If your house was built before 1978, you may have lead based paint in your home. And if that paint starts to chip or peel, you have a serious problem on your hands. Testing can reveal whether or not lead paint is present. If it is, you have a few options for removing it.
- Encapsulation: This is generally the simplest and least expensive option, though not necessarily the most effective. Encapsulation involves covering lead based paint with a watertight paint-like coating. This coating seals in lead paint, but the downside is that it can begin to wear away after a few years, and may need to be reapplied.
- Enclosure: This method involves covering lead-based paint with a whole new surface. For example, a new layer of drywall can be put up over walls that are coated in lead paint. It’s important to remember that the paint is still there, and will have to be dealt with if the covering surface is ever removed.
- Removal: A more effective strategy than encapsulation or enclosure, removal can be approached in a number of ways. Options include wire brushing, wet hand scraping with liquid paint removers, or paint stripping with a low-temperature heat gun. Sanding is also an option, but an electric sander with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter must be used. Sanding or power-blasting without an appropriate air filter is illegal and extremely hazardous. Burning and torching are also not acceptable ways to remove lead paint.
- Replacement: A more extreme – but no doubt effective – method to deal with lead paint is replacement. This involves removing whatever surfaces have lead paint on them, including drywall, doors, woodwork and window sills, and replacing them with new ones.
Depending on the laws in your state, you may be allowed to tackle a lead paint removal job yourself. In any case, however, you should at least consider hiring a contractor who is certified in lead paint removal to ensure that the job is done safely and thoroughly.