New lead rules may drive up home remodeling costs


If you live in an older home and are planning any home remodeling projects, you might need to add some padding to your budget. This spring a new EPA requirement will mandate that special lead testing, work practices -- and extra expenses are also part of any home improvements done to homes built before 1978.

As of April 22, 2010, remodelers will be required to both test those homes for lead and be certified to work within them using strict lead safety practices. That means that once a remodel begins, contractors must seal work areas off from the rest of the home, minimize dust that increases lead exposure risk, and go through a thorough daily cleanup routine including use of a HEPA vacuum.

The main area of concern is exposure due to lead based paint. About 38 million homes contain lead paint, and if your home was built before 1978, the last year lead paint was available; chances are it has lead paint somewhere under all those layers. Even if you are not planning to remodel, homeowners living in pre-1978 housing are smart to take steps to prevent lead paint exposure. Lead can cause neurological damage in children and contributes to hypertension, joint pain and more in adults.

But while the protection you and your family will receive is extremely valuable, this added layer of protection won't come cheap. Requirements for remodeler training, certification and work practices are going to impact the bottom line of any home improvement you plan. Working around lead adds extra steps, materials and documentation, all of which could translate into additional project costs.