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Time Saving Techniques For Complying With EPA’S Remodeling Lead Safe Work Practices Mandate
If remodeling contractors aren’t already aware, a new federal mandate has changed the game. Contractors remodeling pre-1978 homes must receive safety training by April 22, 2010 and must comply with the regulations. These basic safe work practices can be a difficult and time-consuming task for an inexperienced remodeling contractor. Additional man hours can add to a given project and profit. This article attempts to provide some insider “tricks of the trade” from a former lead abatement contractor to help reduce man hours and keep material costs down while complying with the new mandate.
Plastic sheeting is your friend. Known as a “poly” to less contractors, it covers your work area and cleans up faster. Always buy clear poly. As recommended by EPA standards, cover the floor at least 6 feet outside and build walls of 4 or 6 mil. Additionally, place a large scrap of heavy poly in the center of the work area before covering the floor. This will come in handy during scrap tearing.
The author has found a 12′ width to be most useful. It covers almost any ceiling height and accommodates traditional floor plans for most rooms so there is less splicing.
Make sure to have two types on hand. Painter’s plastic can be used to cover cupboards and objects around the room. It is much less expensive and only useful for covering odds and ends.
Cut the runner from the containment to the dumpster before starting work. Make it wide enough to carry supplies and materials. In rainy weather, make sure there is some kind of mat for workers to wipe their feet before re-entering the house. Poly is very slippery when wet.
Demo material is often sharp and heavy. This is a problem when picking up trash because the sharp edges poke holes in the bag and a trail of dust marks your path to the dumpster. One solution and time-saving solution is to have plenty of trash cans on hand. The trick is to fill the trash can with the liner inside the container. When it is full or heavy enough, gooseneck it and release it into the container. The container can then be taken to a dumpster and disposed of.
When handling heavy dense debris, it helps to have a container with wheels, as pulling heavy debris can cause holes in the poly runner. As the demo progresses, bags should be placed by the door within easy reach. Bags or trash cans should be grabbed from outside containers to save time going in and out the door. Also, in the containment stage, have one worker place the bags by the door and one worker outside who can reach out and grab them.
To tear off the plaster, an old piece of paneling can help give the worker a place to “ground” the plaster. Debris and bag removal is also helpful. Paneling should be placed on the finished side so there is a sealed side to vacuum up or wipe down. Any wood product is fine as long as it is painted or sealed. Bare wood is the most difficult to clean for lead dust, as the natural fibers harbor open pores and grains that trap dust. 5 gal buckets can be used to dispose of old cracked plaster. Just put them in 6 million small kitchen size bags and take the bucket to the dumpster.
When the work is done, take down the first wall and gently collapse it on the floor poly. Then simply wrap the walls and floor over the debris you put down for disposal first. It catches the inevitable debris that falls out of the roll while it sits in the scrap garbage bag and saves vacuuming time. The scrap can now be wrapped and disposed of. After a contractor gets a few jobs under their belt, set up and tear down should go quickly.
The new EPA standard requires remodeling contractors to isolate work areas using temporary poly walls. This is a standard in the mitigation industry and can be done quickly and efficiently no matter the size or shape of the project.
The first thing to consider is the method of fastening containment walls. Many contractors often tape poly to the ceiling, creating a perimeter around the work area. This is acceptable and normal, but there are many problems. First and foremost, it is very time-consuming, and it is very difficult to attach the tape to a textured ceiling or uneven surface. Due to the weight of the poly, the tape can fail and bring the wall down. Then the work must be stopped and it will take time to reconnect. Finally, when removed, the tape may peel off and destroy the surface to which it is attached. These issues can be expensive and add many hours to a simple project.
Consider extended poles. These poles are reusable, reducing labor and problems associated with using tape. Often marketed as cargo bars for pickup trucks, these ratcheting poles extend and grip the pole to the roof regardless of height or surface. Poles also negate problems with wall and surface destruction when tape is removed. Although prices vary across regions, extendable ratcheting poles can be purchased inexpensively.
Plan the containment area by ratcheting the posts where the wall will be. Give yourself plenty of room to work and plan an area near the containment entrance to stage the bagged debris. Once you have the pole out where you want it and wrap it around the pole, define the perimeter and determine the length. Give yourself a little extra, it’s no fun trying to stretch a poly wall.
Cut to poly size, start unfolding at one end to full width. With the step ladder, remove the tension from the first post and tuck the plastic over the post. Then ratchet the pole, wedge the poly between the roof and the top of the pole. Repeat the process going down the length of the wall. Finally, tape the edges to the walls to seal the containment. The time required to erect the walls is of course determined by the size of the containment but is much less than taping poly to the roof without the tape issues.
