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Lead Paint and Window Replacement: What You Need to Know

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If you own an older home, you think it might contain lead paint and you’re considering a window replacement project, there’s an important environmental regulation you must know about.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a rule in 2008 that requires anyone doing renovation work on residential facilities built before 1978 to take steps to reduce the dust generated when the paint is disturbed. This is because it may contain lead from the lead-based paint. The regulation, called the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule, requires any renovation work — and all door and window replacements — that disturbs more than six square feet of a pre-1978 home’s interior to follow rigorous and costly work practices to protect residents from exposure to lead, which can be especially dangerous for young children. The work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.

Why Replacement Windows and Lead Paint Are a Concern

Windows are considered a higher lead exposure risk than other housing components because of weathering and the effect of friction on paint.

The rule has been controversial since it was launched, because it can greatly increase costs for homeowners and contractors.

In July 2010, EPA removed an “opt-out provision” from the rule. That exception had allowed homeowners without children under six or pregnant women in the home to forego lead-safe work practices. By removing the opt-out provision, EPA more than doubled the number of homes subject to the LRRP Rule. EPA says the amendment could add more than $336 million per year in compliance costs to contractors. Much of that would be passed on to consumers.

“If they didn’t get rid of the opt-out, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue,” said Jim Lett, owner of Abe Windows and Doors in Allentown, Pa. “But to remove it is horrible for a company my size. We’re estimating 35 to 40 percent additional labor costs.”

Additionally, the EPA has not found an accurate, affordable test kit for lead. Currently, approved kits will test positive for the presence of lead at levels below those required by the rule. That can result in unnecessary additional remediation costs at more than $130 per window — or more than $5,000 per home.

When the rule was originally written, EPA assumed that affordable test kits would become available. That would consumer costs for lead remediation by $200 million. But those kits are still unavailable, and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), a trade group that represents the door and window industry, estimates the added cost for consumers has been closer to $1.3 billion.

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Lead Paint Rule Could Be Hurting Efficiency Efforts

Because of these restrictive costs, many homeowners haven’t taken on window replacement projects. Because the average home loses up to 30 percent of its energy through air leaks around doors and windows, this hurts energy conservation goals.

However, LRRP Rule could change in the future. The Window and Door Manufacturers Association, a trade group for the door and window industry, has been lobbying the EPA and Congress to consider changes to the rule. For example, they’d like to restore the opt-out provision for homes without a child under the age of six or a pregnant woman.

Other Lead Facts You Must Know

In addition to homes, the LRRP Program applies to apartments and child-occupied facilities such as schools and daycare centers built before 1978. It has education requirements as well as training, certification and work practice requirements. According to the LRRP, it applies to “anyone who is paid to perform work that disturbs paint.”

“Renovation is broadly defined as any activity that disturbs painted surfaces and includes most repair, remodeling and maintenance activities, including window replacement,” according to the LRRP.

The program excludes the following:

• Dwellings with no bedrooms;

• Housing or components of housing that have been declared lead-free by a certified inspector or risk assessor, which could occur during the appraisal process; and

• Minor repair and maintenance that stirs up six square feet or less of paint per room inside, or 20 square feet or less on the exterior. According to the LRRP, “minor repair and maintenance activities do not include window replacement and projects involving demolition or prohibited practices.”

Who is a “Certified Renovator”?

To become a certified renovator, a contractor or rental property owner/manager must complete an eight-hour initial renovator training course offered by an accredited training provider (training providers are accredited by EPA, or by an authorized state or tribal program). The course completion certificate serves as proof of certification.

According to the LRRP, certified renovators are responsible for ensuring overall compliance with the LRRP’s requirements for lead-safe work practices. A certified renovator must do the following:

1. Use a test kit acceptable to EPA to determine whether components that might be affected by the renovation contain lead-based paint;

2. Provide training to workers on the work practices they will be performing;

3. Be present at the worksite when warning signs are posted, while the containment system is being set up, and while the cleaning is performed;

4. Regularly direct work being performed by other individuals to ensure that the work practices are being followed, including maintaining the integrity of the containment barriers and ensuring that dust or debris does not spread beyond the work area;

5. Be available, either on site or by telephone, at all times while the renovations are underway;

6. Perform project cleaning verification;

7. Keep copies of their initial course completion certificate and their most recent refresher course completion certificate with them at the worksite; and

8. Prepare required records.

In addition, all documents must be kept for three years following the completion of a project. These records include:

• Reports certifying that lead-based paint is not present;
• Records about the distribution of the lead pamphlet; and
• Documentation of compliance with the requirements of the LRRP Program.

Don’t Go it Alone for Window Replacement

The LRRP Rule can be complicated for homeowners. If you’re concerned about window replacement and lead paint in your home, contact one of the dealers listed on They’re knowledgeable about LRRP, and they can help you plan your next window replacement project.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Trey Barrineau

Trey Barrineau was the editor of Door & Window Market magazine (DWM). He edits and writes a wide range of content, from breaking-news items and first-person blog posts for the Web to 4,000-word, deeply researched features for print. He also manages DWM's social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. He came to DWM in December 2014 from USA Today. During his time at Key, Trey’s work has received national and regional recognition from the publishing industry. His 2016 coverage of Venezuela’s takeover of a U.S. glass factory was a 2017 finalist for the Jesse H. Neal Awards in the Best News Coverage category. In 2016, he won a silver medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Awards of Excellence for the Mid-Atlantic Region for a 2015 feature article on the lack of skilled labor in the door and window industry. Prior to joining DWM, Trey was a multiplatform editor and writer in USA Today's Life section from September 2000 to December 2014. While there, he won more than a dozen awards for outstanding headlines. Before that, he worked for more than 10 years covering news and sports at daily newspapers in North Carolina. Trey is a 1988 graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., with a bachelor’s degree in Communications. In 2016, he earned the Fenestration Associate professional certification from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). He lives with his wife Jacqui and their occasional office-dog Siri in Northern Virginia. Find out more about Trey on Linkedin.

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3 Responses

  1. I had a door replaced in the basement and the contractor said the door/surfaces surrounding it did not contain lead and gave me the info. in writing, etc. However, I need to get 6 or more windows replaced. 2 windows in the master bedrooms, one in the first bedroom and 1 in the bathroom upstairs and 2 downstairs on first floor. Do you think I need to get a lead paint test for the windows up and down even the basement door was not found to contain lead paint. By the way I have COPD -serious lung problems.

  2. My contractor is replacing windows in a lead abatement project. Am I required to remove all of the furniture? I can’t do what he’s asking. Regards, Judith A Wallon

    1. Hi Judith,

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be your best resource for this. Please contact them directly:

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