By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

Starting April 22, the Environmental Protection Agency is mandating all renovation contractors who work on pre-1978 homes be certified to properly handle lead-based paint to avoid environmental contamination.

Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes before it was banned from residential use in 1978. Lead has been shown to affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities and behavioral problems; it can also be harmful to adults.

Lead in dust, which is often invisible, is the most common way people are exposed to lead.

EPA rules

After April, renovations on pre-1978 houses must be done by an EPA-certified contractor to handle lead-paint contamination.

Common renovation activities, such as sanding, drilling and demolition, can stir up a lot of dust. So in an older home where lead-based paint was likely used, it is no wonder why there is cause for concern.

The EPA’s new renovation, repair and painting rule tries to reduce the exposure of lead, especially to children. The new federal law targets homes, schools and commercial buildings where children are present. Children are considered to be “present” if any child under the age of 6 visits the same facility six hours each week, or 60 hours per year.

To certify, contractors and property managers (who do repair or renovation work on private-income property) will be required to complete an eight-hour EPA-accredited training course. The training teaches safe worksite practices to minimize the generation of lead dust.

The training focuses on how to properly contain the lead dust to the work area and how to thoroughly clean the area so it can pass a “white glove” test at the end of the project.

Contractors are already required to provide homeowners with a copy of the EPA’s lead hazard pamphlet, but after April, homeowners will be required to sign a prerenovation form confirming they have received the pamphlet.

After the work is completed, homeowners will also receive a report that documents the lead-safe work practices used and that the final cleaning test was passed.

If you are working on your own pre-1978 home, the EPA’s repair and repainting rule does not cover your project. However, you have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of your family or children in your care. If you are living in a pre-1978 home and are planning to do painting or repairs, read the EPA’s “Renovate Right” lead hazard information pamphlet before you begin.

In today’s environmentally conscious arena, contractors must jump many hurdles.

Implementing this change will add cost to the job, which will be passed on to the homeowner. Rather than deal with the situation, some contractors may simply avoid working on older homes altogether.

In any case, you should be aware of applicable regulations and consider their impact on your project and budget so you are not caught unaware.

For more information about the new EPA rule, see As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

New EPA rules affect renovations