With new federal lead-paint rule in effect, you might need to hire a certified pro

Consumer Reports News: May 03, 2010 05:18 PM

Before your next exterior-painting project,
read up on the EPA's new lead-paint rule.

If you're planning to hire a pro to paint the exterior of your home project over the coming weeks or months, you might have more to do than just choosing the right paint, finding a window of good weather to do the job, and preparing for the project.

If your home was built before 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's brand-new Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule affects you and the pro you hire for any exterior or interior job. (If you own a rental property, you need to educate yourself about some of the intricacies of the rule.) Deteriorated lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust or soil are common causes of lead poisoning. Children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk from health effects, including behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and even death.
The rule essentially says that contractors and maintenance professionals be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or an EPA-approved state program. Workers on the job must be trained in and follow lead-safe work practices that include restricting family members from work areas, containing work areas to trap dust and debris, cleaning up thoroughly, and checking afterward. Read more details on the new lead rule and find certified pros in your area.

Houses built before 1978 are assumed to harbor lead paint, even if contained beneath layers of newer paint. If you believe there's no lead paint where the work will take place, you can get confirmation from a certified inspector or risk assessor, or by a certified renovator using an EPA-approved test kit. Exceptions apply if the area to be painted or renovated is minor work involving less than 20 square feet (exterior projects) or 6 square feet (interior projects). According to the EPA, window replacement is not a minor job.

Ed Perratore

Essential information: If you want to do a quick test for lead paint in the area to be worked on, read our review of lead test kits and ratings of lead test kits. Our new review of exterior paints and stains will appear on ConsumerReports.org tomorrow morning. Visit our Home Remodeling & Improvement Guide for more advice on fixing up your home.

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