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Lead-Safe Wisconsin: Lead-Safe Renovation Rule FAQs

Read FAQs (frequently asked questions) about Lead-Safe Renovation. If you have a question that isn’t included below, email us at or call 608-261-6876.

Background on the rule

The Lead-Safe Renovation Rule is Wisconsin Admin. Code ch. DHS 163 (PDF). It regulates renovation, repair, and paint work performed for pay on homes and child care centers built before 1978.

These buildings may contain lead-based paint, which can be dangerous and cause lead poisoning when disturbed through renovation.

The Lead-Safe Renovation Rule has five main requirements. Contractors must:

  • Complete a one-day training class and get certified before starting work.
  • Give the building’s owner and occupants information about lead-safe renovation before starting work.
  • Use lead-safe work practices and cleaning techniques during renovations.
  • Conduct a “cleaning verification” to make sure the renovated area was properly cleaned.
  • Keep certain records about renovation work for three years.

Wisconsin’s Lead-Safe Renovation Rule is a state rule based on a federal rule—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s 40 CFR Part 745, “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.” The EPA authorized Wisconsin to administer and enforce its own rule.

The Division of Public Health (DPH)’s Lead and Asbestos Section of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) administers and enforces the Lead-Safe Renovation Rule.

The Lead-Safe Renovation Rule went into effect in 2010.

Homes and child care centers built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. In 1978, lead was banned from use in consumer paints.

The Lead-Safe Renovation Rule protects children and adults from lead exposure, which can cause lifelong damage to the brain, as well as other mental and physical harm.

People in homes and child care centers built before 1978 can be exposed to lead during renovation, repair, and paint work that disturbs painted surfaces.

Learn more about lead poisoning and prevention.

It doesn’t as long as:

  • Only you and your immediate family live in the home.
  • There isn’t a child with a high blood lead level living in the home.
  • Parts of your home aren’t rented out.

It does if you’re renovating a:

  • Rental property, even if you’re living there.
  • Vacant property, if you plan to sell it or rent it rather than live there yourself.

Remember that your town may have lead ordinances you have to follow, too. If you hire a contractor to complete the renovation work, the rule applies to them.

Yes. Lead is a toxin, so no amount is safe—even for adults. It can affect all organs and bodily functions, depending on how much you’re exposed to and for how long. For contractors, there’s also a risk of bringing lead dust home with you from renovation work and making your family sick.

Learn more about the health concerns for people who work near lead, and the potential effects on the brain and reproductive and digestive systems.

Although lead paint was banned from consumer use in 1978, most homes in Wisconsin had already been built and painted by then. Lead-based paint on the housing wasn’t removed. Much of that paint is now in bad condition, crumbling and leaving behind dangerous lead dust.

When many of us grew up, the lead-based paint in homes was newer and in better condition. Now, old houses are being renovated and remodeled for younger generations. That creates a lot of dust, which adults and kids—especially young kids—can ingest. The amount of lead dust it takes to poison a child is so small it can’t be seen by the human eye.


Renovation activities include any work in homes or child care centers built before 1978 that disturb:

  •  6 square feet of painted/varnished surface in a single room.
  • 20 square feet of painted/varnished surface anywhere on the exterior.
  • Any window replacement.

The total area of the painted/varnished surfaces (other than the windows) removed is considered the amount of painted surface disturbed.

There are a few exceptions, though. These include:

  • Housing specifically for older people or people with disabilities, unless a child under 6 lives there or is expected to live there.
  • A property that is being razed, or completely destroyed.
  • An inspection by a certified lead inspector or risk assessor showing that the renovation work does not disturb lead-based paint.
  • A certified lead-safe renovator properly using EPA-approved lead test kits and determining the work does not disturb lead-based paint.

These are NOT exceptions:

  • Vacant homes or child care centers built before 1978
  • “Opting out,” even at a homeowner’s request and even if no children are currently living there
  • Window replacements, even if the windows to be removed and replaced are vinyl (lead-based paint can still be present on window casings, which are not usually replaced and can be disturbed during future window replacements)
  • Contractors who only do work on homes or child care centers built before 1978 “once in a while”

Paint-disturbing activities include:

  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Planing
  • Removing painted surfaces
  • Sanding
  • Sawing
  • Scraping
  • Stripping paint from surfaces

You must take the initial lead-safe renovation course, which is eight hours long, before applying. You can use our list of Wisconsin-approved training providers.

