Stop the Insanity

Everyone in the contracting industry is entering the lead-testing debate: LeadCheck vs. D-Lead. You've undoubtedly read about these products. Which works better? This one works on plaster. This one is easier to use. This one is ... . Are you puzzled about which testing method you should use on your project? Well, I recommend you don't test for lead. You heard me.
I have been using lead-safe practices in the remodeling industry since 1997. Very few of my projects were built after 1978. Not once have I tested for lead. You read this correctly. I have never tested a project for lead.

In addition to being a contractor, I am an RRP trainer. I have trained more than 3,000 contractors, building inspectors and property managers for several recognizable lead-safe training firms. In my class, my first question is this: Why would you ever choose to test for lead in a home built prior to 1978, especially in New England?

Sounds like heresy, doesn't it? Well, think about it. In New England, we have the oldest housing inventory in the nation. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than testing negative for lead in these homes. When you test and get a bad result, the home-owner now has a report they must reveal when selling their home. Especially in this market, does a homeowner really need one more reason for his property value to drop?

When you, as a contractor, get a harmful result from a lead test (whichever brand you choose), you must by law follow all the EPA rules and regulations. So take the alternative. Don't test. You always should assume the house has lead and simply follow the procedures and regulations. It's that simple.

Use the same process you would if you tested, but the homeowner has no report damaging the property value. Renovators are renovators. They are not de-leaders or lead-abatement professionals. Renovators cannot perform the work to provide certificates of compliance to a property owner. The contractor can damn the property with the test, but not correct the problem. It is better for everyone involved to simply follow the EPA rules (or, in Massachusetts, the state rules, which are even more stringent and supersede the EPA).

Here are just a few key reasons to forget lead testing and always use the RRP procedures:

  1. Lower your costs: That's right. When practicing the lead-safe methods becomes second nature, your financial concerns about fines, health care and worker complaints go down and your long-term financial picture improves. When you eliminate the time to test and report, your job actually goes faster and more efficiently.
  2. A cleaner job site: Practice lead-safe methods 100 percent of the time and you'll enjoy great customer referrals because of how clean you kept the house during the remodeling process. Tell customers you don't test for lead, you just remodel the right way all the time.
  3. A safer jobsite: A clean jobsite is a safe one. This means you'll have fewer accidents and less downtime for yourself and your crew.
  4. Your family will not get poisoned because of you. This isn't a scare tactic. It's not exaggeration. It's the reason I started using lead-safe remodeling practices more than a decade ago. I read the research and listened to the cold, hard facts: The majority of people who get lead poisoning each year are connected to renovation projects.

There are many reliable sources confirming that many lead-poisoned children have parents who work in construction. Some sources put it as high as 60 percent while others debate the number as we speak.

I can't tell you how many students have told me they have poisoned their families. Think you are a tough construction worker? You should look into the eyes of these people I have met in my classes. They didn't seem so tough when they spoke of what happened to their kids because of their lack of knowledge.

The majority of people who get lead poisoning each year are connected to renovation projects.

My highest respect goes to the founders of LeadCheck and D-Lead. By no means am I refuting their products, knowledge or integrity. I simply am questioning the purpose of testing when the real issue is your health and the health of your family and customers. Is the health of your family worth risking because of a possible errant test result? At what point do you stop complaining about a law and start to realize it's there to protect you? No one deserves to be lead-poisoned. I decided in 1997 my company would work this way on all of our jobs. Now I teach other contractors to do the same.

If you disagree, I'd love to hear from you. Nobody has convinced me otherwise yet.

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