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Houston Contractor Talks Lead Challenges

Thursday, July 13, 2017

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“Tangibly creative”—that’s how Dan Bawden describes his remodeling profession.

“I love driving by a home and saying, ‘I’ve built that,’” he said. “I’ve left my mark in a very tangible way on my country and my town.”

© iStock.com / herlordship

Dan Bawden owns Legal Eagle Contractors Co., in Houston, and is also a practicing attorney. He has seen different rules and regulations come into play and, like many others in the industry, he’s not a fan, going as far as to say that the regulations around lead-based paints, for example, are some of the biggest challenges he and his team face, despite not coming across lead paint at their construction sites very often.

Growing up with an artistic mom and a woodworking dad, Bawden was always drawn to working with his hands. When he got a job painting houses in high school, it clicked.

Challenges

Many years later, he now owns Legal Eagle Contractors Co., in Houston, and is also a practicing attorney. He has seen different rules and regulations come into play and, like many others in the industry, he’s not a fan, going as far as to say that the regulations around lead-based paints, for example, are some of the biggest challenges he and his team face, despite not coming across lead paint at their construction sites very often.

He said that where he’s at, his team works primarily on 1960s-built homes and newer, and while there’s still a chance he’ll have to deal with lead paint (and have to test for it), it doesn’t come up too often, which makes it all the more difficult when it does happen.

“[Clients] want to know the cost difference. Cost and time. So, if it’s an extra week, that could be another $3-5K. Complying with the rules—it definitely costs more,” he said, estimating a typical kitchen remodel. “It was very entertaining when the rule first came out."

© iStock.com / XIFotos

Bawden's team works primarily on 1960s-built homes and newer, and while there’s still a chance he’ll have to deal with lead paint (and have to test for it), it doesn’t come up too often, which makes it all the more difficult when it does happen.

He’s referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule” that was first issued in 2008 and has been amended nearly every year since—the entertainment came in the form of contractors scrambling to understand and comply.

The main facet of the rule focuses on certifications. It states: “… firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and kindergartens built before 1978 must be EPA- or state-certified and must use certified renovators who follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.”

“All the responsible remodelers went out and got their EPA certification and learned about those practices,” Bawden said. “But, in my city, lots of people have the certification that they need but don’t follow the lead-safe practices.”

Solutions

The most pushback comes when lead is found and there are no children in the home. Bawden supports what he describes as an “opt-out,” a provision that he mentions used to be in the regulations.

“If you’re working for a family that doesn’t have any children under seven [years old], that family can opt out of the lead abatement,” he said. “We’re not adding so much cost to the jobs and we’re leaving it up to the consumer.”

© iStock.com / Hoppyard

The most pushback comes when lead is found and there are no children in the home. Bawden supports what he describes as an “opt-out,” a provision that he mentions used to be in the regulations.

He calls the provision a “middle ground” between protecting susceptible members of society and mitigating cost where the risks are minimal, such as when no small children are living in a home they’re working in.

Bawden expects that some regulations, such as the RRP, will become more relaxed as the Trump administration continues in office.

He notes that there isn’t much current enforcement coming from the EPA (likely due to lack of manpower and money), so the rules just end up creating an unequal environment between companies that follow the rules and those that don’t.

Although not everyone agrees on the logistics of the hoop-jumping that comes with strict government regulations, there is an agreement on protecting people as the bottom line.

“I think we are more careful as an industry that we would have been without the regulations,” he said. “Responsible contractors’ hearts are in the right place. They don’t want to do something that’s going to jeopardize a child’s health.”

   

Tagged categories: EPA; Government; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Regulations

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