A few weeks ago I told you about my observations from attending the day-long lead-safe work practices certified renovator course (CLICK HERE for that story). Since we published that blog, I’ve received an outpouring of comments from readers about it. And, though I hesitate to write another blog about lead paint, I can’t resist, as I recently had the opportunity to observe a lead-safe work practices installation by Thompson Creek Windows in Landover, Md.

There weren’t any huge surprises during the installation but I had the chance to witness first-hand pretty much everything I have heard from manufacturers and dealers while covering this story through the past six months or so.

Curious Neighbors

While we were watching removal of the old windows I spoke to installation manager Matt Bonkowski about the lead rule in general, and one thing I asked him about was curious neighbors. He told me he once saw a man approach the caution tape on a job with several little ones. The man asked several questions, and, when Bonkowski informed him of what was taking place, he ran away (along with his children), never to be seen again.

No kidding, not five minutes after Bonkowski told me that story, the following took place: An older woman next door to the job yelled crankily out her window, “Should I close my windows with all this crap?” (All the while you could see her eyeing the four installers suited up in their protective gear.)

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Bonkowski replied.

She yelled back, “Yes or no?”

He said yes, and she slammed her window shut.

I’m sure all of you installers out there can share some additional interesting stories and I’d love to hear these.

Added Costs and Time

Of course, along with the funny comes the serious—the detailed requirements of the regulations. And, though we’ve written several stories about the added costs of taking these precautions, we haven’t focused as much on the time it adds to a job.

“Timewise, roughly we have to add an extra man or two for each job,” Bonkowski told me during the visit.

Consequently, of course, that raises expenses as well.

Different Perceptions for Different Ages

I also asked Bonkowski if homeowners hang around the house asking lots of questions, etc.

“People without kids don’t care,” he said simply. “The ones with the younger kids are the ones who don’t want to be in the house.”

And speaking of perceptions, Bonkowski talked about informing consumers of the difference between lead abatement and lead-safe work practices. Some in the industry use these terms interchangeably when this should not be the case, he said.

“We need to make the consumer understand that we are not abating lead–we are creating a lead-safe work environment,” he said.

The Suits Stink

When asked what the biggest challenge of this law, Bonkowski said, “The number-one complaint from installers is the suits.”

Standing in 85-degree heat, with a heat index making it feel more like 100 degrees, I was sweating in my jeans. I can’t imagine how those on the job felt with their suits and masks. Once the one window was removed and lead-safe work practices had been conducted, the installer asked Bonkowski, “Can I remove my suit now?”

Yes, he had to put it on again later, but he needed a little respite from the heat. I also viewed first-hand how it’s just downright awkward to complete installation tasks in those things, and, even worse, harder to breathe.

And it’s not just the temperature; I also received confirmation of something else I had heard from installers. “It’s very difficult to do an installation on a windy day,” said Bonkowski.

Documentation is Crucial

When I took the certified renovator class I learned that documentation is crucial and Thompson Creek does a great job at keeping records of everything, which includes taking photos of signage, etc. But I also learned something that I hadn’t thought of before. It’s clear that if you go to a window installation job and disturb the lead paint, you have to clean up thoroughly. But what if you get to a job and the chips are already there, etc.? I learned you should document that also.

“We’ve seen cases of chips on the floor, in flowerbeds, etc.,” said Bonkowski. “We have to document that so we don’t get accused of doing something that was there before we arrived. We’re not responsible for the whole house.”

He added that this is a very common occurrence, though it wasn’t the case at the job I observed.

I’m sure you’ve seen a number of interesting sights on similar job sites, too. Please e-mail me at ttaffera@glass.com with your observances.

Also, be sure to check out our slideshow of the Thompson Creek installation.

1 Comment

  1. What people aren’t talking about is the impact this will have on future business in the area. So many remodelers rely heavily on canvassing and job-site mailers to generate future business. Would you want to put out a mailing that says, “Come by the Smith’s House to see the work we are doing!” only to see installers in what is deemed to be Hazmat suits.

    We have yet to realize the full impact this will have on the industry, but you can be sure that it will be more severe than simply “adding a few dollars” to the job price.

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