Tag Archive for EPA

3 Steps to a Lead-Free Bathtub

After discovering that the 1960’s avocado-green bathtub had lead in the finish, it was time to decide whether to replace or reglaze it. Time and resources being key, the process took 3 steps:

1. Reglaze or replace? Re-glazing would mean less waste (ie no bathtubs filling up landfills). In considering a new tub, the cost of removal and installation was prohibitive for this project’s budget. Additionally, one of our blog readers found that when shopping for a new tub, none of the large manufacturers would certify their tubs as lead-free. One company even wrote him back to say their tubs still use lead in the glaze. This is an area where bathtub manufacturers need more transparency. So, I decided to go the reglaze route.

2. I asked the re-glazing company for the names of the products they use, and contacted that manufacturer, which confirmed they are lead-free. I also requested the company email the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) of the products, which verify in writing that the primer and finish enamel don’t contain lead.

3. To prepare for the job, I sectioned off the area with plastic sheeting over the doorways after removing items from the work space, and took other steps per EPA home remodeling guidelines. The guidelines are created for DIYers, so they’re fairly easy, and save on cleanup time. Following the EPA steps are perhaps the most important part of any project to ensure the rest of the home stays clean and free of dust. It’s up to the homeowner to take these steps unless the contracting firm has EPA lead-safe certification. Legal requirements apply depending on the job, so it’s always best to check the EPA website for the latest rules.

The resurfacing contractor explained tubs today are not made of the quality produced decades ago. For this project, the avocado-green bathtub went from old and dingy to brand-new white. The re-glazing process delivered a like-new tub in under two hours. It was a cost-effective, quick way to recycle and renew in this bathroom.

Bathroom Reno Part II

This bathroom, like most projects, evolves with its own momentum. The last post was before eight-plus hours of wallpaper scraping, which I’m grateful is over given the current heat wave in the Northeast. My contractor followed up with two layers of skim coating to get the old bathroom walls smooth again. Keeping things clean during days like this is a bit of a blur, but my secret is Seventh Generation wipes. They’re free of toxins, and come in handy at midnight when it’s time to clean up the wallpaper reno, and every second lost means less sleep.

Amid this, it was time to address mold in the bathroom closet, which looked like it had been there for years and thankfully no longer active. I called in my environmental service company, and they didn’t think it was anything harmful, as the area was completely dried out. Cutting out that section of wallboard, he advised, would eliminate the issue, and the need for having it tested to confirm just what kind of mold it is.  The room would need to be draped with plastic to avoid dust migrating elsewhere in the house. He gave me specific instructions on how to ‘DIY’, and thankfully my contractor team took it on. The EPA has specific how-to’s on treating and eliminating mold that are a go-to source for dealing with this potentially health-compromising problem. When more help is needed, getting a certified mold-abatement firm to assess the situation is a next step.

With the prep finally done, it’s time to prime and paint the bathroom walls.  I’ll be using eco-friendly Ivy Coatings Primer and eggshell. The glossier top coat will be more mold resistant than a flat finish. The inside of the closet, where the mold was, I covered with Benjamin Moore Regal Satin left in the basement from the previous owner. Most BenMoore paints are mildew-resistant and low-VOC according to newer formulations that deputed just a few short years ago. If it was an unhealthy paint or varnish, it wouldn’t be worth re-using it for the possible health risks involved, but recycling better paints can be good for the planet, and for us. The Freecycle Network is a resource for recycling (and accepting) paints and as the name implies, it’s all free.

Help with Household Hazards

It’s just like those creepy tales of childhood about what might be lurking down in the old, dark basement…The picture here tells a thousand tales of flaking paint, old tires, paint cans a-plenty and the pipe with duct tape around it like a much-needed bandage.

I’ve hauled up the tires to the front porch, along with at least a dozen paint cans.  One thing typical of basements is the hazardous chemicals stored in them, from old paints and stains to lawn pesticides, to toxic cleaning products. According to the EPA, the typical home generates about 30 pounds (about the weight of a medium-sized dog) of household hazardous waste (HHW) every year, for an annual total of about 1.6 million tons nationally.

With the tires and paint cans corraled on the front porch, I’ll wait for the county’s Hazardous Waste Collection Day, when they can be dropped off for safe disposal.  Most counties list these collection events, which are usually free to residents, on their websites.  They’re a healthier solution than allowing these toxic household chemicals to sit around, where a child or teen could come into contact with them, or pollute the waterways when dumped down the sink. The EPA has more ideas, including recycling options for HHW, on their website.

Of course, the best solution is to avoid buying toxic products in the first place, so our homes are always healthier and we have that much less to haul up from the basement.

Lights Out: Energy Efficiency

As with any old house, the next surprise is just around the corner.  With several to contend with, I have to believe they’re all an open door of opportunity to make some much-needed changes.  The most surprising (and expensive) was when the public utility came to investigate how half the electricity in the house went out, and discovered it’s not them…

After reviewing the options, it’s time to upgrade the house’s electrical panel, and in the meantime figure out how to do more renovation work myself to keep the controllable costs, well, under control.  Researching how to fix things right the first time might be time-consuming, but it means saving time down the road when the repair doesn’t have to be done twice.

There are many ways to keep energy costs down overall, and the EPA has some great tips.  The Healthy Home Project will include energy-efficient lighting retrofits and appliances. Since budget is a priority, most of the lighting fixtures are from Green Demolitions, which keeps gently used building supplies out of the landfill by giving them a second life and donating the store proceeds to charity. The fixtures in this house will hold LED light bulbs, which are healthier than CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights).  CFL’s contain small amounts of mercury, a known neuro-toxin.  When a lamp gets knocked over and a CFL breaks, that mercury gets released into the room and poses a health hazard. EPA has recomended cleanup instructions which any homeowner can follow.  

For now, here’s to getting the lights back on, conquering the fear of being on top of a ladder as I take on more “sweat equity,” and knowing the best opportunities are those that aren’t planned.