Your Contractor May be Giving You Unsafe Advice About Lead Paint

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated September 22, 2014
Disturbing lead paint on any type of surface without proper containment and disposal can result in lead poisoning. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Angi secretly shopped painters, remodelers, window contractors and hardware stores to test their lead-safety knowledge. The results may surprise you.

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“It’s just a bunch of B.S., really.”

“Lead only harms you if you eat it.”

“Just close the door and wear a mask.”

“I don’t have the certification. I’m supposed to, but nine out of 10 remodelers you talk to won’t.”

“The whole lead thing is very overblown unless your kids are chewing or gnawing on the windowsills.”

Those statements are just a few examples of the poor advice some contractors and hardware stores gave when Angi conducted a “secret shopper” program this year to test them about their knowledge of lead-safe practices.

Lead paint poses a real danger to homeowners and their families, and it’s been four years since the EPA implemented its Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. Did awareness about the dangers of lead increase? Maybe. Are contractors passing along good advice about lead safety? Not always.

We contacted 200 randomly selected painters, remodelers, window contractors and hardware stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego and Seattle. We told them we were renovating a 2-year-old child’s room in a 1920s house, and we wanted to know the proper methods to strip paint or replace windows, window frames and door frames.

Across the board, nearly 20 percent of those contractors and hardware stores gave poor advice, such as the examples mentioned above as well as suggesting the dry-scrape method or a heat gun.

Hardware stores were the worst offenders, giving dangerous advice 47 percent of the time. Remodeling contractors gave dangerous advice 20 percent of the time; painters, 10 percent; and window contractors, 2 percent.

Although hardware stores have no legal responsibility to advocate safe work practices under the RRP, we included them because hardware stores are often the first point of contact for homeowners seeking advice on home improvement projects.

While we noticed more contractors seemed to be aware of lead safety, we also learned that homeowners can’t rely on contractors to necessarily know their stuff where lead paint is concerned.

Your best defense? Arm yourself with information, confirm that your contractor has the proper training, and insist on safe work practices.

Additional reporting by Kaley Belakovich, Oseye Boyd, James Figy, Staci Giordullo, Garrett Kelly, Lacey Nix, Michael Schroeder, Stephanie Snay and Cynthia Wilson

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