Lead abatement involves the removal of lead based paint in a home. It is a costly proposition, and if the paint is in good condition, not peeling or flaking, and not liable to be chewed on by pets or children, then it can be left as is.
But if you have had lead testing done, and the results indicate you should need to take action, you will have to decide on whether to have a professional contractor do the removal job, or do it yourself. Before you decide on the latter, there are a few things to consider.
First of all, while you are waiting for the work to be done, or making a decision on what to do, there are measures you can take to safeguard your family’s health. Cribs and playpens should be moved away from all lead paint bearing walls, even those in good condition.
Avoid moving the drapes, carpeting and upholstered furniture as much as possible, since these can contain large amounts of lead-laden dust. Any vacuuming that is done on the carpeting should be done with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
Family members, particularly children, should wash their hands often, and always prior to meals. Furniture such as tables, chairs and armoires can be placed in front of areas with peeling or flaking paint, in order to limit accessibility.
If there are concerns with the expense of lead paint removal, one option to consider is to seal lead painted surfaces with layers of elastomeric paint. Although the lead containing material will still be in your home, any health hazard will be eliminated for a period of time, as the lead paint will be enclosed and unable to peel or flake off as dust into indoor air, at least until the encapsulant material wears. Elastomeric paint is available at hardware stores, building suppliers and paint retailers.
You will need to take measures to protect your home’s belongings and surfaces from contamination during the lead paint removal process. All furniture, carpeting, drapes and other movable items should be removed from the room being worked on. Items too large for moving, like a piano, should be covered with plastic sheeting or tarps.
The room’s floor should be covered entirely with two levels of polyethylene sheeting, taped at the baseboard. If you will be doing demolition work, protect the poly sheets from tearing by laying sheets of plywood on top of it.
The room or area to be worked on should be sealed off from the other parts of the house; this is done by putting up two layers of polyethylene sheeting in all doorways or hallways opening into the room, taping around the edges.
Protective clothing and breathing gear must be worn when working in the lead removal area. This includes a dust mask or filtered respirator, as well as safety goggles and work gloves. Shirts should be long sleeve, pants full length and shoes must be worn at all times. These clothes should be washed in a separate laundry load and stored separately from other clothing.
If you want to wear what the pros wear on the job, go to a safety equipment supplier and pick up a full-body jump suit made from breathable thinfilm plastic. They are disposable so you don’t have to worry about laundering, as well as protecting your skin from lead dust, they are very lightweight and comfortable to work in.
You should need to make arrangements for ventilation. Portable fans can be placed in open windows fro bringing in fresh air, but make sure the fan’s airstream outside the house is not going to impinge on walkways or sidewalks where occupants or the public will pass through it. If demolition is involved, a rental trash bin will need to be brought in as well; if it can be placed outside near to a window, it will save time when disposing of debris and scrap.
Lead Paint Removal
While large surfaces like walls and ceilings will need to be stripped and sanded to remove lead paint, for smaller pieces like molding, trim and doorframes and window frames, it is more efficient to remove and scrap the material entirely and replace the wood.
In the case of window frames, the old lead painted frames are usually single pane, in bad shape and energy inefficient, so replacing them with modern double pane frames will save you money on energy bills as well as the cost of restoration.
Trim, windows and moldings need to be removed with care so as not to disturb the paint or damage the wood if you will be stripping and refinishing it. Stripping and refinishing woodwork is a messy job and shouldn’t be done in the room being worked on; do the work outside the house or in a well ventilated workshop/garage.
Using paint remover is more expensive than sanding and scraping paint off, but it results in the lowest levels of lead dust released. Paint removers release volatile organic compound fumes and should be used in well ventilated areas or outside, but removers based on gamma butyrolactone, dibasic esters, or n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone are mildest, the least irritating to sensitive individuals, and rarely flammable.
Sanding and scraping of paint should only be done if you can keep the materials moist while doing it, whether by misting with a water spray bottle, or sanding with a wet sanding sponge. Care needs to be taken not to apply too much water so that the paint becomes sludge-like in consistency and sloughs off. Cleanup after the job is completed is also important to ensure the debris does not contaminate the rest of the house or the work area.
Another way to remove lead paint is to use a poultice. This involves applying a canvas covering over the removal compound which retards it’s evaporation. As the paint is dissolved by the solvent, it adheres to the canvas, which is then pulled off and disposed of. Although more expensive than traditional paint removers, this method has the benefit of being able to quickly remove many layers of paint on large surfaces.
Lead paint should not be removed using any of the following methods; heat gun (can vaporize lead), dry sanding and scraping (makes a lot of lead dust in the air), or heating with a blowtorch (produces toxic fumes, fire hazard).
Check with local regulations before attempting any removal yourself, as in some municipalities the work must be done by professionals licensed for lead abatement.