Dealing With Lead Paint

(I had pictures of this process but can’t for the life of me find them. Betcha a dollar they’re on the camera.)

We were convinced our house had lead paint just based on the age of the house, so it wasn’t a surprise when checking the cracked and chipped paint in various areas (windowsills, baseboards) that the test kit turned an immediate bright red.

The worst area was a window that had been left open by the previous tenants for their cat to come and go. The wet weather in our area caused the paint to crack and chip down to the bare wood.

This window was in the room that was to be the playroom for the kids, and it was a priority for me to take care of this one area before we moved in.

Precautions

From what I understand about lead poisoning, my body would not absorb as much lead if I were healthy to begin with. A good blood iron level is important as well, as lead is more readily absorbed by those with low iron counts.  I tried to focus on lots of vegetables that week, drank lots of water, and thought healthy thoughts. (It works!)

I didn’t buy a respirator, but I did take care to wear good disposable gloves, and to change my clothes before going to the other house.

The Process

I wasn’t going to dare scrape the dry paint around the window.  After much research online and calls around town to every paint department, I had a plan.

  1. Strip the paint

    I used a chemical paint stripper that did not contain Methylene chloride. I learned methylene chloride could be quite nasty, and also was cautioned not to use it for lead-based paint (I can’t find my reference, so can’t be sure now).

    I used Smart Strip. It goes on like a paste, and after a good 24 hours, could be scraped off without creating any lead dust. (However, it does create a lot of sticky mess.)  It even says it’s OK for using on lead-based paint, and it says it’s green or environmentally friendly, or something. Which I highly doubt. (Seriously. It’s a chemical paste which softens paint. How can that be “green”?)

  2. Seal the wood and remaining paint

    After stripping all that I could, I cleaned up the sill and sash with denatured alcohol, and painted with Peel Bond.  This smooths out the transition from the unstripped paint to the bare wood, as well as seals it from further cracking or chipping.

    It is a bit like white glue, has little smell, and … is a lot like glue.  Dries clear.

  3. Primer

    After that, a good layer of primer.  The surface will still be uneven, but it matches the rest of the house that way.

 

I used the process above for the worst of the cases (the windowsill and sash in the playroom).  For the very small areas on the baseboards that just had chipped and loose paint, I did the following:

 

  1. I used a wet paper towel to dampen the paint.
  2. Gently chipped away the loosest areas
  3. Cleaned up all chips and dust with wet paper towels, and placed them directly into plastic bag for disposal.
  4. After the area was dry, used Peel Bond to prevent further chipping and smooth the area a little.

I’ve since read about The Silent Paint Remover, which uses infrared heat to soften the paint (without heating it to dangerous levels and releasing lead). It reportedly doesn’t create dust, and won’t require shaving or sanding.  Sounds dreamy, huh?  Might have to invest in one (rent, borrow, steal) when we tackle the stairway banister.  (When’s that? 2 years?)

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