You also need to be an employee or owner of a certified lead company before you can do renovation work. Learn more about getting certified to work with lead-based paint.

Use our list of Wisconsin-approved training providers. You can also take in-person training outside of Wisconsin, as long as it’s accredited by the EPA or a state-authorized lead-safe renovation program, but you will have to complete a few extra steps when you apply (see “Can I still get certified in Wisconsin if I go through training in another state?”).

Yes. Individuals and companies have different responsibilities under the rule. Even if you are the company, you must have individual and company certification to perform lead-safe renovation work. It’s similar to having your driver’s license and your vehicle registered.

No, but you must assign a certified lead-safe renovator to every renovation project. They must be:

  • On-site at certain required times.
  • No more than 30 minutes away when work is underway.
  • Able to be reached by phone when work is underway.
  • Responsible for ensuring all employees receive on-the-job, documented training.
  • Responsible for all aspects of the project.

Your company may want to have multiple certified lead-safe renovators on your staff. That could help you conduct multiple renovation jobs in geographically distant areas at one time. It could also let your lead-safe renovators oversee job sites and meet responsibilities without being overwhelmed.

Do I need to be a certified lead-safe renovator or have one on staff? Any company that offers to conduct renovation work must be a certified lead company. That means a general contractor who sells the renovation job directly to a consumer must be certified. It also means any subcontracted company that performs renovation work for the general contractor must be certified. Both companies are responsible for complying with the Lead-Safe Renovation Rule, including the requirement to assign a certified lead-safe renovator to the project.

Any company that offers to conduct, or actually conducts, renovation work must be a certified lead company. That means that a general contractor who sells the renovation job directly to a consumer must be certified. It also means that the subcontracted company that offers to do the renovation work for the general contractor must be certified. Both companies are responsible for complying with the Lead-Safe Renovation Rule, including the requirement to assign a certified lead-safe renovator to the project.

As a general contractor, it’s a good idea to have a trained and certified lead-safe renovator on staff, even if you’re not actually conducting paint-disturbing work. It can help ensure you’re overseeing the subcontractor’s compliance with the rule.

The cost of your training class is set by the individual training providers. In addition to paying for your class, you’ll have to pay a fee. For lead-safe renovator certification, you must pay $75 for two years or $150 for four years. Refresher training is also required every four years, so we recommend applying for four-year certification so you can keep your training and certification renewal dates on the same schedule.

The fee for a two-year lead company certification is $125. You can apply for a four-year lead company certification for $250.

After your training, you must fill out an application (one for yourself and one for your company if you’re not already working for a certified lead company) and pay the associated certification fee. You can do this as an online application if you want to pay by credit card or electronic check. If you want to pay by check or money order, you can fill out a printable Lead-Safe Renovator Application, F-44003 (PDF) and Lead Company Certification Application, F-00171 (PDF) and submit them by mail. You can pay for both applications with one check or by money order.

Visit Apply for Lead or Asbestos Certification for more information.

You must take one four-hour refresher training every four years. That’s why we recommend you apply for four-year certification, which costs $150, after your initial lead-safe renovator training. That will save you from having to turn in an extra application and pay another fee after two years. If you only get certified for two years after completing the training, you’ll need to take the extra step of applying and paying to get certified for another two years in order to stay certified.

You can take the refresher training at any time during the last year before your training expires. (You can find the expiration date on your certification card.) At that point, you can apply for another two-year or four-year certification.

Visit Apply for Lead or Asbestos Certification for more information.

As long as you take in-person training from a provider accredited by either the EPA or a state the EPA has authorized to run its own renovation program, the training will qualify you for certification in Wisconsin.

There are additional steps, however, for first-time applicants who complete their training outside of Wisconsin. These include:

  • Paying an out-of-state training processing fee of $25.
  • Providing a recent, passport-style photo for your certification card.
  • Providing a color copy of a government-issued photo ID.
  • Providing your training diploma—either the original, which we’ll return, or a copy that is notarized as a true copy.

