Lead Abatement During Gut

    by

    dear wise brownstoners,

    we’re beginning a gut renovation and we’re concerned about infant/toddler lead exposure. paying 1,000 to test for it seems silly since we know we have it.

    i’ve been told it’s the responsibility of our gc to assure it’s removed during construction. so if we have a lead inspection after construction is completed and it’s positive, what then? does our gc have any responsibility to assure it’s removed?

    i also know there are companies that do lead abatement. is there any sense in having this done prior to construction? (we are doing asbestos abatement)

    could any of you share wisdom on this? (and if you’d please withhold the “don’t worry about lead” commentary i’d appreciate it)

    many thanks

    14 Replies

    1. With the lead testing though i think you need to think about what they are testing for. Lead paint is not radioactive. It will not hurt you and your children if it is not chipping, peeling, or creating new dust. I personally would not worry if there were intact lead paint in good condition in hard to reach places (say the edge of a high-up closet shelf). I would be very worried if I had moved into the house and kept finding construction dust on top of door framing, above cabinets, on fan blades, on the top edge of ceiling lights, etc. I would spend my time, money, and energy, on removing this dust which well could contain lead dust. Please don’t reach this as “I don’t think you should worry about lead paint” because that’s not the case, and it is a personal thing anyway, but the emphasis should be moved from detecting the substance to removing dust that would be far more likely to cause a problem.

    2. You should definitely spend the $1,000 to have the lead test done to your new home. Doing anything on the cheap and thinking that “everything will be OK” is a fallacy. We did not even take our children into the house until it had been renovated by a very good contractor with the help of an architect and tested again for lead paint. Don’t think that the $1,000 is a waste. It is your child’s health on the line and I would say it would be better not to get the fancy sink or counters but get the test!

    3. thank you all for sharing your expertise and experiences. at this point i am leaning towards spending the money to do pre and post construction inspections and certainly to choose an epa certified gc. as i navigate through the options, i’ll keep you posted about what i lean.

    4. Effective April 22, 2010, any contractor who disturbs interior wall space measuring at least two feet by three feet must be EPA Certified.

      Any questions, contact Curtis Godoy of Curtis Home Improvement at 347581-5562. He is EPA Certified, and licensed with the DCA. Mr. Godoy also carries liability and worker comp insurance.

    5. well, i would be a little more cautious. we also didn’t get a lead test, thought we’d encapsulated all the potential suspects, cleaned very thoroughly many times and then was out of the house for the summer, and now i found out today my 15 month old has an 18 lead level, which is scarily high and also means the city now will come in and makes us abate it according to their byzantine and not so safe rules. so in hindsight i wish we had tested upfront, been much more aggresive and informed about abating and have dealt with it upfront. i am glad to hear that many people’s stories turned out more positively but i think you have to make this your responsibility and know where the lead is going in. as a previous poster said, the results can be surprising.

      my two cents,
      pitythefool (which is feeling very spot on right now….)

    6. In one of the site safety classes I had to take, they recomended washing your clothes seperately from the rest of the wash after each site visit if you have an infant at home. It’s really easy to pick up dust at the site and inadvertently bring it home. Other than that, I’d follow the predominant advice here and get a good cleaning service after all is said and done, not worrying about it too much until that point.

    7. BHS is right… and relative to the cost of renovation, cleaning will be cheap. It’s probably worth doing twice at least, since lead dust could stay in the air for days and settle over time.

    8. Most importantly for the health of your child I would be very focused on clean-up plans, above and beyond the cleanup done by the GC (which is generally sort of “broom-swept” but not “white-glove-test”). Hire a cleaning professional if you aren’t able to do the work yourself. Even if the GC follows all the rules, construction and demolition are messy undertakings and it’s difficult to know exactly what they/you’ll encounter until it’s underway. As MR said, carefully clean every surface after the renovation. And don’t bring your child to the work site.

    9. I would (and did) let the renovation happen and just make sure you do a great cleaning after. HEPA vac everything. Multiple moppings with the proper soap. Clean every surface. Clean the top of doorways. Etc.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “removed”. After your reno there is sure to be some lead paint somewhere in the house, not a problem if you make sure it’s sealed in.

    10. Your GC is only responsible for lead abatement (within the agreed cost of the project) if the work is called out in the specification or on the drawings. If it is not called for in the contract documents upon which the GC based his price, then the additional coat of the work will be the subject of a change order, most likely at a higher cost than if it were included in the original bid.

    11. We had the same concern with a reno that started last year. We brought it up with our contractor, and it really soured the conversations / negotiations on price that had been going well to that point. I’m forgetting all the details now, but I believe that the EPA certification which was recommended in 2009 is now required, but you might still have trouble getting contractors to sign anything. We got ours to agree to safe work practices (wet sanding, control dust with plastic, etc., clean job site) and did a thorough cleaning after, and ultimately felt comfortable that this would work. We did a lead test up front, which I was really ambivalent about for the reasons you mentioned, but the results were in fact a little surprising. Not all walls had lead, and the radiators did not. Good luck!

    12. Clarification – Lead abatement is not required in a renovation absent a DOH order and certified renovators can not perform abatement although the end result may be the same except in name and price.

      Any lead abatement contractors out there ready to take me up on that one?

    13. EPA rules firmly put this on the contractor. Have you asked if the contractor is EPA certified? Can they show you the papers for their firm and their certified renovator? If not, you may want to consider other options.

      As for post-construction tests, defer to the stronger NYC LL1 tests which are based on chemical analysis rather than visual wipes.