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A federal law passed more than two years ago finally takes effect on (appropriately enough) April 22, Earth Day. On that day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin enforcing its regulations covering work performed in homes that might possibly contain lead paint. Because the vast majority of houses in San Francisco were built before 1978, this law is set to affect nearly every homeowner. The 1978 date is critical because that is when the government finally banned the use of lead-based paints.
Lead never decomposes, leaving a risk for homeowners, their friends and family, and any future occupants. Lead also binds to soil, so exterior remodeling of homes may result in the contamination of lawns that will remain hazardous for years. The EPA’s standards have been enacted to drastically reduce the risk homeowners take when hiring a contractor to perform work on their homes. Processes and procedures have been developed that renovators are required to follow. Unfortunately, these mandatory steps will add additional time, materials, and costs to many typical home improvement jobs that disturb any painted surface.
Home improvement projects will now require more set-up, clean-up and tear down work. Special equipment, such as HEPA vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters, must be purchased. Individual contractors who directly oversee the project must be trained and certified. All employees must receive additional training. As a consequence, the cost for this extra work will have to be added as a surcharge to the regular price of each remodeling job. While this surcharge will vary depending upon the type of job being done, it is estimated to be in the 5% to 10% range.