How do Professionals Handle Older Homes with Lead-Based Paint?

Let’s suppose you’re a homeowner, and you have been watching the latest DIY shows. You decide that you want to renovate your 1950’s era Bungalow-style home and teach your children some skills of home repair. You do some research and learn that your home might be one of the millions of homes with layers of lead-based paint hidden within the walls. So, what’s the problem with that, you wonder?

You research further and find that renovations and repairs, such as painting and demolition can create toxic dust when the older lead paints are disturbed. You read that lead exposure has an adverse effect on children, causing disabilities and developmental disorders.

You also see that lead causes harm in adult, too, especially pregnant women. After learning of these dangers of possible exposure to lead-based paint, you decide to hire a professional to do the work instead.

Hiring a Professional

What are some things that you should look for in a professional to ensure that the job is done correctly? First of all, as you probably learned from your research, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation Repair and Paint (RRP) requirements specify guidelines contractors must follow that are different from homeowners’ DIY obligations.

When selecting a contractor, you should ask to see their EPA certification. You can check to see if a contractor is certified by checking the EPA’s website at http://epa.gov/getleadsafe. Make sure any contract you sign has a statement that the contractor will follow EPA guidelines during the process.

Second, there may be some pre-renovation activities. Professional contractors should give you a pamphlet from the EPA called The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right, which describes your rights as a homeowner and protections in the lead removal process. This pamphlet includes:

  • Facts about effects of lead on your health
  • How to choose a contractor
  • How to prepare for the renovation
  • What to look for during and after the job
  • Resources for more information about lead

Next, the contractor may assess the area, using a variety of methods, including inspection or paint sample testing.

The Renovation Process

During the actual renovation process, what can you expect from your contractor? To begin with, you should see the contractor using practices that minimize everyone’s exposure to the lead risk during the renovation.

The contractor’s first step should be containing the work area. He or she should hang warning signs and seal off the work area using plastic sheets. Furniture that cannot be moved should be covered.  Heating and cooling system vents should be sealed as well.

If at all possible, a separate entrance to the work area should be utilized. Depending on the extent of the renovation, you may want to consider relocating during the construction period. In cases of exterior renovation, the contractor should cover the ground and use temporary containment barriers.

Second, the contractor should reduce dust generation as much as possible. Some methods are illegal for contractors such as torching or using power tools without HEPA approved exhaust control. Contractors may elect to use water and mist to reduce dust as well.

Finally, at the end of the project, you should expect a thorough cleanup, according to the RRP rules. Before removing the containment materials, the contractor should use a HEPA vacuum to remove dust. Following the debris removal, the contractor should perform wet mopping, including thorough rinsing.

Contractors must follow a cleaning protocol where they wipe the surfaces with disposable cloths and compare them to an EPA verification card. After your contractor finishes, if you find any dust or debris, do not hesitate to have them clean the area again.

At the end of your project, if you have concerns that you still have a lead problem, you have the option to conduct lead dust testing. The EPA recommends a professional perform this test. For further information on testing, visit https://www.epa.gov/lead.

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