Craftsmen's Guild Lead Legacy
January 2013

Even after an $11,000 lead remediation, I'm not done finding lead paint debris remaining after our Craftsmen's Guild remodel.

Shortly after the big remodel was complete, we installed a rabbit-proof fence, burying the wire mesh a few inches under the ground to keep the bunnies from digging out. We learned, to our dismay, rabbits gnawed on tree trunks in their run. Our rabbit run stood mostly unused by the rabbits and a perpetual obstacle to us.

This January I finally removed the fence. As I was loosening soil around the posts, I was unpleasantly reminded of Craftsmen's Guild: I kept finding flakes of lead paint and chunks of painted plaster.

I also found flourescent orange flecks the color of the spray paint used by CG during demolition; a color I never saw at our house before CG nor used by any other contractor since.

Although we had hired a lead remediation company to remove the top four inches of soil in the contaminated area, standard remediation practice, more debris remains: apparently we had more than the standard contamination problem. I think that after a winter of Craftsmen's Guild workers stomping the debris into the muddy clay soil, and after piers dug for the porch, the debris got well mixed into the soil.

We've had half a dozen or more contractors work on our house. Craftsmen's Guild is the only one I would not want back if you paid me. We've had mistakes, probably inevitable with labor done by men paid barely above minimum wage. Most contractors apologized and did their best to fix the inadvertent mistakes. The Amini brothers, owners of Craftsmen's Guild, denied responsibility. Matt Amini sued us for discussing our experience.

I've never before heard the sort of finger-pointing we got from Craftsmen's Guild. CG claimed the chunks of lead in our soil were not a problem because the average lead concentration in our soil was within legal levels; the lead assessor we hired disagreed since the "contaminated construction debris in the top layer of soil poses an ingestion hazard for small children playing in this environment." I'd say: Bite-size pieces of lead paint are not safe for babies.

The assessor also found lead dust in our heating ducts, newly installed by Craftsmen's Guild. CG claimed that "extensive demolitions" upstairs were at fault. All we did is remove carpet and install laminate flooring, carry the carpet out in rolls for someone else to reuse. As far as I know neither carpet nor laminate flooring contain lead; and they were not carried through my baby's room where the duct dust tested positive for lead. I think it more likely that the lead dust got into the ducts because CG did not properly cover the ducts while doing work downstairs: We took many photos during the remodel and went back to find uncovered ducts in photos spanning months. This is counter to the EPA's recommendation to "Seal off... heating and cooling system vents", presented in the booklet "Renovate Right!" that CG was required to give us but, violating federal law, did not.

My conclusion? Craftsmen's Guild did not fullfill their contract, which stated that: "All of the construction debris shall be removed by Contractor at termination of Work." And they violated federal law. And, perhaps worst of all, instead of an apology and help with clean-up, the Matt Amini sued us to shut us up.

CG's bond agency hired an independent investigator who pretty much agreed with me, writing that Craftsmen's Guild "failed to maintain the site to industry standards" and "Debris and hazardous debris were improperly handled and not adequately removed at completion of project."

Yet who paid the $11,000 for mostly cleaning up the mess? We did. Why? Because Craftsmen's Guild sued us, and my checkbook and I didn't have the stomach for a legal fight.

Still makes me mad.

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Last updated 21 January 2013
© Anna Mitros
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