Lead Safe Work Law Separates Pro’s from the rest

Remodel, Repair and Painting Lead Safe Work Law

The enactment in April of 2010 of the EPA RRP Lead Safe Work Law has caused a lot of concern on the part of companies who work on buildings constructed before 1978. The law requires companies doing work on a home that has tested positive for lead to follow a stringent routine to assure that any lead paint that is disturbed during the construction process (primarily tear out and demolition) is contained, cleaned and disposed of properly.  The law does not require that the buildings built before 1978 be tested for lead, but states that if testing is not done it must be assumed that lead is present and appropriate protocol be followed.

Magnotta Builders and Remodelers has always tried to excel in dust and dirt containment on job sites (that would be your home) and found that the new requirements, while a step beyond our usual methods, where not the quantum leap that many other companies faced in follow this new law.

Based on these facts we have decided to forego testing for lead (unless requested to do so by the owner) and instead treat all buildings constructed before 1978 as if there were lead present.  By doing so you, the home owner, are protected from having to disclose the presence of lead in the event of a sale if a test were to come back positive. You will know that you and your family will not come in contact with lead or any other hazardous material that may be present in your home as a result of the tear out and demolition portion of work done to your home by Magnotta Builders and Remodelers.

We view this as an opportunity to raise the level of service that we provide to you to help us to refine our process and over time streamline this process to reduce the cost burden associated with the additional steps and methods involved in lead safe work practices.

There are a lot of companies that are vehemently opposed to this law and either refuse to follow the guidelines or decline to work on pre-1978 built homes. This puts you and your family at risk as well as the workers who come in contact with lead on the jobsite.

The damage done to children and fetuses by lead exposure is irreversible and tragic. Even exposure to miniscule amounts can cause brain and nervous system development damage, reducing IQ and causing learning disabilities and behavioral problems. In 2007 there were 500,000 children in the United States found to have elevated blood lead levels. The harm done to adults is nothing that anyone should risk either. It includes muscle and joint pain, memory loss, fatigue, high blood pressure, reproductive problems and nerve disorders.

If none of this dissuades you from making sure that companies who disturb painted surfaces in or on the exterior of your home follow the EPA’s lead-related Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule, consider this: Contractors who are found in violation of the RRP rule can be fined up to $37,500 per occurrence, per day. This means the company you hired and probably paid a substantial down payment to may find itself unable to stay in business or perform the work they had contracted to do for you, if found in violation of this law, leaving you in a most uncomfortable predicament.

If you still feel like taking a gamble on this you might want to consider the odds.


87%       built before 1940

69%       built from 1940-1960

24%       built from 1960-1978

Where Stuff Goes – But Doesn’t Go Away

I read this article about a multi-award winning documentary film made by Lucy Walker about the massive Jardim Gramacho dump in Brazil and the people who make their living picking through it. It is a story that is being replicated over our entire planet at sites where the waste by-products of society goes but does not go away.


The movie, “Waste Land”, is making its way into theaters and will be shown in Cleveland on

February 3rd and in Chicago on March 11th, as well as at many other places listed on the movie website (http://www.WasteLandMovie.com).


If you can’t travel to view the movie but would like to learn more then you can read the article and view video clips at the following link.  (http://www.fastcompany.com/1698070/wasteland-lucy-walker-vik-muniz-jardim-gramacho)


The process of remodeling your home creates an amazing amount of debris, both from the building materials that we tear out and from the packaging and scrap wood that are a by-product of rebuilding. I have always tried to save and reuse as much of the material that is torn out that is still in sound condition. It just didn’t make sense to me to demolish a 2×4 wall and pay the dump owners so we could throw dozens of wood 2×4’s away and then turn around and pay the lumber yard to buy the same objects we just discarded. I have been told many times that time is money and it doesn’t make good dollars and cents to pay some to clean the nails out of lumber you can buy new for less than two bucks. Somehow it always made good common sense to me and is a standard part of our procedure when we remodel.



Did you ever wonder how you can add more space to your home for far less than it would cost to have an addition built? Many people who were hoping to ad onto their home have had to postpone those plans due to the current economic climate. However if you still have the need for additional space but find that the 800 square foot addition you had been planning is just not feasible at this time don’t give up just yet.

