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Lead Paint in Homes: What Contractors Need to Know

It is springtime, and contractors are busy. Lots of construction activities are happening. If a home was built prior to 1978, then it is possible there may be some lead paint and contractors should know that the State of Ohio and EPA has rules to follow. A full discussion for this topic is far beyond the scope of this article so I am just presenting some of the highpoints for what to consider and where to find more information.


Because of the recognized detrimental health effects that have been documented from lead exposure, a federal law was passed that made it illegal for lead-based paint to be used in residential homes after 1978. Lead based paint is any paint, varnish, or stain that contains more lead than 1 mg/cm 2 (or 0.5% by dry weight). Many people do not realize that lead was added to both varnish and stains. Therefore, an unpainted windowsill, baseboard or other surface can still contain lead and should be treated with care.


Contractor Training Requirements for Remodeling

A homeowner can expose themselves to health risks without any training to remodel or renovate their home. But if they hire a contractor to work on their house, and it was built before 1978, then the contractor must have taken a “Renovation, Repair and Painting” (RRP) training. By attending this one day class, you will obtain a certificate of completion and be considered an EPA Certified Renovator. The EPA RRP became law for Ohio contractors in April 2008, and when it came into effect, several contractors were caught working on homes without the training and paid a very heavy price. The RRP training does not discuss abatement activities to address the removal, encapsulation, or enclosure of lead-based hazards. The training meets the EPA and HUD requirements for lead-safe work practices training under the RRP rule.


The RRP information is provided in EPA publication document titled "Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair and Painting Regulation." It is document EPA-740-R-09-002. Training providers are listed on the internet by searching for “RRP Training Providers in Ohio” at least 3 will come up.


The RRP training is required for;

  • Residential rental property owners/managers

  • General Contractors

  • Special trade contractors, including painters, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians.

Not all construction activities must adhere to the RRP rules. The following housing or activities are not covered by the RRP rule:

  • Housing built in 1978 or later;

  • Housing specifically for elderly or disabled persons, unless children under 6 reside or are expected to reside there;

  • "Zero-bedroom" dwellings (studio apartments, hospitals, hotels, dormitories, etc.);

  • Housing or components declared lead-free by a certified inspector or risk assessor. Also, a certified renovator may declare specific components lead-free using an EPA recognized test kit; or, they can hire a licensed person to collect paint chip samples for analysis by an EPA recognized laboratory.

  • Minor repair and maintenance activities that disturb 6 square feet or less of paint per room inside, or 20 square feet or less on the exterior of a home or building. (Note: Window replacement, and partial and full demolition activities, are always covered regardless of square footage. Activities designated as “prohibited” are prohibited regardless of square footage.).

More information regarding the activities that are covered by this rule can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/lead/renovation-repair-and-painting-program-contractors


There are three types of Lead Paint Projects:


#1: Where there is a poisoned child.

If a child has lead in their blood above EPA guidelines (5 ug/dl), ODH will complete a Risk Assessment and issue a compliance order to a homeowner or property management company. ODH may grant permission for a homeowner to work on their own property they live in. But if a company is hired to address the Compliance Order, or it is a rental or commercial property, the compliance order must be completed by a state licensed lead paint supervisor. Licensed lead paint workers can participate on the project but only under the guidance of the paint supervisor.


To find training providers to obtain a Supervisor or worker license, you can go to the internet and look up “Ohio training providers for lead paint abatement supervisors”. There will be several available for you to choose from.


#2: HUD funded Lead-Safe Renovations

This type of project must follow HUD regulations published in 1999. The work can be completed by an RRP/Ohio certified lead-safe renovator. They are not required to have a licensed lead abatement contractor and workers unless the organization hiring the contractors is receiving greater than $25,000 in federal funds per unit.


#3: Private Renovations

Any home, day-care facility, or school built before 1978 must follow the PPR rules unless there are other circumstances involved with the property. For day-care facilities and schools, there is information that is required to be given to the occupants and workers prior to beginning the work. This will be explained in the RRP training.


Lead Paint Inspections

Contractors are normally interested in determining if a surface to be disturbed has lead paint. There are testing kits that you can buy, but the kit only tests the outer most layer of paint and the paint under may contain lead. You can find kits online but remember the cheapest is not the best. It is best to spend a little money because you are protecting yourself and your client.


Abatement vs RRP for lead Based Paint Issues

The term “abatement” means you remove a contaminate to a concentration that is defined by a regulatory body; in the case of RRP, it is EPA. As previously stated, the RRP class does not instruct on the methods for abating lead paint, but how to approach renovation projects in a safe manor. During the RRP class, you will learn that the following activities are prohibited to

remove lead-based paint:

  • Using an open flame

  • Using a heat gun

  • Creating a dust without HEPA vacuuming

  • Dry Scraping

  • Hand Sanding

  • Using a chemical paint stripper

Post Project Completion Clearance testing

After you have completed a renovation project, you need to clean the area and evaluate how successful you have been. There are two options, you can hire someone that uses laboratory data or you can do it yourself using an EPA approved white cloth. For the first option, you can hire a state lead paint inspector, a licensed clearance technician or a licensed Risk Assessor. They will decide the scope of the dust sampling that will be required. Generally speaking, it is where they select 4 rooms and collect 3 dust wipe samples from each room; these locations are the floor, the window sill and window trough. The samples are submitted to a laboratory for analysis and the concentration of lead is compared to an EPA threshold value.


The second option is that contractors can self-evaluate the cleanliness of the property themselves. There is a wipe cloth (like a white glove test) used and after wiping the color is compared to an EPA published chart that uses a color comparison showing the cleanliness. Obviously, hiring a licensed person to collect dust samples for laboratory analysis is far more accurate.


In Conclusion

In Part 2 on this discussion on lead paint issues, I will cover the information that a homeowner should know about lead paint. The next article will include the topics:

  • Right to Know Requirements for landlords, property management companies, and Realtors

  • Lead Paint Inspections

  • Hiring a contractor

  • Do it yourself activities

  • ODH Risk Assessments and Compliance Orders

Deep Breath is an article that is dedicated to distributing information through the Stark & East Central Ohio BIA newsletter. Hopefully the information presented here will spark your interest in learning more about a topic that will help your business and clients. If you have any questions or would like to hear about a certain topic, you can reach me at BobBennett@usefarsight.com. I will post some of the questions asked at the end of the next article.


Bob Bennett is the President of Farsight Management, and the President of the Indoor Air

Quality Association for North East Ohio. He has been provided indoor air quality consulting and

abatement for the last 20 years to builders, homeowners, insurance companies, and property

management companies. You can follow Mr. Bennett on Facebook under Farsight Management;

he frequently posts comments on interesting projects and articles of interest. Contact him through

his email if you have any questions.

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