Regulation Update

How the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule stands to continue to raise the cost of window replacement
Janice Yglesias
June 14, 2018
COLUMN : Decoded | Codes & Standards


The length of the required
contractor training course:

Cost of the class per worker:

EPA registration fee:

Failure to meet requirements
of the update:
per violation, per day

Estimated additional cost
per Window: 

After completing a federally mandated regulatory impact review under Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Environmental Protection Agency announced there will be no changes to the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. (Editor’s note: see page 6 of this issue for more on this news.) The Rule, which took effect in its final form in 2010, requires renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet of painted surface in the interior of a home built before lead paint was banned in 1978, including the installation—and, in many cases, repair—of windows, to follow lead safe work practices. 

Such work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator, performed by an EPA-certified contractor and inspected by an EPA-certified inspector. (Note that simple window or door repair, such as sash or leaf replacement and sash kits, often would not exceed the 6-square-foot threshold of the Rule and thus be exempt as “minor repair and maintenance.”)

Costs of compliance, typically passed on to homeowners, are not trivial. The required eight-hour contractor training class, which the EPA says costs about $562 per worker, followed by the EPA registration fee of $300 each, is another expense for remodelers. There is also the cost of lead test kits, supplies etc. For window replacement, estimates of the additional costs have ranged between $120 and $200 per window. 

When passed on to consumers, such costs could encourage homeowners to postpone the work, take it on as a DIY project or bypass the rule by utilizing a non-certified contractor. Failure to meet these requirements exposes a contractor to a back-breaking fine of $37,500 per violation, per day. 

Change is necessary

Although contractors do not have to comply with the Rule if they can show, using an EPA-approved test, that the job area doesn’t contain lead, there are still no test kits available that meet the negative testing requirement provided for under the Rule. Despite a reported false-positive rate of 63 percent to 84 percent for EPA-recognized test kits, the agency estimates that the annual cost of the RRP program is roughly $1 billion, while the benefits of the rule are roughly $1.5 billion to $5 billion. 

Citing that “adverse health effects have been shown to occur at even lower blood lead levels than when the rule was first promulgated,” the EPA determined that industry complaints about the lack of an accurate test kit for lead paint don’t outweigh these economic benefits. Though it was banned in 1978, the EPA estimates that lead-based paint is still present in more than 30 million homes in the U.S. and infants, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure. 

Speaking to this, the original regulation released in 2008 allowed homeowners to opt out of the requirements if no child under age six or pregnant woman was in the residence being renovated. This opt-out provision of the rule was removed in 2010 and was not reinstated during this most recent review. 

Many entities, including the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, find it disappointing that the EPA has chosen to leave the RRP Rule unchanged, as it encourages homeowners to keep old, poorly performing windows due to the high costs of replacement resulting from unnecessary lead mitigation.

AAMA cites the continued lack of an accurate lead paint test kit, and notes that the 2010 removal of the opt-out clause for households without a child under the age of six or a pregnant woman more than doubled the number of homes subject to the rule.

Requiring RRP practices in cases where lead is not present continues to be an unnecessary expense that may deter fenestration product replacement, which would otherwise improve the energy efficiency of the building. AAMA hopes the EPA will reconsider their position on the rule.

Recently, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General sent a memorandum to EPA officials announcing “preliminary research to evaluate the EPA’s implementation and enforcement” of the RRP rule. While not related to the Section 610 review, this bears watching as it may offer the industry a fresh bite at the regulatory apple.  

Janice Yglesias serves as the executive vice president of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, overseeing all daily operations. Since joining AAMA in 1999, she has played a large role in several facets of the association, learning and understanding all AAMA operations, programs and services. Most recently, Yglesias served as association services director, continuing to guide her existing areas of responsibility while additionally advising on accounting and product certification activities.