Here’s What to Do If You Discover Lead Paint in Your Home

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated December 17, 2021
A spacious living room on a sunny day
Photo: japolia / Adobe Stock

Was your home built before 1978? Be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs of lead paint.

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Imagine this: You finally found the home of your dreams, and you and your family can’t wait to move in. But once you get settled, you notice chipped paint, and alarm bells start ringing. Could it be lead paint? 

If your home was built before 1978, it might have lead paint inside. The presence of lead paint in your house is cause for concern because when it’s ingested or inhaled, it can lead to lead poisoning and a wide range of health problems, especially for children. If the paint in your home tests positive for lead, contact your local building department immediately and then schedule an appointment with an Environmental Protection Agency-certified lead removal specialist.

Since removing lead paint is a dangerous job, homeowners should not attempt to remove it. If professional lead specialists need specialized training and hazmat suits for this project, then it’s not suitable for DIYers. However, there are a few cautionary steps you can take before your lead removal expert arrives. According to the EPA, here’s how to safely get rid of lead paint. 

Difficulty: 1/5

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Protective clothing

  • Plastic sheeting

  • Duct tape

  • Scissors

1. Put on Protective Clothing

If you’ve scheduled a time for a lead paint removal expert to eliminate the toxic paint from your home, the only thing left to do is prepare the area for their work. That way, you can keep lead dust from spreading throughout your home until the removal is complete.

The first—and most important—step is to put on protective clothing before entering the room or area that tested positive for lead paint. To stay safe from lead exposure and prevent tracking lead dust particles through other parts of the house, don protective gear like goggles, shoe covers, coveralls, hats, face shields, and gloves. Ensure that you launder your protective gear separately from other items afterward.

2. Clear the Area 

Once dressed in your protective gear, you can enter the potentially hazardous area and start removing all items from the room. You should clear the area of furniture, curtains, rugs, clothing, food, room decor, and any other movable items. 

If it’s impossible to remove certain items from the area, like bolted-down furniture, wrap the remaining pieces tightly with plastic sheeting and seal it with duct tape. 

3. Cover the Floors With Plastic Sheeting 

Now that the area is clear, spread plastic sheeting across the entire length of the floor, affixing it with duct tape. Ensure that you stick the tape to the baseboards or the bottom of the walls. This step ensures that lead dust or chips that fall before or during the professional removal don’t get stuck in your flooring.

4. Close the Windows

If you usually keep the windows in the contaminated room open to invite in a breeze, you’ll have to get in the habit of keeping them closed for the time being. After you lay down plastic sheeting over your flooring, ensure that you close and lock the area’s windows to prevent a draft from blowing lead dust around the room.

5. Turn Off Your HVAC System

Like the previous step, you should turn off your forced-air heating and air conditioning systems to cut off airflow to potentially hazardous areas. Then, cover the air vents with a layer of plastic sheeting and seal it with duct tape.

6. Construct an Airlock at the Area’s Entrance 

If the contaminated area is large, you can create an airlock at the area’s entrance to keep the lead dust from spreading to other parts of the house. Before completing this step, talk with your lead removal company about whether they would prefer to construct the airlock themselves during your appointment.

To create an airlock, tape one piece of thick plastic sheeting along the four edges of the entryway. Then, use scissors to cut the plastic sheet down the middle. Finally, add another piece of plastic sheeting to cover the slit of the first piece. Only tape the second piece to the top of the entryway. 

7. Allow the EPA-Certified Contractor to Complete the Lead Removal

A contractor inspecting a house for lead paint
Photo: Valmedia / Adobe Stock

The only thing left to do is step back and allow the EPA-certified lead removal expert to tackle the important job of clearing away the lead paint. 

The lead paint removers will use a heat gun, sander, or liquid paint remover to take the lead paint off your contaminated walls, windows, or other surfaces. They’ll also use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum to collect the hazardous lead dust and particles. You can expect to pay an average of $8 to $14 per square foot for the cost of professional lead paint removal.

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