Renovate Right

March 24, 2010

On April 22, 2010 the US EPA’s law on “Renovation, Repair and Painting” (RRP) will go into effect.  This new law will affect you, if:

  • You live in a home that was built prior to 1978.
  • Your children (age 6 or younger) attend a facility that was built prior to 1978.

Why 1978?  Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes and buildings until it was banned for residential use in 1978.  Once ingested, lead, like other heavy elements, has a way of hanging around in our bodies – this can cause biological disturbances.  In large doses, it can lead to toxicity – affecting our brains and nervous systems.  Children, in their developing stages, are the most susceptible to lead toxicity.

Lead in paint that is adhered to an object does not propose a danger – it does not out-gas or radiate.  If you live in a home that contains lead paint, you do not necessarily need to have a costly abatement team remove all paint from your home.  Disrupting lead paint is where the EPA’s concern is.

Lead gets into our bodies via nose and mouth.  Paint chips and dust particles are the biggest culprits to ingesting lead paint.  If you are renovating an older building, paint disruption is due to occur.

The EPA is requiring by federal law that all contractors who work in buildings built before 1978 and disrupt more than 6 square feet of interior paint or 20 square feet of exterior paint to be Certified.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Renovators
  • Remodelers
  • Plumbers
  • Painters
  • Electricians
  • Window and Door Contractors
  • General Contractors
  • Landlords and Property Managers
  • Some Building Engineers

Your contractor should provide for you, before the renovation begins, a copy of the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet.  You will also need to sign documentation for your contractor’s files saying that you received the pamphlet.  This documentation also outlines options available if you would like to opt out of the RRP procedures.

Certified professionals have been through training in how to properly handle spaces where lead paint may be present.  Containment of lead paint chips and dust are a primary concern.  These procedures are time-consuming and require additional job materials.  You can expect your renovator to line item this procedure for your home project (this small cost may vary depending on the space, project and your geographical location).  The added time and cost to your contract is worth the sense of mind in knowing that your health and wellbeing is being protected.  The federal government is currently experiencing a backlog as US contractors rush to get their certification.  If your contractor cannot produce a RRP Certification, ask to see proof of their RRP training.

Property owners who opt to DIY are excluded from this new law.  However, it highly recommended that homeowners take steps to keep themselves safe with these best practices.

  • Tape off with plastic the area you are working in.
  • Limit leaving the work area to go to other areas of the home.
  • Do not eat in the work area.
  • Keep children and animal out of the area until it has been throughly cleaned.
  • If you have them, use power tools that are connected to a vacuum system.
  • Do not sand lead-based paint.  If you must sand an area, wear a face mask.  When done, mist the area with a spray bottle of water to bring the dust out of the air.
  • When cleaning up the area, mist down all drop cloths.  Fold drop clothes edges in first to keep dust and particles from escaping.
  • Clean the area with a HEPA vacuum.  Remove the vacuum bag from the vacuum outside of the building and tape shut.
  • Promptly remove clothing and wash before walking through your home or coming in contact with other family members.

If you are not planning a major renovation, but you have paint flaking in your home, a fresh coat of paint will keep more paint from coming off.  And of course… teach your children to NEVER EAT PAINT FLAKES OR CHEW ON PAINTED SURFACES  (this includes furniture and window sills).

If you have further questions about this new law, you can add your comment below or visit www.epa.gov/lead/index.html.

Written by Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.  Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. is proud to have completed their RRP required training.  As of March 18, 2010, Imperial is in compliance with the US EPA’s RRP rule and IDPH.  Pending official notice from the EPA, the company will be a RRP Lead Certified Renovator in the Chicago area.

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There are plenty of companies that offer tub liners.  The familiar catch phrases “1/2 the cost of new,” “no mess” and “a new bath in one day” ring out over the radio, television and in print ads.  But…

The true cost of a bath liner goes far beyond dollars.

Many of us have the good sense to know that to cover up a problem does not make the problem go away.  Yet, so many people look at bathtub liners as the inexpensive answer to a problematic tub/shower.  They may look nice, offer a quick remodel with minimal inconvenience and fit a meager budget, but the true cost of a bath liner goes far beyond dollars.

Bath liners are thin, preformed plastic pieces that are placed over the existing tub and shower walls… as is.  This creates two problems.  Any existing water damage is given the opportunity to thrive.  Uncontrolled mold growth takes off at lighting speed in the moist darkness, wrecking havoc on the health of the occupants.  Headaches, coughing fits, nausea are all common complaints of homeowners whose homes are infected with mold.  Any pipes leaking in walls continue to feed the mold and degrade the surrounding structure of the home.

The second issue comes from the liner directly.  Since the liners are preformed plastic, it will not fit your tub tightly.  A small gap may form between the tub drain assembly, your tub and the liner.  As you shower, each step you take causes a shifting to take place and water is inevitably sucked up between the tub and the liner.  This water will exchange itself with progressive showering, but the area will never dry.  This creates an unhealthy environment where mold and bacteria proliferate.

