Whatta a Lead-Down

Category: Daily Diary

(Since I have so many of both, I'm going to mix up my window-related entries with my being-outta -town-related entries over the next few days...)

There are not many things that make my heart seize up like a clenched fist. But lead paint is one of those things.

Don't even get me started on the topic of our government, their knowledge of lead health hazards as early as the 1920s (as in the National Lead Company publicly admitting lead is poison in 1921), and their refusal to ban lead paint here in the US because it would be harmful to some CEO's bottom line. Idiots.

We know our house has lead paint on the exterior trim, windows and garage. We had it tested. Now all that remains is to either remove it or stabalize it so that it doesn't pose a health risk. If you think that owners of (really) old houses are alone in this battle, think again. Lead paint wasn't banned in the US until 1978, therefore, any homes built before 1978 have the potential for some kind of lead paint in or on them.


It doesn't help that the guidance for working around lead painted surfaces is not exactly front and center unless you go looking for it. I imagine that this is due to liability issues but I'm not really sure.

It goes without saying that I'm also not giving advice on stabalizing or removing lead paint. Nope. I'm just going to write about our own experiences, the research that we did, what we found. Plus, the guidelines for dealing with lead paint may vary from community to community, so if you suspect lead paint, you would do well to get in touch with your local public health department. And consider using a professional lead abatement contractor for your project.

Having lead paint is not as much of an issue as having lead paint DUST. Or lead paint CHIPS. Intact lead paint in good condition that isn't flaking or chipping wasn't our concern. Doing home improvement work that might cause lead paint dust or having unstable, old lead painted surfaces was. Not helping matters were those lead paint test kits sold by big box hardware stores. We found out that those aren't entirely reliable and can give false positives or false negatives.

The few places that we thought we found lead paint inside of the house, we used a Fiberlock product to encapsulate the already stable painted areas.

When we were looking for guidance on working with and around lead paint, we turned to these hard to find handouts from the City of Chicago. The kind that are given to landlords. They proved to be strangely helpful. (Click for the larger pages)

We also used the HUD Lead Paint Safety Field Guide as a reference. They were the most specific step-by-step guidelines that we had found. Everything else was kind of vague.

So, part of the process of restoring the windows has been lead paint removal and encapsulation, not to mention following the guidelines for working with lead paint. Many folks prefer to replace their windows when lead paint is discovered. There are many reasons why we chose not to do that which I can outline in another post. Trust me that we are dealing with the friction issue, etc. I'll explain more later.

Even writing about this subject is a highly emotional, risky thing. Parents don't even talk about lead paint or lead paint testing with each other because it is seen as such a sensitive subject. (Let the anonymous comments begin!) But I have felt pretty strongly about writing something about our experiences with lead paint specifically because there is so very little personal information out there about lead paint. And it's a scary topic for parents which can create loads of anxiety. So I'm writing about it even if it opens me up to criticism about our choices.

Right now, I just feel like taking another shower today. Because even writing about lead paint makes me feel all....augh.

Looking for More?

House in Progress Search for more on 'lead paint' on this site.
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Oh great, just this morning I "dry swept" a bunch of paint chips that flaked off the baseboards as we prepped for floor refinishing!! At least I wore a respirator mask. Great info though--thanks!

Don't be too hard yourself. We've ALL done it without knowing what we were doing. Which is why I think that writing about this topic is so compelling.

We have just embarked on a similar journey ourselves. We pulled and partially scraped one window and already we are second guessing ourselves...ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Oh well, we kind of knew what we were getting in to.

The HUD guide is great- thanks for the link. We assume that all of the older paint in our house has lead in it. Just another example of powerful money is with government.

Thank you so much for posting this! I've been looking around for information and haven't had much luck. I'm planning to start work on my stairwell this summer, so your post is quite timely.

Ah, lead paint. I assume we have it here.
Have we been as careful as we should be? Probably not. All our trim and windows we have had removed from our property and stripped by a handyman. But the issue of knocking down old plaster that might have lead paint on them concerns me.


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