Everything You Need to Know About Lead Paint Removal
The older your house or apartment is, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint. Before 1950, most paints in homes were lead-based. However, in 1978, federal regulations banned lead in all residential paints. If your home falls somewhere between 1950 and 1978, there is a possibility that it contains this kind of paint. This paint can cause issues over time, especially if someone experiences prolonged exposure. In order to help you avoid these issues, here is everything you need to know about lead paint removal.
The Problem with Lead Paint
The first point we have to discuss is why having lead in paint is a problem to begin with. Studies show that lead is a toxic metal that causes health problems if ingested or inhaled. Children have a greater risk of lead poisoning because their bodies absorb lead faster than adult bodies. They also have a greater tendency the younger they are to place paint chips in their mouths. Children are also more likely to bite, chew, or lick all sorts of areas and objects. Pregnant women are also at risk because the lead in her system can travel to the fetus and cause premature birth, low birth weight, and nervous system damage. This is why you should invest in lead paint removal if it is starting to flake or break down.
Lead poisoning can cause the following health problems in children:
- Behavioral and learning problems
- Bone marrow problems
- Hearing problems
- Kidney damage
- Nervous system damage (including brain damage)
- Slowed growth
Lead poisoning can cause the following health problems in adults:
- Fertility problems
- Hearing and vision loss
- High blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Nerve disorders
- Memory problems
- Muscle and joint pain
Methods of Testing for Lead-Based Paint
If you are unsure if you have lead-based paint and need to worry about lead paint removal, there are a handful of ways to figure it out. For the best results, you should contact a professional to come and take samples for you. However, you do not need to rush if the paint in or on your home is in good condition. It becomes a more pressing issue once it starts wearing down. It is preferable to test your paint before it becomes a larger issue. Here are the testing methods available to you.
In this method of testing for lead-based paint, an inspector takes samples of all the paint inside and outside your home. This even includes paint underneath wallpaper. Some have the means to test the samples on-site, but others have to send the collected samples to a lab. They use a portable x-ray fluorescence, which tests the paint without damaging it. It simply gives a reading that is positive for lead paint or negative for it. Lab analysis can give more in-depth results though.
A risk assessment does not go as in-depth as the inspection. In this method, an inspector only takes samples of paint that is deteriorating and may put you and your family at risk. If you have children, they will also test areas where there is evidence of licking, biting, or chewing. They will also collect some dust samples with a wipe and soil samples to see if they contain unsafe lead levels. Essentially, this testing method will only tell you if certain parts of your home are not safe and require lead paint removal.
A hazard screen is the bare minimum of the tests you can pay a professional for. Like a risk assessment, they collect two dust samples. One sample is from the floor and the other sample comes from windows. However, they will not collect any soil unless there are paint chips evident in the soil. The hazard screen will only determine the probability of the risk you face. Depending on the probability, they will then recommend a risk assessment.
Technically, you can also buy kits from the store that tell you if your paint is lead-based or not. They do this by using chemicals that change colors when lead is present, but their accuracy is questionable. They also do not give you any detail, unlike an inspection. Because of this, the EPA strongly recommends that you hire a professional that can give you accurate results.
Methods of Lead Paint Removal
Once you know that there is lead paint in your home, you have to figure out how to go about the lead paint removal. If the paint is in good condition, you can choose to leave it be, but it will eventually become a problem. Even if the paint is in good condition, you should remove it if you have small children or are pregnant. There are four main methods of lead paint removal to choose from, so we will go over each one for you. If you want to dedicate the time to it, you can also remove it yourself, but we will discuss that later.
The encapsulation method is the most affordable and least complicated method out there. This method uses a brush or roller to place a paint-like substance over the lead paint. This creates a watertight bond that will prevent anything from getting to the paint and the paint from getting to you. However, if you use this around windows and doors, repeated opening and closing them can wear down the barrier. The product is generally about $50 per gallon, so average-sized homes are looking at up to $1,400 for the product. This does not include the labor of those doing the job for you either.
The enclosure method of lead paint removal uses other materials to cover up the lead-based paint. This includes putting up new drywall and covering window sills with aluminum or vinyl. If you decide to remove these coverings at any point, you will expose the paint and potentially put yourself at risk.
This method of lead paint removal focuses on removing the offending paint itself. Professionals use wire brushes or wet hand scrapers with liquid paint removers. They may also use an electric sander paired with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum. The vacuum prevents any dust particles from getting away and others inhaling it. There are also illegal ways to remove lead paint, so if anyone suggests these ideas, do not accept their offer. These illegal methods include:
- Sanding without a HEPA vacuum
- Using an open flame
- Abrasive blasting
- Power washing without a means to trap the water and paint chips
These illegal methods put others at risk and would expose them to the lead paint. They should also dispose of the waste paint and water properly to prevent soil and water contamination.
The replacement method is for you if you do not want to go through the hassle of working with lead-based paint. This lead paint removal method literally removes anything with lead paint from your home. After removing, you then replace all of the items with new ones, like windows, doors, woodwork, and other surfaces.
Remove Lead Paint Yourself
If you so desire, you can also complete the lead paint removal process yourself. It takes careful work and close attention to detail, so make sure you are committed beforehand. These are the tools and materials you will need:
- Half-mask respirator
- HEPA shop vacuum
- Paint scraper
- Putty knife
- Utility Knife
- 6-mil poly
- 6-mil poly trash bags
- Carbide Scraper
- Duct tape
- Medium-sized coarse sanding sponges
- Shoe covers
- Heavy-duty paper towels
- Rubber gloves
- Spray bottle
Lead Paint Removal Steps
There are three main steps to lead paint removal, and you will need to follow each one carefully to keep yourself, your family, and the environment safe.
- Control the Dust: This step makes the cleanup easier and prevents dust from getting anywhere it should not be. To start, use duct tape and the 6-mil poly to cover the floor. You should also use it to cover any furniture left in the room and cover the doorway. Cut a slit through the plastic to let yourself in and out, then tape another sheet of poly on top of that. (Take a look at the pictures here to get a better idea.)
- Work Wet: After all your precautions are done and you are dressed properly, you can start working wet. Use the spray bottle to get the lead paint and wood wet. This will prevent dust as you scrape the paint off. When scraping off the paint, work from the top down. Continually wipe away the water and paint sludge and place them in an empty bucket. After all the scraping is done, use a coarse sanding sponge to smooth the area.
- Cleanup Thoroughly: After you have removed all the paint and sanded it down, you are ready to clean up. Using the HEPA vacuum, clean up any extra flakes stuck in crevasses. Then, use a paper towel and all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the area where you removed the paint. Wipe in one direction so that you do not contaminate clean areas, and then wipe down the area with just water. Spray down the poly on the floor to trap any other dust and bring all the corners to the middle, placing it in the poly trash bag. You should then vacuum and wash the floor to get rid of any dust you may have missed. You should also launder all your clothes in a separate load.
There are several methods of testing for lead-based paint and lead paint removal, so it is important to do your research first. Lead paint comes with several health risks if you do not deal with it properly, so we encourage using a professional’s help. Whichever method you decide to use, make sure you keep yourself and your family safe.