Loyola University Chicago

Healthy Homes & Healthy Communities

Renovating a home built before 1978

Renovation, Repair and Painting rule

Beginning in the summer of 2010, the Renovation, Repair and Painting rule requires contractors to be certified in lead-safe work practices in order to prevent lead poisoning during renovations in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978.

Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renovating six square feet or more of painted surfaces for interior projects or more than twenty square feet of painted surfaces for exterior projects or window replacement or demolition in housing, child care facilities and schools built before 1978. To learn more, see The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.

To learn more, contractors can see the Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right.

Find an EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting-certified contractor

As of April 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Contractors must use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices. Learn more about the EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.

Find an EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule-certified contractor to perform lead abatement work in your area.

Homeowners remodeling their own homes do not require certification, but should follow lead-safe work practices.

For property owners: before the work begins

Make sure your contractor is certified, and can explain clearly the details of the job and how the contractor will minimize lead hazards during the work.

  • Verify that a contractor is certified by checking EPA's website or by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). 
  • Ask if the contractor is trained to perform lead-safe work practices and to see a copy of their training certificate. Check to see if the training certificate meets the EPA's certificate requirements.
  • Ask what lead-safe methods the contractor will use to set up and perform the job in your home.
  • Ask for references from at least three recent jobs involving homes built before 1978, and speak to each personally.

Always make sure the contract is clear about how the work will be set up, performed, and cleaned.

  • Share the results of any previous lead tests with the contractor.
  • You should specify in the contract that they follow the work practices described in "For Property Owners: During the Work." (below)
  • The contract should specify which parts of your home are parts of the work area and specify which lead-safe work practices will be used in those areas. Remember, your contractor should confine dust and debris to the work area and should minimize spreading that dust to other areas of the home.
  • The contract should also specify that the contractor will clean the work area, verify that it was cleaned adequately, and re-clean it if necessary.

If you think a worker is not doing what he or she is supposed to do or is doing something that is unsafe, you should:

  • Direct the contractor to comply with regulator and contract requirements
  • Call your local health or building department, or
  • Call EPA's hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323)

If your property receives housing assistance from HUD (or a state or local agency that uses HUD funds), you must follow the requirements of HUD's Lead-Safe Housing Rule and the ones described in this pamphlet.

For property owners: during the work

Federal law requires contractors that are hired to perform renovation, repair and painting projects in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 that disturb painted surfaces to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

The work practices the contractor must follow include three procedures, described below:

  1. Contain the work area. The area must be contained so that dust and debris do not escape from that area. Warning signs must be put up and plastic or other impermeable material and tape must be used as appropriate to:
    • Cover the floors and any furniture that cannot be moved
    • Seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents.
    • These will prevent dust or debris from getting outside the work area.
  2. Avoid renovation methods that generate large amounts of lead-contaminated dust. Some methods generate so much lead-contaminated dust that their use is prohibited. They are:
    • Open flame burning or torching.
    • Sanding, grinding, planning, needle gunning, or blasting with power tools and equipment not equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment.
    • Using a heat gun at temperatures greater than 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • There is no way to eliminate dust, but some renovation methods make less dust than others. Contractors may choose to use various methods to minimize dust generation, including using water to mist areas before sanding or scraping; scoring paint before separating components; and prying and pulling apart components instead of breaking them.
  3. Clean up thoroughly. The work should be cleaned up daily to keep it as clean as possible. When all the work is done, the area must be cleaned up using special cleaning methods before taking down any plastic that isolates the work area from the rest of the home. The special cleaning methods should include:Using a HEPA vacuum to clean up dust and debris on all surfaces, followed by:
    • Wet wiping and wet mopping with plenty of rinse water.
    • When the final cleaning is done, look around. There should be no dust, paint chips, or debris in the work area. If you see any dust, paint chips, or debris, the area must be re-cleaned.

To learn more about how to renovate, see The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right from the EPA.

For property owners: after the work is done

When all the work is finished, you will want to know if your home has been cleaned up properly. Here are some ways to check.

Ask about your contractor's final cleanup check. Remember, lead dust is often invisible to the naked eye. It may still be present even if you cannot see it. The contractor must use disposable cleaning cloths to wipe the floor of the work area and compare them to a cleaning verification card to determine if the work area was properly cleaned.

To order a cleaning verification card and detailed instructions visit the EPA lead website or contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

You may also choose to have a lead-dust test. Lead-dust tests are wipe samples sent to a laboratory for analysis.

  • You should specify in your contract that a lead-dust test will be done. In this case, make it clear who will do the testing.
  • Testing should be done by a lead professional.

If you choose to do the testing, some EPA-recognized lead laboratories will send you a kit that allows you to collect samples and send them back to the lab for analysis.

Contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) for lists of qualified professionals and EPA-recognized lead lab.

If your home fails the dust test, the area should be re-cleaned and tested again.

Where the project is done by contract, it is a good idea to specify in the contract that the contractor is responsible for re-cleaning if the home fails the test.

For property owners: do-it-yourself renovators

The use of lead in paint was banned for residential use in 1978. If your home was built before 1978, it likely contains lead paint. Lead is still a serious health problem. Over 80,000 children in Illinois are harmed by lead, mostly from peeling and chipping lead paint. It is strongly recommended that property owners who wish to remodel or repaint their home hire an EPA certified contractor. For property owners that still choose to renovate their own home, download a copy of The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.

Property owners in Chicago may qualify for the Chicago Department of Public Health's Lead Abatement program. CDPH offers financial assistance to eliminate lead hazards and is able to pay for 50% to 100% of lead hazard abatement costs for eligible properties.

In Chicago, contact the Department of Public Health, (312) 747-LEAD (5323) for information on a Lead-Safe Work Practice (LSWP) training.

Remember, the above information is for reducing lead hazards. Abatement projects require a different set of steps because abatement is a set of activities aimed specifically at eliminating lead or lead hazards. EPA has regulations for certification and training of abatement professionals. If your goal is to eliminate lead or lead hazards, contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).