K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Mark Brady

Mark Brady

Mark Brady is the owner of Mark Brady Kitchens,inc in Simsbury, CT. Specializing in residential remodeling, he is both the designer and builder of his kitchens. Projects range from small kitchen remodels to major reconfigurations of homes to accommodate new ways of living. Brady’s business includes a guided shopping service, and he alone manages and plans every aspect of each project. He is famous for his “One Foot” islands and clever use of every square inch that's available in a room. Mark Brady Kitchens is a proud member of the NKBA.

Sep 10 2010

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Wiggle room in the EPA RRP lead law? … or only in the brain?

I have taken TWO EPA lead law courses now, and friends and colleagues have taken some, too. The best I can say is that it’s like a game of telephone around a campfire. By the time everyone injects their brand of denial, horror and interpretation, you can ask 100 people about what it all means and get 150 different answers. One of my plumbers the other day said “Oh, that doesn’t apply to me/us (meaning plumbers)” Hmmmm? A heating contractor said the same thing. Others said, “We’re not working on pre-1978 houses anymore.” As I stand there in disbelief, I ask them to explain. That is a huge waste of time! Were we talking about the same law?

As a general contractor, it seems it all falls to me. If I get a job in an 1820s home or any pre-1978 home for that matter, I’m going to stand there and look at it and say, “I’m all alone here.” I got a letter from a lady who read my editorials, and she said two contractors so far have told her, “Look lady, this law is a killer. Therefore, we’ll do your work for you, but NO written contracts … and NO checks.” Nice!!

I still haven’t received my “Firm” certification back from EPA. I’ll bet they cashed my check for $300.00 though. I bought special “DANGER” signs that include: no eating, no drinking, no smoking, no entrance, etc.—$282.00 worth in case I have a huge job with multiple entrances, or two or three going at once. My stupid little stockpile of masks, suits and filters and gloves that cost a thousand dollars will be good for about one day. I think I may buy a couple cases of Depends adult diapers, too—one for the workers so they don’t waste a suit “setup” every time they have to pee, and one for me in case an EPA inspector ever shows up on the job site, or, calls my office about a job I did three years ago, to tell me they’re coming in immediately to look at my records!

If you look up the EPA regional offices, mine—for Connecticut—is in Boston. This makes me think a bit. Did they impose such huge fines, $37,500.00 per violation per day possibly because it will be like an execution if they ever catch somebody, or intentionally go after somebody to make an example of them, destroy them and discourage the rest of the herd from trying to escape the bureaucracy? I have to think that’s the right answer. So, you take in all the varying info, create your own anti-poison plan from your imagination, try to implement it the best you can, and take your chances.

The bottom line is to protect your workers and present and future inhabitants of the buildings we work on from lead exposure. “Control your dust and debris!” they say.

“OR ELSE!”

We will all (well, some of us will) try to do our best with the info and our plans, as we always have, scared to death now of screwing up even once. If any lessons came out of this for me, it’s twofold:

1. Lead is dangerous under certain conditions. (Like if you EAT it or breathe its burning fumes)

2. Whenever the government tries to be Big Brother, well, it’s a cluster-you-know-what, and it costs lots of money.

In my humble opinion,

Mark Brady

Jul 28 2010

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By appointment only

Closing the studio to walk-in traffic

After being open to the public in our Simsbury, CT, location (about 1,000 square feet on a beautiful backwater thoroughfare) for 18 months, I am changing to an “Appointment Only” format.

It is unbelievable, when your OPEN flag is out, how many snake oil salesmen, fund raisers, advertising reps, tire kickers and SPIES come in everyday and try to throw you OFF your course, and ONTO theirs. “Oh, wait a minute, I wasn’t doing anything important, let me DROP what I was doing, and see if you can coax some money out of my checkbook, and/or waste MY time on what YOU want me to do?” No Thanks, I’m all set!

I further noticed that while I was out supervising projects and working on jobs, the office person, who cost a lot of money to keep there with lights and heat/AC on, was prepping folks for them and sooner or later I would meet them and have to start all over by introducing myself.

All that was an issue, but this was the worst. You’re talking to a couple about their wants, needs and dreams, and someone waltzes in unannounced, wrecks the concentration, and you lose them both.

With the door locked and a valuable person who bothered to call and make an appointment in front of you alone, you can focus on THEM, and spend all the time you need to help them make decisions and ask questions and be comfortable taking the information in at their own speed.

It’s fun every now and then to look out the window and see, after encountering a locked door, the snake oil being loaded back into the trunk and watch the thing drive away as you close your happy client on decision after decision. I don’t miss walk-ins at all.

