EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Q&A

EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP) Summary:

  1. The Renovate, Repair and Paint (RRP) rule only applies to homes built before 1978.
  2. The enforcement of RRP started on April 22, 2010.
  3. Contractors working on these homes must be trained to: inform homeowners of the risks of lead paint, test for lead paint, exercise best practices when working with painted surfaces and maintain proper documentation.

The following are some of the questions we have fielded over the last few months from both homeowners and contractors.

Q:  This only pertains to large remodels with a lot of demolition – right?

A: Unfortunately not.  The rule states that contractors need to implement their training if 6 square feet of interior or 20 square feet of exterior paint is disturbed.  Six square feet is not much to disturb during a remodel.  Consider a 2’ x 3’ window replacement equals 6 square feet (that’s right, the glass area does count).  Consider a painter that needs to scrape and sand before applying new paint.  Six or even 20 square feet isn’t much.

Q:  What trades contractors are affected by this?

A: Every contractor that disturbs more than six square feet of interior or 20 square feet of exterior painted surfaces are affected.  It’s easy to see that general contractors, painters and window replacement contractors are affected by this rule, but we believe plumbers, electricians, drywall contractors, tile setters, even roofers should consider how many times they take out their drywall, circular or reciprocating saws to cut painted surfaces.

Q:  How much does it cost to test for lead paint?

A: Here is the most important thing you can take away from this article.  Recognize that there is no requirement to test for lead paint.  You and your remodeling contractor can choose not to test and proceed as if lead paint were present.

We think this is the route to take!    We are recommending to our customers that under no circumstances should they allow anyone to test for lead for the purpose of remodeling.

Why would we say this?  You should consider the risks associated with a positive test.  A positive test could be the kiss-of-death for your property value.  A positive test would mean that you would have to disclose at resale that lead paint is known to exist in the home.  Not a selling point.  Also note, your insurance company will be interested in a positive test result.

While the cost of a remodel, with the RRP containment precautions, will be higher, they should not approach the potential loss you could incur through disclosure at resale.

Q:  How much more will it cost to remodel and take the precautions?

A: Obviously that depends on the project and the amount of painted surface to be disturbed.  We are estimating the additional cost associated with a complete tear-out and rebuild of a typical kitchen or master bath will be in the range of 4-8% more. (actual numbers brings it about 35%more)

Q:  If I accept the responsibility will you still do the work?

A: Every business works on a risk/reward system.  To compensate us for the risks involved we would need to consider that, if we get caught on the last day of a 30 day project, we could be fined $37,500 per day or $1,125,000.  We’ll need to add that to the cost of the project and we’d like that amount up front, transferred into our account in Zurich.  Still want to take the risk?  We would also want you to accept the responsibility for the jail time we may have to serve.

All kidding aside:  No, we will not do the work.

Q:  Will there be “lead police” or who will be the authority?  They just can’t walk into my house, can they?

A: The EPA itself will enforce the rule.  We don’t know if they have the authority to just walk in the house or not, but they do have the authority to stop a project, get a warrant, and take every last penny we have.  Again, it’s just not worth the risk.

Q:  I’ve heard about lead paint, but what else might have lead in it?

A: Our intent here was to alert owners of homes built before 1978 of the RRP rule.  The topic of what else contains lead inside or outside the home is a topic for another article or seven.

Q: If you find lead paint do we need to stay out of the house?

A: First of all, recognize that we are not advocating “finding” lead paint.  We are recommending that we treat all painted surfaces to be disturbed in a pre 1978 home, as if it is lead based.  The EPA has issued no rule or mandate that, if lead paint is discovered, the home’s occupants must or should leave.  They seem to be confident that the procedures they have outlined in our training will protect the occupants and the workers.

Q: Why didn’t we know about this RRP thing?

A: That is the $64,000 question or in this case $37,500.  Remember when television broadcasts were switching from analog to digital?  You couldn’t go 15 minutes without a public service announcement.  There have been no RRP public service announcements on television, radio or in the newspapers.

An example of how quiet this has been, a Utah general contractor contacted 234 other contractors and found that only 2 vaguely knew about the rule.  We think the general public is even less informed.

We sent emails to 51 newspapers and five television stations in Colorado explaining RRP and its ramifications.  We received three phone calls requesting more information, one newspaper ran a story and one television station ran a story.

From our contractor networks, we can tell you that many knowing and ethical remodeling contractors across the country have taken this subject to their media outlets, websites, blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, etc. trying to get the word out.  Our hope is that we can make it viral.  You can help protect your friends and family by spreading the word on your networking channels.  If it doesn’t become viral, at least you know.

An unknowing or unethical contractor could take your money, get caught, bring your project to a halt and use your money to defend him/herself.  That, friends, will make the papers.

Sometimes answering questions generates more questions.  If you have additional questions or we didn’t address your specific question, please contact us.  We’ll do our best to get the answers you need.