Homeowners avoid expense of remodeling under lead paint rule

The costs of remodeling a home built before 1978 can increase by as much as 24 percent, the result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule, according to the NAHB.

“Remodelers are finding that conducting renovation work in older homes has become more expensive under the lead regulation and that homeowners are reluctant to pay the increased cots,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Fort Collins, Colo.

Responding to special questions in NAHB’s quarterly Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey, many remodelers said they had estimated the price of remodeling projects with and without the lead rule requirements.  The percentage of price difference depended on the size of the remodeling project, with the smallest projects – less than $5,000 – experiencing the greatest cost increase at 24 percent.  As the project sizes increased, the overall costs of applying the lead rule fell.  At the high end, projects costing more than $100,000 had a 9 percent increase for lead rule requirements.

At least 65 percent of the remodeler respondents to the RMI survey reported that homeowners are taking actions to avoid the costs of the lead rule by attempting do-it-yourself work, looking for an uncertified contractor who would not comply with the lead rule, scaling back the size of planned remodeling projects, or deciding not to remodel at all.

“Remodelers want to protect vulnerable children from lead exposure, but we’re seeing that homeowners do not want to pay the costs for complying with the lead regulation,” said Peterson.  “A huge part of the problem is that homeowners with no children do not see the need to pay this expense.

Under the lead paint regulation, contractors disturbing painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes must obtain training and certification, distribute the Renovate Right pamphlet to homeowners, contain dust during the renovation, use lead-safe work practices, clean up after the project, and maintain detailed records.

According to the American Housing Survey, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Census Bureau, professional remodelers are hired to perform about 16.6 million projects per year in housing built before 1980.  The vast majority of these projects – nearly 13 million – are small, priced under $5,000.  This means that homeowners with small remodeling projects will experience the majority of lead rule expenses.

The total estimated costs for remodeling under the lead rule, including training, equipment, materials, and work hours, would reach as high as $10.5 billion per year if homeowners did not change their remodeling plans.

For more information on the lead rule, visit www.nahb.org/leadpaint or call NAHB at 800-368-5242.