that homeowners be given the opportunity to disclose any children with high levels of lead in their blood); and in rental and owner-occupied housing built before 1960 where children under 6 reside. Phase two, proposed to be implemented one year after phase one begins, would add rental housing built between 1960 and 1978, as well as owner-occupied housing built between 1960 and 1978 where children under 6 reside. Companies would have to apply to the EPA for accreditation to do the work, and the projects would have to be performed or supervised by a “certified renovator” who has completed at least eight hours of training.

Cost Prohibitive The proposed rule would not ban certain techniques such as machine sanding, as is the case in lead abatement guidelines. Rather, it would regulate the preparation and cleaning of the work area. For interior work, this would include closing and sealing all doors in the work area, covering floors with taped-down plastic sheeting, and testing the site for cleanliness upon completion. Contractors working on the exterior of the home would need to cover the ground with plastic and take precautions that dust and debris did not make their way to adjacent buildings.

These details have some remodelers familiar with the situation up in arms, mainly over added time and cost. “Replacing one window [under the proposed guidelines] would double, maybe triple, your labor cost,” says Bob Hanbury, president of House of Hanbury Builders in Newington, Conn.

Brindley Byrd, president of Qx2 Contracting, Lansing, Mich., argues that the proposed rules may contribute to creating as many lead hazards as they will eliminate. “It will drive those who don't want to follow the rules further underground,” he says. Hanbury, who along with Byrd serves on the National Association of Home Builders'Lead Work Group, agrees. “It will widen the cost between a professional and someone who doesn't follow the rules,” he says. If homeowners undertake the projects themselves to save costs or hire a “truck and dog” contractor who doesn't follow the guidelines to do the work at a cheaper price, the work isn't likely to be done in compliance with proposed standards. “It won't help reach the goal, which is to stop poisoning kids under 6 years old,” Byrd says.

For its part, the EPA doesn't feel that the money will be an issue. In an e-mail response to questions from REMODELING, the agency said that additional costs would range from $25 to slightly more than $500, depending on project size. “These costs are likely to be a small part of the total cost,” the e-mail said, “and are unlikely to result in significant changes in consumer behavior.”