Things You’ll Want to Consider If Your Home Has Lead Paint

Things You'll Want to Consider If Your Home Has Lead PaintIf you own an older home, you might live with more history than you realize; some could be hidden in your walls. Lead paint was commonly used before its ban in 1978, and it poses serious health risks, especially to children and pregnant women. While it was banned, lead paint still exists in millions of older homes across the United States.

It’s important to recognize and address the presence of lead paint in your house, not only to maintain your property’s value but also to ensure its safety. Let us guide you through understanding the risks of lead paint, how to identify it, and what steps to take if you find it in your home.

Why is Lead-Based Paint Dangerous? 

Lead-based paint was popular for residential homes until the late 1970s because of its durable and vibrant finish. However, scientists found out that it is a toxic material that can lead to serious health problems if ingested or inhaled.

In children, lead exposure can lead to developmental delays, learning disabilities, irritability, and weight loss. In severe cases, it can cause neurological damage and renal failure. Adults aren’t spared as well – prolonged exposure can increase blood pressure and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and cognitive dysfunction.

Lead paint is not exactly dangerous when it’s in good shape, and the surface has not been broken. The risk increases when lead paint deteriorates—peeling, chipping, cracking, or when it is disturbed during renovations.

How to Determine if Your Home Has Lead Paint 

Determining whether your home has lead paint isn’t always easy, especially if it’s been painted over several times. However, if your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance it contains lead-based paint. Some indicators can help you suspect its presence, like older, cracking, and peeling paint. Lead paint is also often thicker and may feel chalkier than newer, lead-free paints.

The definitive way to determine if your home has lead-based paint is through testing. You can buy a DIY lead paint test kit from most hardware stores. These kits typically involve applying a chemical to the paint that will change color if lead is present. While convenient, these kits may only provide accurate results part of the time, so professional testing is generally preferable.

If you’re suspicious, getting help from a certified lead abatement contractor is wise. They will visit your home, collect a paint chip, and analyze it in a laboratory to check for lead presence.

If you’re planning renovations and your home is on the older side, it’s important to test for lead paint first. Renovation activities like sawing and sanding can disturb the paint and release harmful particles.

concrete wall texture with peeling paint

What to Do If You Found Lead on Your Walls

If you find out there’s lead paint on your walls – don’t panic. But you need to handle it carefully. It’s best to leave those areas undisturbed until you can secure professional help. Attempting to sand or remove the paint on your own can liberate more dust into the air, worsening the problem and increasing health risks. Here are some steps you should consider:

Leave it as it is

Unless you find it really necessary to remove the paint, you can just leave the surfaces in their normal state. This is only an option if the paint is in good condition, especially if you don’t have the budget for lead paint removal costs. It may also be the option to choose as long as you don’t have any small children or someone else in the family who is physically sensitive and weak, allergic, or asthmatic. 

However, if you intend to sell your home, it’s best to disclose that it contains lead-based paint. Once you see cracking, peeling, or chipping paint, it’s time to take action.

Contain the area and protect yourself

If the lead paint is chipping or peeling, seal off the area to prevent the spread of lead dust until you can address the problem properly. Avoid exposing yourself to lead by leaving the work to the professionals. But if you really need to go to the affected area, put on latex gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, protective eyeglasses, closed-toe shoes, and an N95 mask. Lead paint is harmful, so avoid ingesting it or sticking your skin to it at all costs.  

Avoid DIY removal and hire a pro

While it might be tempting to scrape or sand lead paint yourself, this can release harmful lead dust into your home. Always opt for professional removal and hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Professionals certified in lead removal have the training to do the job safely and are equipped to follow strict regulations that protect you and your family from lead exposure.

Clean up paint chips carefully 

Use precautions if you must tackle some cleanup yourself before the professionals get in your house. Start by gently sweeping any lead paint chips on the floors or near windows. If necessary, use a damp cloth to help pick up smaller particles. Focus on areas that are frequently accessed and within reach of children, such as windowsills. Wear an N95 mask during cleanup, and make sure to wash your hands afterward thoroughly. For added safety, vacuum the affected areas with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum.

Lead paint chips are considered household hazardous waste, so their disposal varies by location. In some states, you can seal the chips and any contaminated materials in a plastic bag and dispose of them with your regular trash. However, some states might require you to take these materials to a designated hazardous waste collection site. Be sure to consult your local regulations to ensure proper disposal.

Until lead paint issues are fully resolved, regularly clean your floors, window sills, and other surfaces to help reduce household exposure to lead dust.

Paint blistering and peeling problems

Consider using an encapsulant

In some cases, encapsulating the lead paint can be a safer and less expensive alternative to removal. An encapsulant is not the same as ordinary paint—rather, it is a specially formulated liquid coating that provides an effective and long-lasting barrier over lead-based paint. It’s like a de-leading liquid. 

Make sure that lead paint dust is completely removed

Once the professionals have done the work on your lead-based painted surfaces, it’s vital to address any residual lead dust. The company you hire for paint removal will typically handle the cleanup, or they might refer you to another service specializing in such cleanups. 

Cleaning up lead dust usually involves a two-step process. First, vacuum all surfaces using a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum to capture the dust. After that, it’s crucial to thoroughly wash the areas with an all-purpose cleaner and then rinse them with clean water to ensure all traces of lead are removed.

Install an air filtration system

Consider installing an air filter in any rooms previously containing lead-based paint. An air filter can capture dust particles still lingering in the air. But keep in mind that an air filter is not a substitute for the necessary vacuuming and wet washing steps required to remove lead dust from your home completely.

Conclusion

It’s essential to address the presence of lead paint in your house to ensure its safety and maintain its value. Dealing with lead paint is not a DIY project – professional handling is safer and often legally required. If you suspect your home may have lead paint, consider contacting Custom Painting, Inc. at 925-294-8062. We know how to test your home and will be able to give you suggestions for the proper way to handle lead-based paint found in your home.