There are ways to greatly expand the usable living space inside your home without going to the expense of hiring someone like me to design and build an addition for you. (Darn it! There I go telling everyone how to save money by not hiring me. I hate it when I do that!) You just need to start thinking inside the box! By this I mean looking inside the existing walls of your home at poorly used space and improving its function through design modification and/or disciplined editing of the contents.


I recently added a two car garage to my home and it didn’t cost me any money at all. Actually, I profited around $1,500 when all was said and done!

In my case, the garage space was there all along, it just wasn’t functioning as a garage. It had evolved over the years into a storage area that hadn’t seen a car cross its threshold in a long time. So this time when it became too cluttered to tolerate I decided to do more than just re-organize, which in the past had always yielded an amazing amount of additional space. I realized that I had moved many of these same items into a more orderly arrangement numerous times over the years and still hadn’t found a use for them. I decided it was now time to let some of this stuff go.

While getting rid of stuff doesn’t cost much money, it will require some time and elbow grease.  Start by organizing things into the following four categories;

  • For sale – craigslist and eBay are a great way to turn your clutter into cash! Don’t be too discriminating about the items you put up for sale, you would be surprised at what others will pay god money for.  This is how my garage cleaning project turned into a net gain of $1,500!
  • Give it away – items you no longer have a use for could have a positive impact if it were donated to the Restore at Habitat for Humanity (517 374-6235), the Salvation Army (800 562-3834) or St. Vicnent DePaul (517 484-5395). They will take a wide range of items including clothing, household items, appliances and furniture, even used building materials and tools.  Call to have them pick up your donations at your house or direct you where you can drop them off.
  • Recycle – before you send it to a landfill, think recycle. Take the time to learn about what can be recycled and how to do it properly. For more information you can go to the “Michigan Recycling Guide” or, for a quick summary, go to the “Worlds Shortest Comprehensive Recycling Guide”
  • Toss it – This is the last resort when all of the above has failed. Even then, some things that you were unable to sell or even give away, will magically disappear when left out at the curb over night. So put these items out a day early with a sign labeling them as “free” and you may be amazed when they mysteriously disappear. For information on what cannot be sent to landfills and how to properly dispose of these items you can read the State of Michigan DEQ brochure “Banned Landfill Materials” .

WARNING! As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, that item you have been saving for 15 years will finally be just the thing you need – within two weeks after you throw it out! Don’t sweat it, this is a small price to pay for the overwhelming feeling of joy that a well organized garage or basement will bring.


When I first wrote this, I had this point as number one, but after thinking about it I decided it was more beneficial to de-clutter and clean first. This will make it easier for you to see the possibilities and if you decide to go no further than clearing out and cleaning certain areas of your home it would still be a very worthwhile endeavor.

When beginning to think seriously about making changes to your home you should first make a list of the things you do not like about your current home as well as the things you do like or would like to have. Prioritize this list by dividing it into things you need and things you want. Then take a careful look at all the areas of your home that are seldom used or that could perform a higher function.

The first thing that I do when helping our clients plan their home improvement project is to look at what is already there and determine how well it serves their current and future needs. You may find the fresh perspective offered by an experienced designer helpful in finding solutions that you may not have thought of. A carefully planned and well thought out project will not only go more smoothly during implementation but also reduces costs by minimizing waste and shortening the length of time it takes to complete your project.

Including universal design principles just might be the smartest thing any homeowner can do when modifying or renovating their home today. Homes that accommodate those with disabilities make it possible for people to stay in their home as they age and avoid or postpone the steep costs of assisted living or nursing care facilities. Universal design features also make a home rise to the top of homes on the market at resale time by appealing to the 78 million aging baby boomers and the other 50 million people in the United States who currently have a disability. Homeowners who are concerned about the resale value of their home should pay close attention to these numbers.


By carrying the finish quality of your home into currently unfinished areas you can not only expand the habitable floor space but also ad features and amenities that previously were not possible. Basements are a prime example of an area that can be turned into premium living space by changing the function for far less than the cost of an addition. The image of a dark, musty, damp basement belies the comfortable family rooms, play areas, home theaters, bedrooms and bathrooms that can be created in lower levels. Other potential areas for adding premium living space are attics, breezeways, enclosed porches or garages.

