How to Deal With Lead Paint in Your Historic Home Remodel

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Once a staple of interior painting, we now know that lead-based paint is dangerous for anyone exposed to it for too long. Children and pets are the most vulnerable, but healthy adults and the elderly also can experience lead poisoning with enough exposure.

If you’re planning a remodel of your historic home and suspect (or know) that you’ve got lead paint, here’s what you need to know about keeping everyone safe during the process.

Identify Lead Paint

You may know that you’ve got lead paint in an area you’re planning to remodel, or you may just suspect that you do due to the age of your home. The first step is to test and see if you truly are dealing with lead paint.

Lead paint testing kits can be found at many home improvement stores and are fairly easy to use. You can purchase a rhodionate-based kit to test nearly any paint color except red or pink, or a sulfide-based kit for lighter paint colors.

Once you’ve got your kit, you’ll make a quarter-inch incision through a thick portion of the paint. Using a swab from the kit, you’ll press against the cut so the swab makes contact with each layer of exposed paint.

Using the instructions from your kit, you’ll read the swab for any sign of lead in the paint.

Contain the Lead Paint

The primary goal of remodeling in a lead-contaminated area is to prevent the lead from leaching into the environment. Because the demolition and remodeling process usually requires cutting into and destroying walls covered by lead paint, any moving, shaking, or tearing can release paint particles into the air.

Because lead paint is so delicate, it’s essential to work with a skilled lead abatement contractor. Some general contractors are trained in handling lead paint, but you may need to hire someone solely to manage the paint and then hire a separate contractor for the remainder of your remodeling project.

Either way, lead abatement is not something that’s advisable to DIY. If you don’t know a contractor in your area who handles lead paint, your general contractor should be able to help you find someone.

Isolate and Remove 

If the work you’re planning will require cutting into or otherwise disturbing your lead paint, your contractor will work to carefully cordon off the lead-contaminated areas of your home from everything else. 

Airtight plastic barriers and separate air filtration systems are likely to be used to isolate the area being worked on from the rest of your space, as well as the outdoors. If you’ve got small children or pets, it may be best to temporarily live elsewhere during the remodeling process.

Anytime someone enters the construction zone, they must put on a full protective suit and wear a respirator mask. This includes any members of the containment team, as well as you or your contractor if you make a visit to see the progress of the work. Materials that are removed from the contaminated area, including chunks of plaster or plywood, will be bagged and discarded carefully according to hazardous material protocols.

Historic Home Remodelers in MD & PA

At Irvine Construction, we’ve seen pretty much everything in our more than 35 years of historic home remodeling. If you’re looking to make your vision come to life, backed by exceptional customer service, we’ve got you covered. Call today for a consultation!

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