Does Your Home Need Lead Paint Removal?

If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance that some lead-based paint is present. DIY tests are cheap and easy-to-use (you can usually pick one up for less than $20), or you can have a professional test your home. If your test reveals that lead-based paint is present, there are several options for removing and managing it.

Although you can perform the removal work yourself, it is recommended that a contractor who is certified in lead paint removal carry out the task. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), removal can cost anywhere from $600 to $30,000 (national average is about $10,000) depending on the method used and the size of the house. There are five options you can take when dealing with lead-based paint:

  • Encapsulation: This is generally the least complicated and most affordable method. It involves brushing or rolling on a specially made paint-like coating that creates a watertight seal over the lead paint. However, opening and closing windows and doors can eventually wear off the coating, requiring more applications. Encapsulation costs about $600 to $1000 depending on the size of your house (not including labor).
  • Enclosure: This method involves covering up the old surface with a new one, such as putting up new drywall or covering windowsills with aluminum or vinyl cladding.
  • Removal: There are several approaches that can be taken when removing old lead-based paint. Some options include wire brushing or wet hand scraping with liquid paint removers. A contractor may choose to wet sand surfaces with the use of an electric sander equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum. Some methods to stay away from (if you want to avoid law enforcement and health risks) include open flame burning or torching, machine sanding without a HEPA attachment, abrasive blasting, and power washing without a means to trap water and paint chips.
  • Replacement: This strategy involves taking off the painted surfaces and installing new windows, doors, woodwork, and other surfaces. This is the most radical and expensive option available.
  • Do Nothing: If the lead-based paint in your home is not chipping or damaged, and no children under the age of 6 live there or visit frequently, you may opt to leave the paint untouched. If it ever comes time to sell your home, however, you will need to disclose the presence of the paint to potential buyers.
  • Before lead paint removal occurs, you can minimize your family’s exposure by:

  • Cleaning up paint chips immediately
  • Cleaning floors, window frames and sills, and other surfaces regularly with all-purpose cleaner (thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads).
  • Washing children’s hands often, especially before meals, naps, and bedtime.
  • Preventing children from chewing painted surfaces, such as window sills.
  • Removing shoes to avoid tracking lead-contaminated soil inside
  • For additional information, contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC).

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