Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lead rule and contractors: the survival of the fittest!

Since June 23, 2008, under the authority of the Toxic Substance Control Act (section 402 (C) (3) residential and commercial renovators are required to distribute a lead hazard information pamphlet to the owners and administrators of child-occupied buildings before beginning renovations in them. The RRP, which stands for Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, applies to buildings built before 1978 and it intends to reduce the amount of lead paint dust created by renovation projects which disturb more than six square feet of surface for interior renovations (two sq ft in HUD) or twenty square feet if the work takes place in the exterior.

The new EPA rule became finally mandatory in June 2010. Since then, contractors must be EPA-certified and follow specific work practices to prevent contamination, including covering floors with plastic sheeting, dressing workers in protective clothing, and carefully disposing of tainted debris. The personal protective equipment (PPE) includes disposable gloves, goggles, HEPA respirator, booties and disposable coveralls. They must also test for surface contaminants when the work is finished and keep records that document their efforts and confirm the absence of lead-based paint. Violators could be fined as much as $37,500 per day per incident.

Lead, is a dense, relatively soft, malleable metal with low tensile strength. It used to be present mainly in paint products. Pounds of plastic to deal with micrograms of lead? The entire danger of lead poisoning in children is way over blown. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention the number of children affected by lead poisoning has decreased exponentially since the 1970's accounting to less than 150,000 cases a year.

Comparatively let me consider a similar threat: bed bugs. These culprits, the size of .2" or ½ cm are tiny but they can be seen by the naked eye through careful observation. Lead dust, however, is much smaller in size and thus, lead containment becomes very difficult indeed not to mention its complete and permanent removal from a worksite which must be performed by a lead qualified abatement contractor.

Nobody in the right mind can deny the poisoning effect of ingested lead on children and to lesser extend on adults. The studies are conclusive to identify any dose above 10 micrograms/deciliter of blood as lethal; nonetheless, the entire lead legislation still remains a sore spot for compliant remodeling contractors: By following the EPA demands they become more expensive and less competitive. Oftentimes, losing the job to other less scrupulous contractors.

As it was not difficult enough to sell work in the past if you were a remodeler!. Nowadays, consumers are ruthless, feeling it is a buyers' market, and they almost always make their decisions based on price as the main and possibly only factor rather than work quality, workmanship or credentials, which is a huge mistake.
A recent renovation of a Burlington, VT apartment, which was done according to the new EPA lead rules, took the remodeling company's workers  two hours to demolish — and another six hours to clean up. At the very least, this new Federal lead law makes home remodeling in older dwellings a lot more expensive and cumbersome.

According to a very conservative estimate from the EPA a 10 to 20 increase to the contractors' bottom line should be expected, explained Jim Verzino, a Lead Certified trainer for the State of CT and MA.  For instance, if I have an eight-hour day, at least two of that will be prep and cleanup. I can anticipate easily costing an extra $150 a day in labor and $80 in materials for a typical mid-size project.

Of course other variables affect the added cost depending on work size and job conditions. The lead dust containment will easily amount to 20 to 30% of the total cost. I have already submitted a couple of estimates stating the new figures for lead containment and clean-up to no avail: The clients in both instances took another bit. Does the RRP rule need some tweaking or partial revision more favorable to  hands-on professionals in the field? I believe the answer is "yes" and some changes in the rule are needed to include some of our concerns. It is about time that  big "brother" shows some respect to small businesses and their struggle to make ends meet. In the every day survival of the fittest we need a friendly hand to lift us up rather than causing us distress and more aggravation.
(ArticlesBase SC #3892089)

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Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Restore a Mosaic Coffee Table


Just in case we are talking about the same subject: The restored table is a porcelain-mosaic-low-leg-coffee table. Forty-eight-by thirty-two-inch rectangular shaped table. The task ahead is not suited for the faint of heart! Enclosed you notice the intricacies of this enterprise:
The plywood backing was buckled and rot by years of New England weather exposure. Many mosaic pieces were lose and even lost. The first of course was to log an exact rendition of this table trough this original photograph. You will be able to compare the "before" and "after" at the project's end.
The second step undertaken was the complete removal of the old backing as well as the mortar-cement holding the mosaic design together. We positioned the table upside-down and tore apart the backing without destroying the mosaic pattern. To preserve its original lay out is the key ingredient to the overall success!!
The third step: The rod iron table legs and frame are disassembled from the table top. We realized then, the rust had taken a toll on the ferrous exposed iron and we proceeded to wire brush the rust with steel wool. Right after, we applied a rust oleum based black oil coat of paint to the table's support frame.
Now the fourth step is to secure a brand new backing: We decided to utilize a Hardy Backer TM tile backer board. The main reason was because this material is completely water-proof! Therefore, the next step will be to find out how to anchor this backing to the table frame. We used self-screwing machining screws and rivets to achieve this purpose. We grinded the exposed razor-sharp tips to avoid any potential cuts handling the door once finished.
This next step is the crown and jewel of this project: In the previous step we turned the table upside down and removed the debris between the mosaic pieces, namely, the old mortar cement holding the pieces together. But we had to achieve this by preserving the original lay out. So we carefully, inverted the table and tediously cleaned up the materials to the best of our ability. We used tile cutting pliers, a chisel and a brush to remove the debris and old tile fragments.
One by one these pieces will be cleaned up from old cement and reset back to their original position. At this point we have a "negative" layout of the mosaic composition, pattern and original design. To bring it back to the upright position we used a new 48" by 32" plywood section cut to the same table size. We used a leaf blower to easily remove the lose fragments and discard them. We placed some masking tape at the plywood perimeter and placed the new table backing upside down on top of the inverted mosaic pieces. Immediately, we taped both sections and were ready to invert the table to check how everything fits! There is the table ready to flip.
At this stage about 90% of the original design still remains so it is a matter of guessing the remaining 10%. Some additional cleaning still remains and that's our last chance to perform this operation.
We rearranged the pieces so they are fitting correctly as compared to the original picture template and later, we also protected the surface with a green cushioning layer (below). We needed to invert the table once again and apply a layer of thin-set cement behind the mosaic pieces.
The table needed another flip still. We use the plywood again to invert the table on its belly, carefully taping the perimeter with masking tape so none of the mosaic pieces moved from their location. The last step was to apply a layer of thin-set cement behind the mosaic pieces and then butter the top of the tile Hardy backer TM. We are using a notched trowel with a small indent so we are not mudding too much cement on the little mosaic fragments and the tile backer board.
Once we accomplished this we positioned both halves together for the last time and inverted the table for the final time. Now the mortar holds the mosaic pieces and it is only a matter to clean up the excess mortar and to move the mosaic pieces slightly so they match their original disposition.
 To further preserve our creation we suggest to either seal the mosaic surface top with any outdoor tile sealer or to custom cut a temperate glass piece with beveled corners and place it on top of our re-finished mosaic surface.
And voila! We are ready to reap the fruits of our labor.
Here is the newly
Refurbished Coffee Table:

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