Now that the walls are complete, the door needs to be installed. It is important to limit dust that migrates but allows workers to escape. Remember to make it big enough that all the bags of debris and materials have to go through it. As described earlier, the staging area should be planned in the containment by door area.
Many times a worker can use an existing door and simply add a poly door to it. A time saver is making a poly door that is reusable. First, cut a piece to fit a standard-sized door. Poly should measure 38″ X 84″. Cut the top side down to the “T” and the covering dust flap. Now, apply duct tape around the perimeter and fold the edges to make a “picture frame” around the edges. Fold the duct tape over the “T”. The masking tape used to attach the poly to the casings can be removed without tearing the poly and reapplied. At the end of the job, roll it up for the next project. A reusable door can be installed in 2 or 3 minutes versus 10 to 15 minutes to make a new one each time.
Although white suits are not required by the EPA mandate, they are great for protecting the worker from bringing dust home after work. Wearing a white suit and removing it after leaving containment is much faster than removing all workers’ clothing, but there are a few things to consider.
White suits are small, medium, large and extra large. Buy them at least one size smaller than the workers’ shirt size. After years of short work in a white suit, the author has found that “large” is generally the size used by most, save for workers who might need an XL.
In the summer, working in a white suit can be very hot. Working in shorts and t-shirts is acceptable but the temptation to wear more clothing should be avoided. White suits are translucent and no one wants to see their fellow workers more than necessary.
White suits usually come in one piece with footies. These footies tear very easily during work and trip the worker in no time. The feet may be cut off at the ankle and taped around the ankle with masking tape as the EPA guidelines do not fall short. This will allow more traction and ease of movement.
Negative air is key to preventing dust from migrating past. The importance of air movers in containment cannot be overstated. Cleaning the perimeter of the containment will save the contractor many hours as dust escaping from the door is unavoidable. Without proper ventilation, the air in the containment can become saturated with demo dust, making work dangerous and unbearable.
Many companies sell them in different styles and sizes. They can easily be viewed online and purchased ready to go out of the box. These units can be expensive and small business owners may consider them out of reach. The author has several units that are all built in-house for under $100.00 a piece. The following is a guide to building a home for the small business owner.
Home air movers, whether purchased or built, all do the same thing, move air. The higher the air exchange rate the better but since it is carried to each site the size becomes an issue. A typical width should not exceed 30″ and an overall width of less than 24″ is best. Most interior doors are smaller than the 36″ standard entrance. Keep in mind that EPA mandates pre-1978 homes, and most remodeling contractors already know that doors in older homes can be smaller. Unit size is not as critical as air noise. It rotates per hour with a squirrel cage.
Squirrel cages in residential HVAC systems can usually be purchased inexpensively to move air and are a good alternative to an air exchanger. Make sure they are clean and in good working order. A squirrel cage can be mounted on any material of choice, but the unit must be airtight and able to be wiped down. Wood is fine as long as a quality semi gloss is applied for cleanliness. Handles and wheels are very useful and should be included; Note that the unit must be portable.
The dirty air intake should be filtered to prevent the squirrel cage from clogging with dust. An exhaust tube can be used to vent dirty air, but there are times when there is no nearby window or door to use and the air inside the containment must be vented indoors. In that case, the air must be HEPA filtered to remove possible lead dust. A typical home furnace filter unit with two standard air filters can be incorporated into the air mover for this problem. The first air filter should be a less expensive model that filters about 90% of the particles in the air. This filter will save the second expensive HEPA filter behind it from clogging quickly. It can be vacuumed and cleaned frequently. A cheap filter can be thrown away after the job is done where as an expensive HEPA can be reused. After work is completed, it should be HEPA vacuumed and stored in a clean, sealed plastic bag.
A standard metal duct work fitting can be installed on the air mover to connect the exhaust tube. The tube is taped to the fitting and pushed out the window or door. The tube itself can be purchased at an abatement supply house or found online. With the unit caulked and painted it is ready for first work.
Air scrubber should be installed on poly wall. Placing an air scrubber in the containment area can obstruct and trip the exhaust tube and damage it. Additionally, the unit will need to be vacuumed and wiped down after each use. A better and faster way is to attach the air scrubber to the poly wall outside the containment. Simply wheel the air scrubber onto the poly wall and cut around the filter area with a sharp utility knife. Blue tape or masking tape can be used to seal the cut opening in the filter housing of the metal air scrubber.
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