Is lead paint as dreadful and potentially harmful as asbestos? And is the process of lead paint removal as complicated as asbestos removal? Well…yes and no. Like asbestos, lead paint can be relatively harmless as long as it remains undisturbed. With the recent lead contamination outbreak in Flint, MI, many homeowners are racing to check the lead levels in their own home. That is understandable as we know your family’s safety is your number one priority. Fortunately, there are a few simple tests available to help you determine if your home contains lead-based paint.
Once you make that determination, there are several steps you can take to remove lead-based paint from your home. For new homeowners, you are in luck in this area. That is because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted laws in 2010 to ensure new build homes and office buildings were free from lead-based paint and products. In some states, owners of older homes can attempt a “do-it-yourself” project to remove lead. However, in most cases it is best to secure a trained, professional contractor who is certified in lead paint removal. Their number one job is to safely complete the job and they can determine the best lead abatement process for your unique situation.
How much does it cost to remove lead?
As with any construction project, pricing may vary. The EPA estimates that professional lead-based paint removal can range between $8 to $15 per square foot. For the average sized home, a ballpark overall range is $9,600 to $30,000 for a house sized between 1,200- to 2,000-sq. ft..
What are my lead paint removal options?
There are quite a few options for containing or removing lead-based paint. The first is encapsulation, which is usually the least complicated method and most affordable way to secure your home in the presence of lead. The technique involves brushing or rolling on a unique coating similar to paint that creates a watertight bond to seal in the lead-based paint. Be aware, though, everyday wear and tear like opening and closing your doors and windows may wear off the coating eventually, making a re-coat necessary.
You can find encapsulation materials for about $35 per gallon. If you are re-surfacing an average size home (between 1,200 – 2,000-sq ft.) you can expect a contractor to charge between $600 to $1,000 for materials only. Call around to find reasonable pricing to include labor as well.
Enclosure is another method used to treat lead paint removal. With this technique, the contractor covers an old surface with a new one. For example, a contractor may put up new drywall or cover window sills with materials like vinyl or aluminum to complete the enclosure process. A word of caution. If the enclosed area is removed or otherwise disturbed, you will again face the decision of what to do about exposed lead.
Of course, you can simply remove any contaminated areas as well. Methods such as wire brushing or wet hand scraping with liquid paint removers have proven effective tools for removal. Like asbestos removal, lead paint removal works best when areas are wet because it reduces the amount of dust present. Reduced dust amounts are helpful for safety reasons. Another removal option involves stripping paint with a low-temperature heat gun or hand scraping. Both processes should be done by a licensed, professional contractor.
The most invasive strategy to rid yourself of lead paint is to remove and replace affected areas. If your home is older and in need of new windows, doors, woodwork, and other surfaces, then this may be a good option.
What if I choose to not to treat it?
If lead-based paint areas of your home are in good condition and not causing complications, then the “watch and wait” approach may work for you. However, if you want to avoid a similar problem like that family in Flint have faced, be sure that no children under the age of 6 live there or visit regularly, as lead poisoning can cause developmental and learning delays in young children. If you need time to figure out your best course action, you can leave the paint untouched. If you are in the process of listing your home for sale, you have to disclose the presence of lead paint.
Chipping or peeling paint is cause to hire a professional. To start the removal process, contact a local certified lead paint removal company to speak with a trained professional. To minimize side effects of lead paint, please observe the following:
- Clean up any loose paint chips immediately.
- Keep children away from contaminated areas. Also, make sure they wash their hands often, especially before eating and sleeping.
- Never allow children to eat paint chips.
- To avoid tracking lead-contaminated material into the home, remove shoes upon entry.
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