Changing the form or function of existing finished areas can also have a major impact on how comfortable you are living in your home. Giving up a formal dining room that is too small or that is seldom used and trading that space for a larger kitchen with a less-formal eating area and an enlarged entry with mud room and laundry area might make your day to day life a whole lot better.

A layout with three small bedrooms and one basic bathroom could become two spacious bedrooms and a luxurious bathroom with a walk-in shower. You could take the closets in those bedrooms and swap the old hanger rod and shelf setup for a custom closet organization system that effectively doubles the storage capacity. And while you’re at it, replace that 30” wide closet door that opens into a 60” wide closet with double doors in a wider opening that allows you to see everything that is inside.

Sometimes just removing an interior wall or cutting new windows into a wall or adding skylights to introduce natural light has an incredible affect. Other times a simple 2’ addition built on a cantilevered floor system or post foundation that allows you to expand a kitchen or add a bedroom closet can be just enough to have a major impact.


The U.S. government is offering tax credits up to $1,500 on energy efficiency improvements that are done to your home through 2010, including qualifying new windows and doors, storm windows, storm doors, skylights, roofs, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Geothermal heat pumps, solar hot water heating and photovoltaic power systems and small wind systems are eligible for a tax credit of 30% of the total cost with no maximum. Learn more at the Alliance to Save Energy web site.

Local historic districts are areas that have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, of which there are over 1,000 in Michigan. Local and state government dictates what types of improvements can be done on the buildings within these districts and if your home is located in a designated Historic district you may be eligible for an income tax credit or grant. Learn more at State of Michigan Historic District web site.


There are rules that you need to follow whether you are doing the work yourself of hiring professionals. These rules protect the safety of those doing the work and also everyone within proximity of the job site. The one major complaint I have about the home improvement shows on TV it is that they seem to ignore every health and safety rule there is during the projects they do. It is so rare to see workers on these shows with respirators, safety glasses or hearing protection and they never seem to be concerned about containing dust or the harmful effects that it can have on both workers and occupants, whether it contains lead or not.

There are also building codes and laws that can result in serious penalties if ignored. The Michigan Residential Building Code requires that all finished basement have a means of egress (window or door) that meets specific criteria for size, height, etc. The Michigan Residential code also requires that smoke detectors be installed throughout the house and be hardwired together (not battery operated) if they are not present in the locations mandated in the current code.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Paint Renovation, Repair and Paint rule that becomes law on April 22, 2010, requires everyone who works on a home built in 1978 or before to be trained and certified in lead safe work practices. Penalties for failure to comply with this law are stiff, but not nearly as harsh as the impact on children who come in contact with lead. To learn more go to  the the EPA Lead Paint Renovation, Repair and Paint rule web site.

Doing home improvement projects is fun, but it is also dangerous. Cuts, scrapes and bruises are part of this kind of work and with caution and common sense they can remain only minor.


There is no truth in the statement, “if you put it off right away it isn’t procrastinating”. More accurate is, “procrastination is failure on the installment plan”.  Putting things off for whatever reason makes them increasingly hard to get to as time goes on and inertia sets in.

As we know, the law of inertia works both ways, that is, things at rest will remain at rest and things in motion will continue in motion until acted upon by some external force. In this case the external force that puts the improvement of your home  into action could be the simple act of cleaning out one area of your home. Cleaning just one small area could be the catalyst that leads to a transformation in your home and in your life. I hear all the time from our clients that they wish they would have done their home improvement project years before, when they first started thinking of it, because it had such a huge impact on their enjoyment of life. Other clients who in the past have had us do smaller projects in preparation to sell their home decided after we were done that they really liked their clean, renovated home far too much to sell and decided to stay.

So now that it looks like the recent housing market downturn won’t last forever and with the primary reason to improve your home as a guide (see  “Home Improvement Still Delivers A Truly Valuable R.O.I.”), it is time to get over the fear of putting money into your home and begin to make the most of your life.

If you would like help with cleaning or removal of items you would like to recycle or dispose of we can help you with that by providing a 12 yard trailer to haul items you no longer need away and polite, trustworthy labor help to do the heavy lifting and cleaning for you.

