What to Do Before Renovating Your Home

Thinking about renovating your home? If you are a do-it-yourselfer or hiring a professional, there are some health precautions you should know about before you begin a renovation project.

Exposure to asbestos and lead can cause serious health problems. To protect the health of Vermont families, there are state laws that set rules for how renovation work needs to be done. These laws is designed to prevent and lessen exposure to asbestos and lead while working on your home.

Asbestos in Building Materials

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. If these materials are disturbed or damaged in any way — like during a renovation — asbestos fibers can be released into the air and breathed in. Exposure to asbestos fibers increases your risk of developing health effects, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

You should assume that asbestos-containing materials are in your home. They are not dangerous unless they are damaged or disturbed in a way that creates dust. Asbestos fibers may get into the air during renovation or demolition if the asbestos-containing materials are not handled in the right way. Learn about how to handle asbestos-containing materials

Lead-Safe Work Practices: Renovating, Repairing and Painting a Pre-1978 Home

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was commonly used in paint, stain and varnish in homes built before 1978. There is no safe level of lead in the body. Too much lead in the body, or lead poisoning, can cause serious and permanent health problems for anyone, but babies, young children and people who are pregnant are at special risk. Lead poisoning can be prevented. Learn more about lead hazards and lead poisoning

Children, pregnant people and adults can be exposed to lead during renovation projects or whenever lead-based paint is improperly sanded, scraped or burned. Lead exposure can occur from: 

  • breathing in lead dust, or 

  • getting lead dust on your hands and then swallowing it while you are eating, drinking or smoking.

Lead was banned from house paint in 1978. The majority of Vermont homes were built before 1978 and likely contain lead-based paint. If you live in a home that was built before 1978, you should assume that all painted and coated surfaces contain lead. Because of this, Vermont has regulations in place to protect children and families from lead hazards when working on pre-1978 housing.

If you are hiring a contractor

If you hire someone to work on your pre-1978 home, they are required to follow Vermont’s Renovation, Repair, Painting and Maintenance (RRPM) regulations. These regulations require for-compensation workers to be trained and licensed to follow lead-safe work practices. Find out what you should know about the RRPM regulations

If you are a landlord, Vermont law requires you to follow Inspection, Repair and Cleaning (IRC) Practices. Find out what you need to do

If you are doing the work yourself

There are no requirements for you to do work on your own home, but you are encouraged to follow the same lead-safe work practices contractors are required to do. Lead-safe work practices help protect you and your family from lead poisoning, especially young children and anyone who is pregnant.

Unsafe work practices that disturb lead-based paint will create lead hazards (see Section 2.2.28). Under Vermont law, if lead hazards are created in any building or structure, you will be responsible for the cleanup that will require you to hire a Vermont-licensed lead abatement contractor.

Watch the video below for tips on how to do painting, repair and home improvement in a lead-safe way.

More Information
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Asbestos and Your Health (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
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Protect Your Family from Exposures to Asbestos (EPA)
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Don’t Spread Lead: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Lead-Safe Painting, Repair, and Home Improvement (New England Lead Coordinating Committee)
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Lead Paint Safety (Department of Housing and Urban Development)
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