In my humble opinion,

Mark Brady

Jul 16 2010

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A letter to my contractors and homeowners

Lead Law Compliance Notification
Following my last post on the EPA RRP Lead Law, I wanted to share this letter I’m sending to my subs and customers to get them ready for this shock. I welcome any comments, suggestions and stories about your own experience with this law and the COURSE:

July 16, 2010
Re: EPA RRP Lead safe practices law

ALERT to all contractors and homeowners we serve.

I hate to sound like “Chicken Little” here, but if I sound like chicken little to you, it’s because you don’t know anything at all about the new EPA RRP Lead Law. That means you haven’t taken the course, been certified individually, or registered your firm with EPA. That also means that you know nothing about how, (in any building built before January 1, 1978) you need to dress, work, or keep records on site and off, or that the fines and imprisonment for violations can finish your career, never mind the law suits that will be brought against you when the EPA, OSHA and the Highway Dept. are finished with you.

As of 4/22/2010, that was April 22nd 2010, now long past, the EPA laws regulating the construction practices needed to work “Lead Safe” went into effect. Even if you are not trained or registered you are responsible for following ALL protocols and record keeping.

As a contractor or subcontractor, you/we are in serious trouble when you/we get caught! This will cost you serious money to comply with. A possible $37,500/day per violation. You can’t be insured against the losses. You will have to pass the costs on to the building owner/customer when you bid/estimate, and then comply without mistake during construction.

As a homeowner or building owner of a pre-1978 building, you need to know that any contractor who doesn’t follow all protocols could/will be shut down, possibly during your project. Then you may/will need to find another contractor willing to take on someone else’s mess and take responsibility for any poisoning that may have happened before he got there. Not likely you’ll find such a foolish child. You should also know that these protocols will cost a lot of money in slower production, weather delays and extra suits and polyethylene and materials and extra dumpsters. There is also no telling how long your home will be torn up and unusable during condemnation for violations. You can do projects in your own home yourself, but no contractor will be willing to take over and finish it for you as they will have no way of knowing who or what you poisoned while working un-certified, and knowing as a certified contractor they will be held responsible for whatever you did. I would also consider heading for the nearest Residence Inn for the duration of a project. I can’t see how you can live in a home while 80% of it will be completely off limits to you. You are not permitted to enter any “HOT” containment areas during the project, and until it is finished and certified “CLEAN” by a certified contractor, by law, You can’t even enter if you’re suited up. Hot areas will be ANYWHERE a worker needs to go. These will include bathrooms, halls, stairs, the basement and the attic and garage, foyers and outside walkways.

At Mark Brady Kitchens, inc, we will comply with this law and expect all of our subcontractors and suppliers and all workers to be trained, registered and in full compliance on all pre-1978 houses and buildings. Anyone not in compliance will be refused access to the site and the subcontractor will be back-charged a $500.00 fee per violation per day for disruption and exposure. We also expect our customers’ full cooperation in this compliance.

Sincerely,

Mark H Brady, President, Mark Brady Kitchens, inc

Jun 21 2010

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RRP lead law: April 22nd, 2010, a day that will live in infamy

Well, well, well, if you ask me, the United States government through the office of the Environmental Protection Agency and the RRP law, has just declared war on the remodelers and homeowners of America and turned every home or building in America built pre-January 1, 1978, into a clunker. A clunker for which there is no cash. In fact it’s quite the opposite.

At last count, the EPA says that only 20 percent of the contractors who need to take the RRP course (a travesty of a course) have taken it. Along with that, I bet there aren’t even a handful of real estate agents or any homeowners who know this war was declared while they were sleeping. This law can—and will—end your career and reduce the values of pre-1978 homes to less than nothing. The bible they gave us is an inch thick and pales by comparison to the paperwork needed to document everyday, on the job, in defense of yourself when they come for you. “Are your papers in order?”

Let me explain:
I took the National EPA RRP Course (Repair, Renovation and Painting) in May. It was eight hours long. We were not allowed to ask any questions. They took our pictures holding a damned “mug shot” card in the beginning and we took a graded test at the end.

During the course, you learn what the law says and why. You learn how you will work on your jobs from now on, and you want to cut your wrists on the way home. I am not kidding. They even told us in the first two hours of the course that you’ll want to shoot yourself for probably killing—by poisoning—your own children, your wife and all your customers who live in the houses you remodeled over the years. In the second two hours, you’ll want to throttle the instructor and the eggheads who thought up this law, the penalties and the methods. You tremble at the thought of EPA inspectors “catching you” violating this new law. They start to take on Gestapo-like qualities in your mind’s eye. (Read the rest of this post here).

Mark Brady