Q&A From Professionals: Renovations and Removal of Lead Paint

These days, there is no shortage of home renovation shows on television to inspire a new homeowner. Just like you see on the screen, first-time buyers often opt for a “fixer-upper” or a house that needs renovations or removal.

If your home was built before 1978, there is a high probability that it contains small to significant amounts of lead paint in its building materials. Lead is a dangerous toxin that causes potentially fatal symptoms in humans. Performing renovations or repairs on areas of a house that contain lead can create significant health hazards. Total removal of lead paint and other actions that disturb lead-contaminated materials require specific certifications from contractors and construction workers.

What To Know Before Renovating Your Home

To help new homeowners understand the various factors and requirements that go into a lead paint renovation project, we’ve sat down with professionals from ZOTA Professional Training. ZOTA provides specific training and compliance courses to contractors and companies of all sizes. Let’s take a look at what founder and CEO Bob Zak had to say about lead renovations and removal:

What is the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, and what does it require of contractors?

The RRP rule was established on April 22, 2010. The rule is designed to give contractors, remodelers, and property managers safe work practices to help them reduce or eliminate lead-contaminated dust during work. It ultimately prevents lead poisoning, especially in young children.  

The RRP Rule requires certifications for contractors disturbing lead paint or coated surfaces in residential properties and child-occupied facilities like daycares or schools built before 1978. All individuals performing work and the company employing them must have adequate certification to do the job. 

The company must register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or State Authorized Program and obtain Firm Certification. Individuals performing renovation activities must obtain a Lead Renovator Certification, which will give the individual the knowledge on how to do the work safely. 

Do contractors need an EPA certification to perform renovations on homes containing lead paint? How can this certification be obtained, and what is the typical cost?

Contractors that disturb lead paint during renovations must have Firm Certification, which is obtained by completing an application on the EPA website and paying a $300 fee. This certification is good for five years.

Individuals doing the work must have a Lead Renovator Certification. Lead Renovator Certifications are obtained by attending an 8-hour training course from an EPA-accredited training provider. The average cost for this 1-day training is around $250.

What happens if a homeowner uses an uncertified contractor to complete renovations or repairs? Are there specific fines or consequences for homeowners vs. contractors?

An uncertified contractor won’t know the rules and necessary lead-safe work practices to follow, so they’ll likely cause lead dust contamination in the work area, potentially leading to poisoning in the individuals working on the project and those who occupy the property.

Contractors in violation of the rule are subject to a $37,500 fine per incident per day if discovered. The penalties can be doubled, and imprisonment can occur if the violation is found to be willful. The rule excludes homeowners doing their own work or not providing compensation to others doing work. However, if a homeowner is acting as the General Contractor and pays for others to work on their property, the rule applies to the homeowner. In this case, they are subject to the same penalties as the contractor. 

How can someone tell if their home or rental contains lead paint? Who should they contact if they suspect lead paint is present?

The only way to tell for sure if a painted or coated surface contains lead is by having it tested by a professional. A contractor who obtains certification as a Lead Renovator can test the surfaces before disturbance to identify if lead-based paint is present. A homeowner can also hire a Certified Lead Inspector or Certified Lead Risk Assessor to test as well.

How do contractors prepare for lead renovations, repairs, and painting?

First, contractors prepare by obtaining certification and training. They provide communication to the homeowner on the lead-safe practices they will use for the renovation. Then, contractors review the provided checklist to ensure they have the proper tools and equipment for the intended renovations or repairs. They follow the provided work practices decision logic chart to make sure they are utilizing the correct control measures throughout the project’s duration. 

What are safety measures put in place to contain the location of the renovation work?

Contractors are required to use heavy-duty plastic sheeting to contain the work area where the disturbance of lead paint or coated surfaces may occur. They must monitor the containment during work to ensure no dust or debris goes beyond the work area.

What does the daily process for lead renovations look like? Is there a specific clean-up protocol imposed each day?

Lead renovation projects can take multiple days, and the containment will remain in place until it’s complete. The contractor follows work practices to reduce dust levels while the work is going on, which helps control contamination and make clean up easier.

Contractors continually clean while the work is going on using specialized equipment like HEPA vacuums. If a containment stays up overnight, the contractor should thoroughly clean all surfaces and ensure there is no debris on any horizontal surfaces before they leave for the day. 

What are the different types of lead certifications contractors and workers can obtain?

  • Lead dust sampling technicians test horizontal surfaces after a project for lead lingering in the dust left behind.
  • Lead renovators disturb painted or coated surfaces to “Repair, Remodel, or Restore” a property. Their primary intent is to improve the structure by making it look good and improving functionality. They might repaint, remodel a kitchen or bathroom, and replace drafty, old windows.
  • Lead abatement workers and supervisors specifically focus on lead paint that has been identified or can become a hazard. Usually, lead poisoning is already involved, and the main goal is to reduce or eliminate exposure to lead.
  • Lead Inspectors test painted and coated surfaces for the presence of lead. Test surfaces for lead-contaminated dust after the disturbance has occurred.
  • Risk assessors test painted and coated surfaces for lead as well. Test surfaces for lead-contaminated dust after the disturbance has occurred. Assesses the exposure hazard associated with the presence of lead on each surface. 

Do all renovations require the same types of certified contractors (e.g., will every project need a risk assessor or abatement specialist)?

Any renovations on a residential property or child-occupied facility that disturbs more than six square feet of interior per room or twenty square feet of exterior combined require specific certifications. The contractor should be a Certified Renovation Firm, and workers must be certified and trained in lead renovations.

Federally funded renovations or renovations on federally owned properties require a lead inspector, risk assessor, or dust sampling technician to collect dust samples after the renovation, ensuring the property is below the lead dust clearance levels.

Are there specific considerations for construction on residences where children are present? Government-subsidized establishments?

Children and other occupants in residences where lead renovation occurs require a safe and healthy environment. The contractor must develop a plan for occupants’ access to the essentials within a property while keeping them safe and clear from the lead renovation activity.

Federally funded or owned types of properties like government-subsidized establishments are also required to follow the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Lead Safe Housing Rule, in addition to the EPA’s RRP Rule. HUD’s rule is more stringent and requires the lead renovation to have a lead dust clearance test after the renovation passed by laboratory analysis.

What can homeowners expect during RRP work?

They can expect an increased project cost of about 25 to 35 percent. Residents will not be allowed into the renovation area until the work ends, and the site is proven to be adequately cleaned and safe for re-entry. 

What happens after contractors complete lead renovations? Do homeowners need to do anything else, in particular, to guarantee that their home is lead-safe?

The contractor will perform a Cleaning Verification following EPA protocol after the work is completed to ensure the area is safe for re-occupancy. If a residential property is federally funded or federally owned, the contractor must hire a certified lead inspector, risk assessor, or dust sampling technician to conduct a lead dust clearance test with laboratory analysis, which must be passed before re-occupancy. The contractor should share the results with the homeowner to explain the project and final testing results.

Wrapping Up

If you’re considering construction on your home or facility built before 1978, take time to understand the importance of utilizing a Certified Lead Paint Renovator. When you use a Certified Firm for your next renovation project or fixer-upper, you’re guaranteed workers that know the dangers of lead contamination.
Lead is a dangerous substance known to cause debilitating disease in adults and especially in children. These essential certifications ensure that the occupants of your property are as safe as possible during renovations and prevent the possibility of potential lead poisoning. If you suspect that lead is present in your residence, have your contractor contact a professional training service to guarantee they have all the necessary skills and knowledge to do great work for you.