7 Tips for Removing Lead Paint

Lead-based paint is a dangerous source of lead poisoning. It was commonly used in homes built before 1978. Removing or disturbing lead paint on doors, windows, or railings can expose you and your family to health risks. Precautions must be taken to reduce exposure. 

Safely Removing Lead Paint

remove lead paint

Disturbing surfaces with lead paint creates hazardous lead dust. Sometimes leaving lead-based paint alone is safer than removing it, as long as it is not chipping or within the reach of children. Certain precautions can help minimize the risk. 

It is always a good idea to hire a trained professional who is certified in lead-based paint handling and removal if you want to remove lead-based paint from walls, ceilings, and other structures. They have the knowledge and tools to minimize the health risks to you and your family.

Below are some necessary steps to safely remove lead paint.

1. Test for Lead Paint

You can check painted surfaces for lead by using a home lead test kit or sending a paint chip sample to a certified laboratory. A licensed contractor, who has the proper x-ray equipment to detect lead on painted surfaces, can also tell you if your house has leaded paint. 

2. Protect Your Family

Children are more sensitive to the effects of lead than adults. Children and women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid exposure to lead. Relocate toddlers, preschool children, and pregnant women until the work is done.

3. Wear Protective Gear

Appropriate protective clothing such as coveralls, goggles, gloves, and a U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirator for dust must be worn. It will help reduce the possible intake of lead. Do not eat, drink, or smoke in an area where paint is being removed.

4. Prepare the Area

To prevent spreading paint chips and dust to other parts of the house, seal the area and all heating vents. The HVAC system should be turned off during remediation. Protect the entrance to the working area with plastic sheets to contain dust. Remove all drapes, rugs, furniture, and household items from the area. Cover the floor with heavy plastic, and seal with tape.

If working outdoors, use drop sheets to catch any paint scrapings. Always avoid windy days and cover windows and doors with plastic sheets to keep dust out of the house.

5. Use Safe Stripping Techniques

Use techniques that do not spread lead dust or fumes. The key to removing lead paint is to reduce the amount of dust as much as possible. This is accomplished by keeping the area wet and using wet sanding or wet scraping techniques. Mechanical removal through sanding or grinding produces more lead dust. The preferred options for lead abatement methods include:

  • Enclosure: The lead paint is covered with a wall covering. This is typically done for large surfaces such as walls.
  • Replacement: Remove the door, window, or molding that is covered in lead paint and replace it with a new one.
  • Paint removal: This method involves completely removing lead paint. This will create lead dust and should be performed by a certified professional.
  • Encapsulation: This method covers and seals the affected area with a specific coating.

6. Do Not Spread the Dust 

Turn off heating and air conditioning systems and cover vents with taped plastic sheeting. Remove protective clothing and footwear whenever you leave the work area. While you work, use a shop vacuum with a HEPA filter to periodically suck up dust and paint chips. 

7. Finish Remediation

Use warm water, TSP, and a sponge to wipe down the remediated areas. Remove the protective plastic from any areas that were masked off and place it in a plastic trash bag to prevent spreading the dust on it. It’s best to have the area tested for lead following removal to ensure there is none left behind. 

Health Hazards of Lead Exposure

Lead-based paint does not present a health hazard as long as the paint is not chipping, flaking, crushed, or sanded into dust. Exposure to lead-based paint usually occurs from ingestion. As lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increase. 

It is important to be aware of lead sources so you can minimize your health risks. High levels of exposure to lead may cause lead poisoning. This happens when the lead gets into the body through the skin, from breathing, eating, or drinking. 

Anyone can get lead poisoning; however, unborn babies and young children are at greater risks for health problems. Toddlers and children can ingest lead because of their frequent hand-to-mouth activity and tendency to mouth or chew objects. For pregnant women, even low levels of lead can affect the growth of the developing baby.

Lead can harm the production of blood cells and the absorption of calcium. This is needed for strong bones, teeth, muscle movements, and the work of nerves and blood vessels. High lead levels can cause brain and kidney damage. 

The most common way that kids get lead poisoning is from lead-based paint. Children come into contact with lead through:

  • soil found near busy streets and around homes that were painted with lead-based paint
  • water that flows through old lead pipes or faucets
  • food stored in bowls glazed or painted with lead, or imported from countries that use lead to seal canned food
  • some toys, jewelry, hobby, and sports objects

Signs & Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

A simple blood test can diagnose lead poisoning. Doctors get the blood by pricking the finger or putting a small needle into a vein. Everyone will not show signs of sickness, while others may have the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Behavioral problems and trouble concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle and joint weakness
  • Looking pale

Let the Pros Handle It

Repainting your home can improve its aesthetic and add to its resale value. An important part of the repainting process is surface preparation. Removal of the old coat of paint helps ensure that your new coat goes on evenly and lasts as long as possible. 

Many people choose to strip their paint themselves rather than have a professional do it. Paint stripping can be difficult and hazardous. Hire a paint professional to improve the quality of your new paint job and protect your family from the dangers of lead paint. Here’s why:

  • It’s Safer. The paint stripping process often uses strong chemicals that can be hazardous to you and your family if they are handled improperly. These chemicals can also stain carpets, floors, and other woodwork in your home if they are spilled. Hiring a professional painting contractor that knows how to properly handle these chemicals can minimize risk and help you avoid costly accidents.

    Although wearing a mask and gloves can help protect you, you could still put yourself at risk of harm from lead paint or lead dust by removing it yourself. You could also mistakenly leave some behind, putting your whole family at risk.  By hiring a professional, you can help keep your family safe.

    If the paint in your home contains lead, special measures must be taken when removing it.  An experienced painting company can fully remove all the lead paint from your walls and properly dispose of it so that you won’t be exposed to lead dust. 
  • EPA Certified. Lead abatement practices should be carried out by certified personnel with protective equipment.  You should hire professional painters who are certified to remove lead paint from your home or commercial building.  They should be listed as a Lead-Safe Certified Firm with the Environmental Protection Agency, which allows professionals to paint, renovate and repair those buildings.

    To achieve and retain this certification, paint technicians receive EPA-approved training and follow lead-safe work practices.

    EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP) requires that firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in residential and commercial buildings built before 1978 be certified by the EPA. This rule establishes requirements for professional painters such as pre-renovation requirements, training, firm certification, and work practice requirements, 
  • Higher Quality. Paint stripping can be tedious, especially on larger surfaces. If you want to make sure your paint is stripped fully so that the new coat will be set evenly, hire a professional. The proper stripping of an old coat of paint sets the foundation for a smooth and long-lasting new coat. 
Give Your Property a Fresh Look

Removing lead paint is best left to the experts. The Painting Pros is a lead-safe certified firm. We have training in waste management, including hazardous materials such as lead-based paints. We also protect our painters when removing lead paint by providing the proper safety gear and equipment.  We are knowledgeable in the most effective methods of removing lead paint.

If you have an older home or commercial building that needs repainting, we can help. We can test for lead paint before and after the project is completed. Our team will keep your family or employees safe. Contact us today to get started.