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25 Days to Go: RRP Work Practices – Clearing up some misconceptions

I happen to be a member of quite a few Contractor forums. Needless to say that this is one of the hottest topics on these boards as it affects almost every contractor out there. As I have mentioned in other articles there are plenty of “grey” area’s with the new regulation, followed up by individuals not understanding the new regulations and spreading some really bad information and advice. In this article, we are going to try to clear up some of this “advice” by what is required.

The 6/20 Exception aka Minor Repair and Maintenance:

§ 745.83 Definitions
Minor repair and maintenance activities are activities, including minor heating, ventilation or air conditioning work, electrical work, and plumbing, that disrupt 6 square feet or less of painted surface per room for interior activities or 20 square feet or less of painted surface for exterior activities where none of the work practices prohibited or restricted by §745.85(a)(3) are used and where the work does not involve window replacement or demolition of painted surface areas.

Many individuals look at that paragraph & seemingly ignore the “or demolition” part. They feel that the 6/20 covers them. In fact by looking at the EPA’s “Educational Materials”, they would appear to be correct (Shown here towards the bottom – 40 Days & Counting). Well it appears that the EPA has just updated their FAQ section and they have two questions that are directly attributable to that definition.

Question: If a renovator removes less than 6 square feet of crown molding, is that considered demolition? Does it matter whether the molding will be discarded, replaced with new molding, or reinstalled?

EPA’s Answer: It depends on how the molding is removed. If a renovation activity removes or otherwise disrupts a painted component in a way that destroys or ruins the component, the activity is a demolition.

Question: If I use a hammer to make a hole is a wall that is two feet on each side, does the RRP Rule apply?

EPA’s Answer: Yes. Although making the hole disrupts less than six square feet of painted surface, using a hammer to make the hole is demolition of the surface, so the minor repair and maintenance exception does not apply. Making the hole using a cut-out technique that does not destroy the section of the wall that is removed is not demolition, and the minor repair and maintenance exception would apply.

Based on these answers, if an electrician is adding in a new outlet, when he cuts out the hole, he is performing demolition & must follow the RRP. If a plumber comes in and cuts an access hole behind a tub, as long as he is replacing that exact piece of drywall with the same one, he is not subject to the RRP. If he wishes to, or has to use another means of covering the access hole, he must follow the RRP.

Vertical Containment:

I recall going through class, where they talked about building a vertical containment unit around all areas being worked on, window replacements needed to either seal off the window opening or build a 6×6 containment area, etc… Well guess what, it is all incorrect. The only items required in the regulation is that the dust be contained, plastic is used on the ground or floor, and that any doors, windows, etc… in the area are closed and sealed off with plastic (interior), or closed within 20 feet on the exterior. Based on the work being performed, vertical containment may be needed, but at other times, you will easily be able to keep the dust contained without using any vertical containment at all. (UPDATE: Vertical containment is now needed on the exterior if the work is within 10′ of the property line)

Tyvek Suits & Respirators:

Across the nation, it was required by the EPA, that everyone being trained, had to show that they could put on a Tyvek suit. Our instructor was quite clear that the Tyvek suits were not required to be worn, while others attending classes provided by others were taught that they had to wear them at all times (including a respirator).  If you read the Regulation, you will also note that these items are not required to be worn by the EPA at all. These items are only required by OSHA in certain circumstances. For a refresher on all the applicable OSHA, you may wish to review the three OSHA articles that are relevant to the Renovation Repair and Painting Regulation.

HEPA Vacuums:

The Clif notes version, a HEPA vacuum must be used for cleanup, when sanding, or using other tools. A Shop-Vac with a HEPA filter installed does not qualify. If you are vacuuming carpet or rugs, you must use a powered beater bar attachment. There is no “approved” or “testing” requirements to be met except for the filter specifics.

§ 745.83 Definitions
HEPA vacuum means a vacuum cleaner which has been designed with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter as the last filtration stage. A HEPA filter is a filter that is capable of capturing particles of 0.3 microns with 99.97% efficiency. The vacuum cleaner must be designed so that all the air drawn into the machine is expelled through the HEPA filter with none of the air leaking past it.

§ 745.85 Work Practice Standards
(ii) The use of machines that remove lead-based paint through high speed operation such as sanding, grinding, power planing, needle gun, abrasive blasting, or sandblasting, is prohibited unless such machines are used with HEPA exhaust control.

(A) Walls . Clean walls starting at the ceiling and working down to the floor by either vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum or wiping with a damp cloth.

(B) Remaining surfaces . Thoroughly vacuum all remaining surfaces and objects in the work area, including furniture and fixtures, with a HEPA vacuum. The HEPA vacuum must be equipped with a beater bar when vacuuming carpets and rugs.

For more information & links: http://blog.sls-construction.com/ahj/rrp

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  • Gerardo

    Questions 1: If I get a contract awarded to put a house back together after a flood where someone else did the demolition (house being pre-1978), am I still liable for all of the RRP requirements?

    Question 2: If I decide to turn down any work on any house that is pre-1878 do I still need to get certified and/or registered?

    • Sean

      #1 – tricky question as the regulation has plenty of gray areas – If you are not disturbing any possible lead painted area’s the regulation is not supposed to apply. The catch is, how much painted drywall, etc… is still there that you have to feather into? If you have to do that, you are now disturbing the paint & are required to be a Certified Firm. I know in XactWare, they have added in line items for lead abatement, testing & renovation projects – I would request that the insurance company have a XRF scan done to not only protect you, but them. If it is deemed clean, you are good to go

      #2 If you do not work in pre78 houses, no certifications are required by the government. A GC or others may want to see one though before they add you to their lists of authorized subs

  • SCOTT

    Thank you so much for the info!!! Very informative… I recently attended the certification class, which was of course very informative. The question I have is regarding legality and subsequent liability… Can a homeowner sue a contractor if they feel the contractor did not follow the specific EPA guidelines for their remodel, or, is the homeowners only recourse to contact the EPA? I think you know what my concerns are headed with this question and as a business owner what my future liability insurance costs might do… I have contacted the EPA with this question, and they have not responded to me yet…

    • Sean

      The regulation does not prevent the Homeowner from suing you & many owners are concerned about this issue. The biggest issue is that your current GL policy (more than likely) will not be a help as it specifically excludes toxins like lead. You might want to look into getting a Pollution Liability Policy to cover you – unfortunately those start around $2500 a year, but it will also cover you (generally) for mold suits and other environmental issues.

  • chris

    Great blog, you are doing a great job getting the facts out! Thank you