Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lead Clearance Test--Surprising and Scary

We bought this place from the City of Covington and by and large they've been great to work with, with some individuals going far and above the call of duty on our behalf. Sometimes, there are annoying requirements. One of which was the requirement to test for lead paint. Now, in theory, this is a great policy. DIY renovators are exposed to WAY too much lead.

The thing is, I took my lead course and I'm a certifiable lead-safe worker. I know there was going to be lead paint and I took steps to minimize my exposure. But I still had to cough up a pretty penny to get the place tested. That's money that could have gone to pay for some of the thousands of $'s of lumber that went up on these walls. Oh well...

Anyway, since there was an extensive lead test done, there has to be a "lead clearance test" done to demonstrate that lead remediation done or at least good cleaning practices were used during and after the project. Now, since the walls were furred, foamed, and drywalled, we didn't need to worry about them. And, since the interior walls, and the lead paint encrusted bead board stair enclosures were removed and replaced, we didn't need to worry about them. AND, since the floors had been covered with OSB, and swept and HEPA Vacuumed (both before and after OSB went down) several times, and since all the windows and doors had been replaced, we didn't need to worry about them. We don't even need a clearance test, Right?

Wrong. A lead clearance test is required even though there isn't any lead painted surfaces left in the house and haven't been for months and months and that all surfaces are now new. No certificate of occupancy will be issued without one. No COO, no refi. No COO, no CARD loan/grant.

So, a lead clearance test was scheduled.

Here's where it gets interesting. Our tester shows up and walks through the house. She notes that we've not put down carpet. She asked us if we had cleaned the window sills (no, they are new lumber and just painted and actually not really "sills"). She asked us if we had cleaned the window troughs (yes, yesterday). She looked at us and said, "You don't want me to test today"


Everything is NEW. There's no lead here! Not so fast. "This is an old neighborhood and our testing is very sensitive." There's a good chance that there's enough lead present to fail a test. She advised getting carpet down. Make sure every sill or subsill has been painted. Clean all window troughs and sills immediately before the scheduled test.

Fine. Whatever. Rush job on the carpet. We were lucky to find some carpet we really rather liked that could be installed fast. That of course blew the budget there by about $2k.

But we got it in. The outfit was McCall's and they were pretty darned good and professional. I just wish we'd had time to shop this the way we wanted to.

So, we got the carpet in and we HEPA vacuumed the entire place, cleaned sills and troughs per instruction, and had the lead test done. Basically, they test the floors and sills of the rooms that are likely to have children playing or eating in them.

Now, we passed but here's the kicker, one of our sills (brand new, where we replaced the door with a window) and one of our troughs were at about 35% of maximum tolerance. That's on a new sill and a new window trough that been cleaned within 2 hours of the test! There should be NO lead paint. The thing is, on a windy day, you're going to get lead dust from your neighbors. Plan on it. If you want to pass a lead clearance test, make sure you clean right before the scheduled test. Also, when you wipe your troughs, wipe the bottom of the sash well too.

Also, as a matter of course, when you open windows in the spring and summer, give the troughs and sills a quick suck with the HEPA vac and wipe them down with a good detergent. Also, encourage your neighbors to paint any deteriorated windows or exterior wall or trim to stabilize them.

Next up, Making the Ikea Kitchen!


Jon said...

This sort of stuff is ridiculous! So, basically could do a lead test on a playground up the street that would surely fail (considering her advice) because it's exposed to the local outside air - yet you're required to make your interior appear lead-free for a few hours for what? So Covington can report fewer houses with low lead levels?

Alas, the hoops we jump through!

Anonymous said...

It's a function of Federal guidlines associated with HUD money, I think, for the most part.

That and Covington (as well as any other city) will want to minimize their liability.

The guidelines, however are silly and getting sillier, most lead testers will agree.

Once you know about the dangers of lead paint, you want to do the right thing. The problem is, when they start lowering tolerances, it makes it that much more likely that folks will opt for the "fly-by-night" rip and replace approach to avoid dealing with any lead clearance issues. That is usually dangerous...far more dangerous that the most liberal of official standards.

Nobody wants to deal with $2k in failed inspection fees.

The flip side of all this is that one can avoid this stuff by side stepping HUD money or City involvement. Personally, I was OK with it because I knew what I was in for up front.

Carpet CT said...

great post on carpets!