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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Glass.com. They’re knowledgeable about LRRP, and they can help you plan your next window replacement project.
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