Baxter Group: Planning for Safe Renovations

Just a short, but true story:

The early 20th century house sat just off the sidewalk of a side street of the little Pennsylvania town. The missing steps and deserted tools evidenced the porch under construction. There were no curtains in the front window, and a 2×4 could be seen leaning over the inside of the window. The sound of a running bandsaw vibrated through my ear as I headed for the side entrance as instructed in our phone conversation. I knocked on the door, the saw went silent, and I was greeted by the retired couple. Huge smiles and a welcoming hand captured my attention immediately.

As I shook Mr. W’s hand, he gently drew me into his kitchen. After introductions, he said, “Let me show you what we are doing.” With enthusiasm, he noted that the kitchen was complete, and he was currently working on the front living room and performing some work upstairs. After a tour of the living room, fireplace room, back porch and upstairs living room, we settled on the bar stools at the kitchen island. Mr. W pulled out the report from his doctor noting that the lead in his blood was at 97 – dangerously high for an adult. He suspected that the lead may be leaching from the solder in the old copper pipes of their home and current renovation project. They had stopped drinking from their well water, but their doctor recommended that he have the water tested.

As my eyes glanced across the counter, I noted it was the only space without a layer of dust. I expressed my concern about the possibility that the dust was the issue. Mr. W looked at me puzzled, then commented, “But, I’m not eating the dust.” I handed him the EPA brochure, “The Lead Certified Guide to Renovate Right” and let him know I had brought the water test kit he had requested on the phone. I had also brought my XRF Analyzer and would like to have permission to take an analysis of some of the painted surfaces he was disturbing. Staring at the pamphlet, he nodded his head in a slow, still puzzled, “Yes.”

Returning to the kitchen, I walked into the living room, walked pass the band saw, pressed the nose of the XRF against the wall, and pulled the trigger. Twenty-five seconds later the screen displayed a number and the word “negative.” Mr. and Mrs. W released a sigh of relief as I announced the negative reading. Then I went to the pile of baseboards that had been removed from the wall, placed the nose of the XRF against one of them and pulled the trigger: positive.

  • Windowsills: positive.
  • Crown moldings: positive.
  • Hall wall: positive.
  • Hall floor: positive.
  • Fireplace mantel: positive.
  • Stair rail: positive.
  • Stair stringer: positive.
  • Stair tread: positive.
  • Bedroom wall: positive.

Keep the Building & Project Healthy During Renovations:

  • Develop a work plan that keeps surrounding environments protected
    • pre-inspections for asbestos, lead or other indoor contaminants that will be disturbed
  • Select material and allow for off-gassing
  • Contain the work area
  • Use engineering controls to properly ventilate the work space
    • poly containment
    • negative air (with four air changes/hour)
  • Don proper Personal Protective Equipment on all workers
  • Abatement of hazardous materials 
  • Proper demolition
  • Proper Clean-up
  • Final Renovation/re-build
  • Final clean-up

For more details, see Chapter Six of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.  What?  You cannot find it . . .download another copy here:  BREATHE HEALTHY e-book

DID YOU KNOW

Baxter Environmental Group (BEGI) offers pre-renovation inspections!
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