The Homeowner’s Guide to Lead Clearance Testing

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated March 30, 2022
father playing with child in home
Photo: Maskot/ Getty Images


  • Houses built before 1978 likely feature dangerous lead-based paint.

  • Removing this paint can send particles into the air. 

  • Conduct a lead clearance evaluation to ensure home safety. 

  • Hire a professional lead abatement contractor for a clearance test. 

  • These pros collect dust samples and send them to a lab for analysis.

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If you own a home built before 1978, you've likely undergone renovations to remove any and all lead-based paint. Unfortunately, the very act of removing lead paint ends up disturbing the volatile element, sending trace amounts into the atmosphere of your home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a proper certification for lead-based contractors, but if you really want to ensure the work didn't spread lead around your home, go for a lead clearance test. 

What Is a Lead Clearance Test? 

The EPA merely requires a visual inspection after pros conduct lead-related work, which isn't always adequate to check out lead levels in your home. Lead clearance evaluations go many steps beyond that to offer peace of mind. 

A lead clearance examination includes a visual element and has pros collecting several environmental samples. They send these samples to an accredited laboratory for testing, where lead levels are examined to ensure exposure levels stay within established EPA standards. 

How Much Lead Is Safe?

The ideal amount of lead throughout the home is zero, but the EPA is slightly more lenient. As of December 2020, the EPA requires lead levels of 10 micrograms or below remaining in the dust on floors and windowsills after an abatement project. A visual test consists of pros wiping down surfaces throughout the home and comparing the used cloths to EPA-provided color-coded cards. A thorough lead clearance test offers a more reliable result down to the microgram. 

Who Performs Lead Clearance Evaluations? 

Hire a top-rated lead abatement expert near you for a clearance exam. Many companies handle both testing and removal, simplifying the hiring process. If you’re planning on a lead abatement project, ask your pro about clearance testing before starting the work. Make sure your testers are EPA-certified and ask which lab they use to analyze results, performing a web search to gauge the lab’s efficacy. A tester, after all, is only as good as their lab.

How Much Do Lead Clearance Exams Cost?

You'll pay $200 to $400 for a full lead clearance workup of a standard three-bedroom home, including lab analysis and results. However, some lead abatement pros wrap this cost up in your removal estimate. Obviously, this cost increases for larger homes, up to $700

The testers grab samples from your property's indoor and outdoor areas but don't automatically test the soil or pipes. For a soil test, you'll pay $15 to $400 per test. It costs between $18 and $250 to test household water and related plumbing pipes for lead.

What Happens if Lead Is Found?

hazmat workers testing for lead paint
Photo: Jamie Hooper/ Adobe Stock

If your test ends up positive for lead amounts over the EPA's limits, hire an abatement pro to eliminate the substance from your home. Hiring a pro to remove lead-based paint costs between $8 and $17 per square foot. For a 2,000-square foot single-family home, lead paint removal goes from $16,000 to $34,000. However, spot treatments and smaller mitigation projects are much cheaper, costing as little as $100. 

In addition to abatement, there are some common-sense steps worth taking upon a positive test result for lead. 

Test Kids and Pregnant Adults 

Kids are highly susceptible to lead poisoning. If you find high lead levels in your home, contact their primary care doctor and make an appointment for a lead exposure test, which is a simple blood test. The same goes for pregnant adults. According to Stanford University Children's Health, lead exposure in pregnant people leads to a host of medical issues since lead passes from the pregnant person to the child. 

Wear Safety Gear and Avoid Contact 

Avoid contact with lead particles by wearing appropriate safety gear in impacted parts of the home. This gear includes protective latex gloves, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, closed-toed shoes, protective eyeglasses, and an N95 mask. As for contact, don’t let kids or pregnant people near the impacted areas, even if they’re wearing appropriate safety gear. Lead is nasty stuff so avoid ingestion no matter what. 

Hire the Right Abatement Pro 

Take steps to hire the right lead abatement pro, including performing a background check and a spot-check of their EPA certification. Also, sit down for an interview after gathering estimates to discuss their overall experience level with lead particles and their comfort with the project. Reach out to previous customers for testimonials or search for reviews on social media. Finally, check out the company on the Better Business Bureau database to determine any red flags.

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