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What Concerns You the Most?

Recently, three major issues have come up that could affect your business: (1) the EPA requirement that contractors be certified if they are removing lead paint from homes, schools or daycare centers built prior to 1978; (2) healthcare reform; and (3) the Consumer Product Safety Commission declaring that homes with “Chinese drywall” must be gutted. Which of these three issues concerns you most, and why?

The answers we received to this month’s question were very much in agreement, but some of the issues were so new at the time our Problem Solved question was asked that many could answer what concerned them but not the why … yet.

To give you some background, we told you about the new EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule last month in Construction Trends (page 9). This new rule states that beginning April 22, any contractor who disturbs more than 6 square feet of lead paint while working on a pre-1978 home, school or daycare center must be Lead-Safe Certified. If your company does a lot of renovation work—and many more companies are turning to renovations to keep the cash flowing until the economy gets back on track, then you have some concerns about this new rule.

As one anonymous contractor put it, “It looks like the lead paint rules will have a profound effect on the business of patching plaster and stucco in existing homes, which is a fairly large portion of our business and probably most any true plastering business. Ultimately I think it will mean our entire crew becoming ‘Certified Renovators’ and will add significant cost to the price of a patch job.

“The documentation requirements that the EPA has set forth will be very tedious as you would expect. Not to mention fines of over $32,000 per violation per day for non-compliance. They will definitely get everyone’s attention.”

John McElwee, a contractor in Fresno, Calif., believes that “getting the certification is a minor thing. Complying with the regulations will be major.

He continued, “I don’t know yet how it will affect the bottom line, but I think rates will have to increase to cover the extra time necessary to comply, document and maintain records.”

Our question was asked just days after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued guidance to homeowners regarding “Chinese” drywall. You can read all about it by going to the beginning of Construction Trends in this issue, on page 9.

The CPSC’s Web site,, has a graphic showing that 59 percent of the homes with suspected Chinese drywall are in Florida. The remaining homes are found primarily in the Southern United States. If your company does not do work in these regions, then Chinese drywall isn’t much of a concern at all.

Being in Fresno, McElwee backs this up and then offers a look at the potential bright side: “I have not heard of any Chinese drywall in this part of the country. I was not aware of the declaration that the drywall should be gutted. But where there is some Chinese drywall there will be more work for abaters and hangers and finishers as well as painters and finish carpenters.”

But the issue to which most contractors responded was healthcare, with the majority of the respondents in our very unscientific poll saying they are concerned.

One anonymous contractor noted that he thinks the new American healthcare system “has the potential to take away the freedom to make our own choices as it pertains to our care” while another said, “I think it can bankrupt the whole country.”

McElwee is simply cautious: “I don’t know yet how I will be affected, but everyone will be to some degree.”

Finally, another cautious contractor expresses, “Our crew is union so healthcare reform will come through those channels, hopefully having little effect on our policy.”

As the nitty-gritty details of these issues become available, count on AWCI’s Construction Dimensions to keep you informed.

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