It’s fair to say that we’ve dealt with our fair share of messy home improvements. We’ve tackled everything from removing tonnes (literally) of tarmac to tiling our roof, but one of the most frequent questions we get asked is about how to deal with lead paint and if it’s safe to remove lead paint yourself.
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‘May contain lead paint’ is one of the many things that came up on the survey of our home before we bought it. As with all surveys, I’m sure that the surveyor was covering himself to a certain degree, but hearing about all things that could be wrong with your home is a bit disconcerting to say the least.
Lead paint, however, is a very common problem and it’s something that a lot of homeowners face – especially if you live in an older property, but it’s not all bad and we’re sharing exactly what to do if you find lead paint in your home, too.
First of all, check to see if your paint actually contains lead. If you live in a house that was built before 1960, it’s very likely that lead paint was used. There are lead paint testing kits available that you can use to test if your paint contains lead. But whilst they’re great to give you an indication, they aren’t 100% reliable and even if the top layer of paint doesn’t contain lead, the older layers underneath could still be lead paint. Luckily, our test came back negative but it’s still a good idea to take safety precautions.
If you want to make 100% sure that you don’t have lead paint you should have a check carried out by a specialist company like Lead Paint Safety Association or Lead Test Home Analysis Service.
So, what to do if you have lead paint?
If you’ve done a test and you do have lead paint there’s still no reason to panic.
There’s only a risk to your health is the paint is unsound. If it’s in a good condition with no flaking, removing is actually a greater risk as it could lead to the exposure of lead dust.
Old lead paint surfaces should only be treated or removed if the paint is flaking or peeling, or if dust particles are present.
If your paint is in a good condition, it’s best to paint over the lead paint and therefore cover and seal it with the new paint. If the paint isn’t in a good condition and is chipped, flaking or has lost its adhesion, you’ll have to remove it before repainting.
So, how do you safely remove lead paint from furniture, metal or woodwork?
The best and safest way to remove lead paint is with a chemical stripper which binds the particles in the paint and doesn’t cause dust. We’ve tried a lot of different strippers and our favourite one is PeelAway which works much better than any of the other paint strippers we’ve tested (and there have been a lot!).
Removing lead paint with a heat gun is a much less safe option and something we’d not recommend if you can avoid it. If you do decide to strip lead paint with a heat gun, it’s important to only soften the paint before scraping it off. It’s also really important to not let the paint burn and of course wear protective clothing and a mask. Really though, this method of paint removal should only be used if you don’t have lead paint.
The safest way to remove old lead paint is by taking anything you can remove from your home to be stripped for you.
We took all of our doors to a stripping company where they were dipped in a stripping bath and came back without the old layers of lead paint. It only cost about £15 per door and not only saved us a lot of time and effort but was also the safest way to remove old paint.
This method of stripping paint also works great for stripping things like furniture and fireplaces. Not only is it the safest way to remove lead paint, but it’s also probably the most economical, too. Paint strippers can be expensive and you’ll be surprised at just how much it will cost to strip lead paint yourself!
If you do decide to remove lead paint yourself, these are some of the things you should consider:
- Always take safety precautions. Wear an overall and gloves and cover your hair. Wear a dust mask (minimum FFP3) or, better yet, a respirator with a HEPA filter and wash clothes separately.
- Before you start stripping paint, remove everything from the room that you can – especially things like soft furnishings, curtains and carpets and cover everything that you can’t remove with plastic sheets and seal them with tape.
- The general rule is to not create dust or fumes. Use a chemical stripper to bind the particles and dampen the area you’re working in to reduce the risk of inhaling dust, too.
- Work in a well-ventilated area and don’t let anyone in the area that doesn’t need to be there.
- If the existing paint is in a good condition, don’t remove it! Just paint over the lead paint to seal it.
- Dispose of the stripped paint (and all of your masks etc.) in bags that you seal with tape as soon as possible.
Most importantly – Be safe!
We stripped every bit of paint in our house and haven’t had any health issues, but it is, of course, important to take all possible safety precautions! Removing lead paint can be dangerous and cause health issues. Don’t even think of attempting it if you are pregnant or have young children in the house. If you’re unsure of anything always consult a professional!
If you’d like some more information on how to deal with lead paint you can check out the Lead Paint Safely Association or British Coatings Federation.
What’s the biggest DIY hurdle you’ve ever faced? Do you have any hazards in your home?