If you need some inspiration and would like to schedule an in-home consultation I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your plans and share my ideas with you at no cost.  Just send me an email to Remodelor@gmail.com or call me at (517) 819-2977.

So it is possible to improve your home without spending a fortune. You can find some additional space without going outside the existing walls of your home just by the power of your energy and creativity and refusing to let another day go by while your dreams to improve your life are left in a holding pattern until everything is ok with the world. Everything may never be perfect in the world, but don’t let that stop you from trying each day to make it your world better.


After doing thousands of remodeling projects at the homes of our clients over the years, as well as living through my own seemingly perpetual home renovation projects, I wanted to offer some suggestions that I think will help make your remodeling experience more successful and more enjoyable.


First, take your time and much care in selecting who you will hire to be in control of your project. Their personal skills and technical skills will be the number one factor that decides whether your remodeling experience will be painful and stressful or exhilarating and fun. You can learn more about this on our blog post entitled “How to select the right remodeling contractor”. (Coming soon!)


Be as clear, thorough and direct in your communication as you can possibly be in all matters pertaining to the project and require those you are working with to do the same. Make sure the written contract spells out specifically the products that will be used, including model numbers, colors, dimensions, etc., and also has an accurate detailed description of the scope of work to be done. At the end of any verbal discussion about the project always summarize your understanding slowly without interruption to make sure you are on the same page. Keep a notebook or log of these conversations and all other activities during the process if possible. I know it is a lot of work but you may find it extremely valuable later on, or at least entertaining.


This is a somewhat redundant echo of the point above, but I believe that it bears repeating in all caps, italicized and underlined with numerous exclamation points, because it is the crux of most problems that arise during remodeling projects. COMMUNICATE C-L-E-A-R-L-Y!!! Leave nothing to assumption and don’t be afraid to look stupid by asking for clarification on points that you do not feel you understand completely or if you feel your remodeling contractor does not understand what your wishes are.


The interests of the home owner and the remodeling contractor are the same in that they both want the experience to be positive and the results to be outstanding. The process of remodeling an occupied home produces stress not only for the home owner, but also for the contractor and both parties need to make an effort to understand and show some empathy towards each other.

Work area isolation


Contractors sometimes forget that while their home is disrupted during a remodeling project the stress on a homeowner is 24/7. The contractor and his workers are able to retreat each evening to the comfort of their home, while the homeowner is left night after night with the dust and tarps, sleeping in the basement or trying to get ready for work in the morning out of boxes that store their belongings. If a homeowner were to overreact and vent profusely over some minor or even imagined detail, don’t take it personally.


Try your best to understand and know that the homeowner will show the same courtesy to you when your trim carpenter cuts the special order cabinet trim too short resulting in a delay while you wait for the reorder to arrive. (And while we are at it, don’t be too hard on that trim carpenter either. Just because he made a mistake doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying his best. Everyone’s best varies due to sickness, fatigue, and thousands of other factors beyond human control.)


The creation in recent years of entire television stations dedicated to home remodeling and design demonstrates how highly home improvement ranks with TV viewers. But there is another category where the home improvement industry ranks high and that is in consumer complaints. Each year the home improvement industry ranks at or near the top of the list for a number of reasons.

First, this is one of the easiest industries to start a business in. While there are some requirements such as a state builder’s license and insurance coverage, there is virtually no enforcement or other educational or skill training required and this allows a large sector of “back of the pickup truck” types to remain active for years without ramifications. This is the group that provides you with the infamous “tail light guarantee” which expires when his tail lights are no longer visible, that is if he ever actually shows up and finishes your project.

Second, the home improvement industry experiences a high influx of new players who have varying degrees of competence. There are a lot of people who have lost their job during this recession and, having spent hundreds of hours watching the HGTV network renovation shows, they now feel well qualified to remodel your home. With limited job opportunities available they find the ease of entry into the popular home improvement field very attractive. On the other more qualified end of this spectrum are the new homebuilders who have recently seen their industry come to a screeching halt. While many reputable new homebuilders are highly skilled and experienced in the construction of new homes when it comes to remodeling an occupied dwelling they sometimes end up feeling like your general family practice doctor attempting to perform open heart surgery.

