The EPA Lead Paint Rule will affect remodelers and their companies primarily by creating slightly higher costs in the setup and protecting of clients and their homes. But, those costs aren’t huge. With all the confusing information and negativity slung at the new EPA RRP rule, Rich Cowgill, CR, GCP, of Vision Design and Build, Inc., has actually found a way to make the rule benefit his company.
To begin with Cowgill, who is also a certified LRRP trainer, feels it’s necessary for remodelers and contractors to understand just why the rule is so important. The federal guideline for lead-based paints is 1.0 micrograms per square centimeter. If you look at the level that it takes to poison a child, it takes only one-sixth-millionth of a microgram to start that process.
“The lead rule doesn’t really explain how small amounts of lead are dangerous to children,” says Cowgill. “It’s like most things; if you don’t know someone affected by the problem, it doesn’t seem that dangerous to you. As easy as it is to poison children with paint, there’s no safe level of lead.”
The best way to benefit from the RRP rule according to Cowgill is to use the EPA certified firm information to set standard work practices for the company. More or less, follow the work practices without pressing the lead issue on every project regardless of whether or not it is a pre-1978 home. It keeps the employees and trade contractors trained in the proper ways and makes for an easier cleanup when the job is done.
“We may not do cleaning verification and we may not document everything on post-1978 homes, but I have found that by having the guys do the same setups on every job, they have only one job box there for demo,” explains Cowgill. “They are so proficient at setting up those jobs now that it doesn’t really add time to the job for setup and it drastically reduces our cleanup time. So then we’re actually saving money on the backside.”
Another way companies are using the RRP rule to their benefit is through marketing. For example, in Cowgill’s market a painting contractor uses a yard sign that says “EPA certified firm. We’re here to protect your home while we make it more beautiful.” This contractor is spelling out for potential clients that he is certified and that safety is his No. 1 concern.
“You want to avoid what some people are doing to clients by telling them they have to charge them an extra $35 because of the EPA law,” adds Cowgill. “That’s just backfiring for businesses.”
Being certified to handle lead paint also lends some credibility to a remodeler, much like being part of an association does. Linking a company website to EPA’s certified-firms website gives remodelers another measure of credibility with clients by having government agency affiliation.
Integrating the rule
The best way to integrate these new practices into a company is to have everyone in the company and the subcontractors trained and onboard so they fully know what’s going on. Realize though, that like any work practice, it’s just going to take some time. It’s like any other work practice.
“For years we used to take bathroom vents and put them to a roof vent on the roof,” says Cowgill. “Now we go to outside air. It’s just a change in work practice that we’re facing now. It’s really just a matter of integrating it all into the daily routines.”
The biggest purchase for a company to implement these practices is a HEPA vacuum. That purchase should be based on a company’s volume of work and range in price from $200 to $2,000. It’s important to check the cost of a replacement HEPA filter too, because once they get wet, they’re garbage. The rest is just plastic and warning signs.
A change in shopping habits also helps according to Cowgill. He suggests looking for environmental supply stores to pick up materials like plastic sheathing, a HEPA vacuum and replacement filters. Sometimes the cost of materials can be as much as one-fifth less. That means it is easier for a remodeler to follow the rule without hurting their bottom line.
“The RRP rule has helped me because I don’t make lead the issue and I don’t explain why I’m setting up their home the way I am,” explains Cowgill. “I just do all setups for all jobs the same per the rule, such as blocking off and enclosing everything according to the practices. Homeowners have noticed this and they think it’s just because we care about their house. They don’t understand that it’s part of the EPA RRP rule. They are telling their friends and neighbors how great of a job we’re doing to set up, protect and clean their homes and we’re getting a lot more work because of it.”