Everything You Need to Know About Lead-Based Paint, from Identification to Removal

We’ve all heard of the dangers of lead-based paint — but how exactly do you identify it, and how do you remove it? When does it even need to be removed? In this post, we’ll answer all these questions and go into detail about the lead-paint stripping methods you can use to rid your home or any surface of the toxic substance. Read on to learn more.

The dangers of lead-based paint

The use of lead-based paint in residential and commercial buildings dates back centuries, and its toxicity was well-known even before countries started taking measures to eliminate it. Lead paint is banned in most developed countries these days, but it’s still fairly common to find it in older buildings.

So exactly what’s so dangerous about it? Lead poisoning, which is caused by ingesting lead chips or breathing it in via dust, can result in irreversible damage to the brain, nervous system, and kidneys. It can cause reproductive issues in adults — and it’s particularly dangerous to children, who can get their hands on sweet-tasting lead chips and end up with behavioural problems, learning disabilities, slowed growth and development, and even speech problems.

How to identify lead paint that needs to be replaced

Although it’s obviously not ideal under any circumstances, lead paint only needs your immediate attention once it starts to deteriorate. This deterioration leads to chipping and flaking, making ingestion of lead chips and inhalation of lead dust much more likely.

If you’ve got a surface in your home that looks like the ones below, test it for lead as soon as you’re able — and, if the test is positive, put stripping and repainting at the top of your priority list.

How to identify lead paintSpeaking of testing: by far the easiest way to check whether or not a surface has been covered in lead paint is to use a lead paint test kit. These should be readily available at your local paint stockist and will take the guesswork out of the process.

How to safely remove lead paint

So you’ve performed a paint test that’s come up positive for lead. Now what?

Firstly: it’s imperative that you make sure that every person present during lead paint removal is wearing the proper protective gear. Children, pregnant women, and pets shouldn’t be allowed in or near the space under any circumstances.

When it comes to removing lead-based paint, there are three main stripping methods you can use: heat, mechanical, and chemical.

Heat stripping

We suggest steering completely clear of the heat gun method; although it’s popular with DIYers, it’s far and away the most dangerous method of removing lead paint. It also exposes you to toxic fumes — and lots of them, because heat stripping is the slowest of the three methods.

Let’s focus instead on mechanical and chemical stripping, as both are equally viable options for lead paint jobs.

Mechanical stripping

Used mainly for exteriors, mechanical stripping is ideal for removing lead paint on larger, easily accessible areas such as weatherboards. It eliminates the burn and toxic fume concerns associated with heat stripping — although you do still need full protective gear because of the risks inherent in lead paint removal.

There are several mechanical stripping tools on the market, but personal experience has taught us that the Paintshaver Pro is by far the most user-friendly.

The Paintshaver might not be particularly cheap (you’re looking at roughly $2,500 for hardware with a vacuum cleaner that’s certified for use with HEPA filters), but it clocks in lower on the price spectrum than chemical stripping tools. If you decide that the Paintshaver is the right tool for you, make sure you purchase it here — and get $50 off by using the code 2FBPS at checkout.

Chemical stripping

Chemical stripping is the fastest way to remove lead-based paint (which is why it’s more expensive than mechanical stripping), and it can be used on both interior and exterior surfaces. (If you’re using a chemical stripper inside, though, the space should be well-ventilated.)

Recommended for areas where mechanical stripping isn’t feasible (such as old furniture, windowsills, or difficult-to-reach spots), the chemical route requires you to protect all surfaces in the area where you’re working to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

What other equipment do you need?

Once you’ve decided between a chemical stripper or mechanical stripper, it’s time to gather the rest of the necessary equipment. Here’s a quick list:

  • Protective gear for every person who will be on-site (Disposable overalls, heavy-duty mask, protective eyewear, and chemical-resistant gloves)
  • Mist bottle (Misting before scraping helps reduce the amount of toxic dust that comes off your surface.)
  • Pump sprayer
  • Masking tape
  • Heavy-duty plastic sheeting (Only for interior surfaces)
  • Paint stripping collection tray (We recommend this for exteriors.)
  • Heavy-duty rubbish bags

How can Two Fussy Blokes help?

Let us stress again that safety should be your number-one priority when you’re stripping lead paint. It’s our goal to help you complete projects such as these safely and efficiently — so if you have any further questions, simply contact us at [email protected].

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