Council shaves six days’ worth of time from construction season

No hammering before 8 a.m. on weekends, holidays

The already short home repair and construction season in Maine just got six days shorter – at least in Portland, where councilors at their Oct. 17 meeting reduced the hours during which any remodeling, renovation or repair activities can be done in residential neighborhoods. 

City Councilor Karen Geraghty initially sought to prohibit this work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. year-round. The previous ban did not begin until 10 p.m. Councilors discussed Geraghty’s proposal over the course of several meetings, and the final version of the new ordinance was passed without further opportunity for public comment on the new amendments introduced that evening. 

Mayor Jill Duson cast the lone vote against the ordinance, and Councilor Peter O’Donnell had left the meeting for undisclosed reasons before the vote or debate took place.

The new law prohibits work that generate over 50 decibels of sound within 500 feet of a home, hospital or nursing home. That basically covers any hammering, power-sanding, scraping or other noise-producing construction activity, since, by comparison, a running refrigerator produces 45 decibels, a clothes dryer 60 decibels, a dishwasher 65. All such activities must end by 7 p.m. between September 1 and May 31. In June, July and August, those activities must end by 9 p.m. 

Furthermore, councilors changed the legal morning start-time from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays year-round.

Based on sunrise and sunset times throughout any given year, the combined changes shave over six days’ worth of time from Portland’s home-construction and repair season. If hours during which work can be done by artificial light are factored in, several more days’ worth of time are lost over the course of a year.

The new law does not apply to emergency utility repair work, and a homeowner or contractor can apply to the city’s Public Works Authority for an exemption if the work to be performed “is of a unique character which cannot reasonably be completed or performed during the permitted hours and which is not of a recurring nature,” according to the language of the ordinance.

Work performed indoors is also covered by the new law, provided it generates sound levels above 50 decibels within 500 feet of another home or a hospital. For comparison’s sake: vacuum cleaners generate 70 decibels, though the sound level diminishes over distance. 


— Chris Busby

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