Third, many of these recent entries into the home improvement business are still learning the numerous pitfalls and challenges that make remodeling costs higher than new construction. Their initial failure to charge enough to fully meet customer expectations is compounded as these new businesses use low price as their main competitive edge to attract customers. These factors will assure that the percentage of home improvement companies that go out of business each year will continue to be, as it always has been, astoundingly high. Open up the yellow pages of a phone book from say, 2004 and start calling home improvement contractors and you will see what I mean. While this can happen to companies of all skill and experience levels in a down economic cycle, quite often those that fail leave a trail of unfinished projects, dissatisfied customers and unpaid creditors in their wake.

Finally, the home owner must also bear some responsibility in this scenario. When faced with spending money on the repair or renovation of their home, our human nature that deludes us into hoping we can get something for nothing, coupled with the fear resulting from future economic uncertainty, leads us to shop diligently to find the “best price”.

But the lowest prices come from the unlicensed, uninsured, inexperienced and incompetent, and these are NOT the ones you want working on such a valuable asset as your home. The great price you found for that kitchen remodel or for finishing the basement might turn out to contain lower quality products that were improperly installed, didn’t quite meet code and ended up looking shabby and needing repair and replacement in just a few years. Upon resale “improvements” like these become a liability that potential buyers use against you in bargaining instead of an attractive asset that helps you sell your home for top dollar. Home renovation projects are too expensive to redo every few years and doing them wrong can actually detract dramatically from the market value of your home. Remember, there is no way to do the wrong thing the right way.

To greatly improve your chances of having a successful experience when remodeling your home you need to take a long term-view; focus on receiving top value for your money and try to ignore the allure of a low initial price.

This means hiring experienced, dedicated full-time professionals with a proven track record of successfully completed projects similar to the one you are planning. A good place to start is to call your local home builders and remodelers association for a list of their recommended remodelers or members who have Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) or Certified Aging In Place (CAPS) certification from the National Association of Home Builders.

It means carefully designing and planning the scope of work that you want done while selecting the best quality products that will perform the functions you need now and in the future as your living situation changes.

With the air gone from the housing bubble and our economy showing signs of stabilizing, housing will continue in the future to be a safe, secure and necessary investment. It will always remain, along with food and clothing, among the big three primary needs of human life here on earth. Maybe not an investment that will show double digit annual appreciation any time soon, but one that should hold its value well into the future as it has in the past.

Beyond the financial investment aspect, improving your home can immensely enhance the quality of life for you and your family. Whether dreaming about a gourmet kitchen or an area to gather around the big screen TV, a barrier-free bathroom or a quiet space to read and meditate, what we are really trying to do is create comfort, health and happiness for the people we love and care about. It is in this intangible, that doesn’t appear on a balance sheet, where your home improvement investment will return the greatest riches.


When you’re in “GIT ‘ER DONE” mode,
you don’t always consider the long term ramifications.

"Yeah-it said to use 4-1/2" bolts. But I think these nails out of my nail gun will do."

You know you're a redneck when you use a chew can for a junction box.

Pretty safe isn't it? I mean the hot lead is at least a quarter inch from a metal gas pipe and it is almost 48 inches off the ground so children won't touch it

"He told me he was an professional electrician"

Instead of flashing the penetrations, install buckets with pipes under the drips.

Supply air, meet return air.

Main load, acetone, grits, and tool storage panel.

When you do not have an outlet box, use a Nike box. Just do it!

"Screw that I-beam, just cut it. That’s the framer's problem."

If you can't bend metal conduit, just use a few extra junction boxes!

I think this goes to a ceiling fan mounted on the ceiling of a bathroom on the other side of this wall. Maybe.

If you can vent ONE bathroom exhaust into a plumbing vent stack, then you certainly vent THREE!

Yes- it’s ok to connect the dryer vent to the water heater flue.

"Flashing!? We don't need no stinking flashing!"

"Look-I had 18" of pipe and this bag of couplers."

.........ceiling fan in master bath...."Hmm. where does the wire go and how much glue did he use to stick that thing there?

The ad listed the house with a "whole house attic fan". Professionally installed no doubt.

The guy doing my electrical said it would meet code because it was "all he could do since it was a remodel".

Ok, I might get over the toilet paper holder in the shower - but not the electrical outlet in the shower!

We don’t need no stinking code!