To learn more about these additional requirements, read our Lead-Safe Renovator Application, F-44003 (PDF) or call us at 608-261-6876.

You don’t have to wait for your certification card before you can start work. Individual applicants can work under provisional certification if they have both:

  • Completed the required training course.
  • Submitted a completed certification application to DHS.

If you’re working under provisional certification, you must keep a copy of your training diploma (marked “copy”) with you while you work until you receive your certification card from DHS. An electronic copy, such as on your phone, is fine.

Companies can’t work under provisional certification. Because they must be certified before even offering to conduct work and it can take up to 15 days after applying for a lead company certificate to be issued, it’s important to apply for lead company certification well before offering to conduct work. You don’t have to wait until you or your employee has completed training to apply for company certification.

If you’re working under your Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services-issued license and you take the initial lead-safe renovator training class, you don’t have to get certified.

If you do work that’s not covered by your license, however (such as painting a house instead of plumbing a bathroom), you must get trained and certified as a lead-safe renovator and certify your company.

Working lead-safe

In this section, we answer questions outside the scope of the more general information received in training.

Wisconsin’s Lead-Safe Renovation Rule specifically prohibits renovators from:

  • Collecting paint chip samples for lab analysis.
  • Using chemical paint strippers that contain methylene chloride.
  • Conducting high-pressure water blasting, or hydro-blasting, unless it’s in a fully contained work area with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA)-filtered exhaust control and water collection.
  • Using a HEPA vacuum that isn’t working correctly.
  • Dry sweeping dust, debris, or paint chips in a renovation work area.

If you do any of these, you can face penalties.

You’ll need to check with your local permit office.

The Lead and Asbestos Section of the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Division of Public Health (DPH).

If the gutters are unpainted and attached every few feet by nails or screws, the areas of disturbance likely would just be the nail and screw holes and wouldn’t add up to 20 square feet. However, if the gutters are painted, they must be included in the square foot determination and would most likely meet the 20-square-foot minimum for the Lead-Safe Renovation Rule to be enforced.

If you encounter a situation where you can’t comply with the standards set by the Lead-Safe Renovation Rule, document the reason and the methods you used to work safely.

You can use other methods to contain dust and debris to the work area, such as building a mini-containment work area using taped plastic sheeting. Also, always make sure to clean the area after you work. We recommend taking pictures of the ways you’re working safely. Then include this information in your post-renovation report and keep it with the other records you must have on the project for the next three years.

We rely on tips and complaints from people, including contractors who know what safe work looks like, to find contractors who are out of compliance. If you submit a complaint, we can investigate it. If we decide the contractor is out of compliance, we may take action to enforce it.

Complying with the rule shows your commitment to doing quality work for your customers and their children. A reputation for performing quality work can help grow your business.

You can also face penalties if you don’t comply. Penalties range from $100 to $5,000 per violation, per day.

Communicate the value of lead-safe renovation by educating your customers about the danger of lead dust and what can happen when a renovation isn’t done safely. Let them know that even a tiny amount of dust—smaller than the eye can see—can poison a child.

Include your lead-safe certifications in your advertising, such as on yard signs, brochures, and websites. It’s a great way to show customers you do quality work that will leave their home clean and safe.

For interior cleaning, use a HEPA vacuum. For exterior cleaning, use a wet/dry vacuum (sometimes called a “Shop-Vac”) fitted with a drywall bag and HEPA filter.

HEPA vacuums are designed so that all the air drawn into the machine is expelled through the filter and none of it leaks past. Learn more in our Exterior Lead Abatement and Renovation Cleaning Activities memo (PDF).

No. Plastic used in lead renovation projects shouldn’t be recycled because it may be contaminated with lead dust.

DHS recognizes paint test kits that have been tested and determined to meet the response criteria for the EPA. The agency currently recognizes two test kits that are available in Wisconsin:

Only certified lead-safe renovators can use a test kit, and only if it’s at the request of the property owner. Remember not to store test kits where they could freeze (e.g., a car or unheated garage). They won’t work after freezing.

Learn more about lead paint test kits.

Last revised January 11, 2023