Take Care When Remodeling Homes with Lead Paint

By on May 17, 2019

By Phillip B. Burum

The nation celebrates National Remodeling Month in May as part of a season-long celebration of homeownership because most homeowners will require the services of a trained- and certified professional remodeler at some point, especially when preparing a home for sale to meet any new standards or codes since the home was originally approved.

The most common challenges owners of older homes face when remodeling is dealing with products or materials no longer allowed by modern building codes and standards. The most common of these challenges is dealing with asbestos or lead paint, which were banned in the United States in 1977 and 1978 respectively. Prior to the ban, asbestos was used in insulation, roof tiles and some textured paints while lead paint, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), may have been used in more than 38 million homes nationwide

Any major home renovation that may disturb lead-based paint or asbestos will require the services of highly trained and U.S. E.P.A. certified homebuilding professionals who must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

If you plan on doing any remodeling on a house built prior to 1977, your first step will be to visit the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/lead to find an EPA Certified Remodeler and download all the materials available that provide guidance to home owners and contractors about the safe removal and handling of these materials. There is even information on the website that will show you how to test for the presence of lead-based paint before you begin any work.

This is not the time to enlist the help of your drinking buddies. Remodeling a home that may contain lead or asbestos is a specialized endeavor that demands proper protocols are followed. If a contractor tells you that testing isn’t necessary and skipping the required practices can reduce your costs, he or she is breaking the law – so find another contractor.

To become an EPA Certified Remodeler, a firm and a contractor within that firm must apply to the EPA and complete a federal or state-administered class When you select an EPA – certified contractor, make sure he or she follows these specific work practices:

  1. Contain the work area so that dust and debris do not escape. Warning signs will be put up and heavy-duty plastic and tape will seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents. Cover the floors and any furniture that cannot be moved.
  2. Some paint removal methods create less dust than others such as using water to mist areas before sanding or scraping, scoring paint before separating components, and prying and pulling apart components instead of breaking them.
  3. Methods that generate large amounts of dust and should be avoided include: open flame burning or torching, sanding, grinding, planing, needle gunning, blasting with power tools and using equipment not equipped with a shroud and High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum attachment; or using a heat gun at temperatures greater than 1100°F.

Remember, before removing any plastic that isolates the work area from the rest of the home, the area should be sanitized using special cleaning methods. These methods include using a HEPA vacuum to clean up dust and debris on all surfaces followed by wet mopping with plenty of water.

Homeowners can find highly trained remodeling professionals in the area by visiting the National Association of Home Builders website www.NAHB.org and click on “Builders & Remodelers” for a directory of professional remodelers. A trained and certified professional remodeler will provide more value to the project by helping solve design and space problems creatively while helping you stay within budget by offering a range of product selections. Staying out of jail is also a nice perk that is provided by hiring the right professional to deal with environmentally sensitive projects. So, especially when it comes to renovations of older homes, make the smartest investment in your home by hiring a qualified professional remodeler.

The Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter seeks to advance the opportunity to attain the American Dream of homeownership. For more information, visit www.biabuild.com on the web.

Phillip B. Burum is Vice President-Land at D.R. Horton and Board President for the Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter.