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The RRP Rule Hits Home (or, Why this Homeowner Paid More but Got More)

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2011

By Harold Hower

All this debate and discussion about the EPA’s lead-paint Renovate, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule has hit home, you might say, for this corner of blog space.

Home, as in the case of our 151-year-old house, which was in need of an exterior paint job.

We were tempted to hire the low bidder when we solicited bids for the job. But I chose the high bidder (out of three) instead.

Why? First of all, it was clear from our pre-bid conversation that he had a better understanding about the technical issues involved in the job than the other bidders. Second, he came the most highly recommended. And third, he informed me about the possibility that the existing paint on my house contained lead, and he took samples for testing before he submitted his bid. The other two bidders ignored the lead issue.

The back of our brick row house is adjacent to our courtyard, which has flowers and shrubs in abundance. So we decided not to strip the paint, as we had done on the front of the house, because of the mess that would be created, just as spring was gaining its green momentum.

But we did have the joints ground and the bricks repointed before the painting was to begin.

Our winning bidder knew how long the mortar had to cure before painting could start. He knew he wanted to use an elastomeric acrylic coating system for both weather resistance and permeability. And he knew how to minimize dust and debris from the surface-preparation work.

It turns out the existing paint on my house did not contain lead. So we can’t claim we had to absorb the cost of EPA-compliant lead remediation.

But I believe we were prepared for that. The main reason is that our contractor embodied good practice in every way—knowledge, reputation and compliance with regulations. He was predictably good.

On the other hand, a contractor willing to ignore regulations is just as likely, in my view, to be willing to cut corners, to ignore some details of quality control, or to be deficient in technical knowledge.

So, with this personal account, I’m encouraging good contractors to stick to their guns and to do the right thing, even though the EPA’s RRP rule appears to be overly broad in its application and deficient in its enforcement.

Yes, contractors face some daunting challenges, both in terms of regulatory compliance and economic competitiveness, as a result of the RRP rule. But it could be that the right marketing approach and conveying the needed information to the customer will help to address these challenges. True, it won’t sell every customer on the idea of meeting the letter of the law. But on the other hand, it may pay off in the long run and help to build a reputation for top-notch quality and workmanship.

To get an idea of the problems with the RRP rule and the trouble it has caused many good painting contractors, I would recommend reading the D+D news article, Senate RRP Critic Calls for Hearings on Expansion of Rule, as well as the commentary that follows the story.


Harold Hower

Harold Hower, CEO and founder of Technology Publishing Company, likes to think about ways of improving conditions in the architectural coatings industry.



Tagged categories: Good Technical Practice; Lead; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP)

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (5/3/2011, 9:33 AM)

How refreshing to hear a first-hand account of the clear influence of a contractor's integrity in compliance with RRP being a success story for both you and him. Up front education of the client/you with knowledge and experience seemed the convincing factor for you. As more of the public becomes aware of lead dangers, their acceptance of the true costs and benefits of quality, safe work will grow.

Comment from Erin Moriarty, (5/14/2011, 12:45 PM)

Excellent blog and interesting personal account of the RPP rule! It was very nice to hear a positive story about your contractor, too.

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