By the time you are aware that there is a problem, the price of cleaning up the area has grown exponentially.  What was once a $7,000 tub/shower project is now a complete gutting of the bathroom and possibly nearby rooms.  The dollars add up, your health is in compromised and, in all probablity, your homeowners insurance will not cover the damages.

How is it that these companies can knowingly provide you a product that can compromise your home?  Easy.  They take no responsiblity for existing conditions.  They promise nothing but a gimmick – “a new bath in one day” for less than what it would take to do the project right.  You will not get a refund for the service or product because they delivered exactly what was requested of them as per their contract.  If you have them remove the product, they will charge you for the added service.

Your best defence is to be educated and then vote with your dollars – you get what you pay for.  If there wasn’t a market for this charade of home improvement, these companies would not exist.

Normal wear and tear on a bathroom is going to happen.  But don’t be fooled,  the signs of water damage are distinctly different than the signs of use:

  1. Tiles falling of the wall.
  2. Soft or mushy areas on the wall.
  3. Sour or musty smells, especially after a shower.
  4. Grout discoloration in select areas.
  5. Salt peter or calcium build up in the grout.
  6. Difficulty keeping the bathroom mold free.

If you find any of these issues, call a reliable contractor to come out to your home to assess the space.  The problem will not get better on its own and the sooner you have a repair, the less expensive it will be.

If you don’t have water damage and are just looking for a way to zip up an outdated bathroom without the expense of tearing the room apart, I would recommend looking into tub spraying.  Instead of covering up the area, tub spraying is essentially painting the tub with a fresh coat of enamel.  This treatment can also be done to the wall tiles.  The effect lasts for about 5-10 years, depending on the level of use the room sees.

Is there any bathroom that is a good candidate for a tub liner?  If the tub/shower area is terribly outdated in a bathroom that sees limited to no use – then yes, a tub liner is an option.  Otherwise, save your money, time and health.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths Inc, by designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Indoor Air Pollution

July 9, 2009

“Indoor air is on average seven to ten times more polluted than outdoor air.”   ~United States EPA

We try to contain indoor air as much as possible.  We pay to heat it and cool it, why would we want it leaking outside.  Newer homes, of course, are tighter than older homes.

But by limiting fresh air to enter our homes, we are in fact creating a pollution problem. 

Indoor air pollution comes from a variety of places: radon from the ground leaching into our basements, formaldehyde out-gassing from furniture and carpet, particulates from the breaking down of biological matter, and gasses from household cleaners and chemicals—not to mention odors and moisture that encourages mold and mildew growth. When we limit the passage of air between the indoors and outdoors we are harboring these contaminants.

Vents in the kitchen and bath are excellent at expelling odors and moisture to the outdoors.  When running, they are also removing indoor pollutants.  This exchange of air is very healthy for your home and for you.

When air in your home exits through a vent, replacement air needs to be available to make up what is lost.  This make-up air can come from an open window, leaky doors, down-drafting of a chimney or a recovery system specifically put in place to exchange household air. If your home is well sealed, you may find the operation of your vent fan disappointing.  If replacement air is not available, a vent fan will starve for air.  Not only will it not perform well, but it may prematurely age the motor.

A vent  will also under perform if it is not clean.  We recommend vacuuming your bathroom vent fan when cleaning.  In the kitchen, clean or replace your grease filters often.  These filters are in place to keep grease from building up in the ducts in your walls.

Panasonic WhisperGreen Vent Fan

Panasonic WhisperGreen Vent Fan

Determining what size vent you need for your application can be a complex calculation that takes into account not only the size of the room but also the length of the ductwork for your vent.  Vents are sized by “cfm” (cubic feet per minute).  For example, this simply means if you purchase a 100 cfm bathroom vent fan, this fan will replace 100 cubic feet of air per minute.

There is a caveat however, and this lies in your walls or your ceiling.  The material, length and twists and turns that your vent ductwork takes as it sends the expelled air to the outside will have an effect on the efficiency of your vent motor.  If the complete venting system is not accounted for correctly, you could find your 100 cfm vent fan only pulling 40 to 60 cfm – and if you don’t have adequate makeup air to replace what is being expelled that number gets even lower.

The manufacturer’s website and paperwork that comes with your vent fan should help you with your calculations to insure a proper installation.  There are other independant websites that offer the formulas as well.  If in doubt, hire a professional to assess the size of the room and what it will take to properly get the air to the outside.

The other important factor when buying a vent fan is “sones.”  Sones rate how loud a fan is, the lower the sone – the quieter.  However, lower sones also usually equate to a higher price tag.  It may be worth the extra money however if you will be running the fan often or if you have sensitive hearing.

Fresh air in your home not only smells better, but is healthier for you too.  We all have experienced dank air from time to time, but if you are experiencing chronic issues with dank, musty or smelly air for which you cannot pinpoint a source, it may be a sign of a larger problem and an appointment should be made with a remodeling specialist.

Selections from this article will appear in Imperial Kitchens and Baths next newsletter mailing.

Written By Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel (CBD).