Individuals who were among the first to abide by the federal government's lead-paint rule will get an extra year before they need to get recertified, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will announce soon.

The agency's final rule on the issue, to be published any day now in the Federal Register, means that renovators certified under the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule on or before March 31, 2010, now have until March 31, 2016 to get renew that certification. In addition, renovators with RRP certificates issued between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, will have one year added to their current five-year certification.

The changes apply only to renovators affected by EPA's renovation program. Fourteen states have their own programs and thus set their own rules: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. (Click here for links to each state's program.)

EPA isn't doing this for kicks. It decreed the one-year delay in the recertification deadline in essence because it 's unable to make a key change in the renewal program before the first renovators' certifications expire this summer.

That key change seeks to eliminate a current requirement that people get hands-on training as part of their recertification. The EPA wants to make it possible to do the entire recertification process online--an supported vigorously by most remodelers because it would cut the cost of getting renewed.

Trouble was, it was only on Jan. 14 that EPA published its proposed rule eliminating the hands-on requirement. Given Washington's sluggish rulemaking process, the agency now believes such a change couldn't be enacted until year's end. Meanwhile, the first wave of renovators' certifications come due this summer.

"In light of this, EPA is extending certifications of a portion of certified renovators until after the expected publication of the final rule to ensure that the benefit of such elimination, if promulgated, is not denied to renovators who were among the first to take the initial training course," said a draft of EPA's statement, issued April 8.

RRP rule applies to homes, apartments, and child-occupied commercial facilities built before 1978. If the job requires disturbing more than 6 square feet of interior or 20 square feet of exterior paint, or if it involves replacing windows of any size, the contractor has the option of testing the surface to determine if it contains lead. If the surface does exhibit signs of lead, the contractor can continue work using lead-safe practices. Or, in the interest of saving time, the contractor can skip the test altogether and proceed as if the surface contains lead.

Companies that violate the work practice, training, or administrative rules could face fines of up to $37,500 per day.

See other REMODELING stories on lead-safe practices.