Much (virtual) ink has been spilled writing about the EPA’s lead-safe work practices rule – a lot of it objecting to the methods and timing. While no serious person would trade profits for the health of children, it is reasonable to question the way in which the EPA is implementing this, as well as the efficacy of the policy itself. Heated rhetoric by environmental and health advocates such as "A bad economy is not a good excuse to poison children,” does little more than polarize the debate and maligns small business owners who will be burdened by a mandate that may fail to achieve its purpose.

Following is a small fraction of the many comments by contractors and other stakeholders found on the Internet, on forums like RemodelCrazy and Contractor Talk, industry organizations’ web sites, and from comments on news stories:

  • Two-thirds of U.S. homes and apartments (78 million out of 120 million) were built before 1978.  Half of the pre-1978 homes don’t contain lead but the rule, depending on implementation, might apply to all of them.

  • Many homes older than 1978 have gone through a number of remodels [already].

  • Making it unlawful to practice home renovation without federal certification will assuredly reduce the supply and raise the cost of renovations. One result of shifting the cost curve will be to encourage teardowns of otherwise sound housing stock. Some other properties that remain occupied will simply go without renovations and repairs, with unpredictable (but probably not good) consequences for health and safety.

  • Homeowners will almost certainly turn to unlicensed workers rather than pay higher costs for companies who follow the federal rules.

  • I am advocating that the law be changed to compel property owners to take more responsibility in ensuring that they comply with the law and hire only companies that are certified.

  • The new rules mandate an excessive use of plastic and force workers to wear booties on plastic sheeting. So in exchange for reducing lead dust, we can kill workers by forcing them to work while standing on “slip and slides.”

  • Anyone know where I can buy a truck load of Visqueen (poly sheeting) before the price goes up?

  • Think about neighbors who claim the paint dust does not obediently fall onto the horizontal ground plastic, but is airborne and (they claim) travels onto their property.  Give it to a lawyer and we could have an expensive suit to defend. I fear the neighbors more than I fear the EPA.

  • Another issue is the cost of insurance. My agent said it would start at $3,000 a year, on top of my regular insurance.

  • [After doing a bathroom remodel as a test case] In training, the instructors said that anytime you leave the containment area you needed to perform a dry decontamination.  I stopped doing this after repeated trips to my tool trailer and the dumpster. It got to a point where I was not sure if I was de-conned anymore.

  • The bagging or wrapping of any lead paint products is required and even without wearing the suit your times will increase due to the heat being confined in the room(s).  Then you have the time for pulling nails or screws so they don't tear the bags.

  • The rule will add 10-15% of the project cost. On this particular project we are looking at 20-30K in additional fees to meet the requirements.

  • There aren’t enough training options. The EPA hasn’t made this a priority for public outreach, so the average consumer just thinks it’s an optional added cost, not a necessity.

  • The higher costs may drive homeowners to choose do-it-yourself alternative solutions, such as window air conditioners and space heaters, which would not make use of energy-efficient technologies.

  • What happens if a non-compliant contractor is busted in the middle of a job, can’t pay the fine, and leaves the homeowner with a torn-up house he can’t complete?

  • The April 22 deadline may derail the proposed Home Star program and prevent meaningful retrofit work from being performed because there won't be enough certified renovation contractors.

  • Some of the problems we face, like proper insurance coverage, misinterpretation of the rule, homeowners doing the demolition themselves, unlicensed contractors offering cost savings , property values being affected and a proliferation of lawsuits by unscrupulous homeowners and their attorneys will be on us like stink on a skunk.

  • A common sense approach followed by the majority would produce a safer remodeling market than an onerous rule strictly followed by a minority.

And on the upside…

  • I can see [commercial contractors and home builders] that "dabble" in remodeling clearing out of the game for sure.


Rick Provost has over 20 years experience helping to build the country’s largest franchise network specializing in design/build exterior home improvement.  Formerly the President and CEO of Archadeck®, Rick is now a principal in SMI Safety, a safety consulting and staffing business that specializes in industrial construction.  Rick also consults with emerging franchise companies to help them develop growth strategies and business systems.  He can be reached at rickp@smisafety.com.