Get up to4 free estimates
for ANY type of Contractor near you
- No Obligations
- Stop Paying Too Much For Your Contractor
- No Spam Calling
- Screened & ID Checked Contractors only!
In our lead paint removal cost guide you will find the cost of a contractor as well as how to tips to do the job yourself.
Lead is a soft blue-grey metal naturally found in the ground especially in areas of igneous rock. When combined with other naturally occurring elements, lead makes brightly coloured compounds which unfortunately are toxic to a lesser or greater degree. Exposure to lead can damage the nervous system and every organ in our bodies, with children under seven years of age being most at risk. Before the health hazards of lead were fully understood, the metal and its compounds were commonly used in home construction because of the metal’s ease of handling and shaping and the colourful compounds’ other properties.
Lead and its compounds were used in:
Other non-domestic uses of lead included:
Because of the wide range of uses of lead and its compounds, traces of lead have been found almost everywhere to some degree, especially in plants and soil found on the sides of roads from vehicle exhaust fumes.
Lead used to be added to household paints for a number of reasons:
It isn’t only household paint either. Painted toys and furniture made before 1978 will probably also contain lead based paint and are a serious hazard. If the paint is in good condition then everything should be ok but as it ages and chips and crumbles or gets into the soil then it is a concern. The problem is made worse by the habits of young toddlers who gnaw at their toys and cribs and so ingest the lead contaminated paint through their digestive systems. They don’t even have to ingest large quantities either, most lead problems are caused by tiny amounts being consumed over a long time.
To this day lead based paint is still present in millions of homes, often underneath many layers of newer, non-lead paint.
The easiest way for people to be exposed to lead is by the inhalation or ingestion of lead based paint dust in the home. The dust mostly comes from old, flaking paint or when the paint is sanded, scraped or otherwise disturbed during renovation work in your house. One of the greatest problems with lead dust is that it is often invisible to the eye and so just because you think you have cleaned up after sanding that old door, does not mean that there isn’t any dust caught in the carpets or furnishings. It isn’t only the interior of your home that is at risk either. If you have lead paint covering external surfaces then lead dust can become mixed with the soil around your home. If the soil then becomes dry, any gust of wind will lift the dust and carry it into your home or anyone else’s home where it can cause a problem.
It isn’t only lead based household paint that has a lead problem. Many seemingly innocuous items can contain dangerous levels of lead such as:
Old painted toys, furniture and jewellery. If you have some old toys or toy jewellery passed down through the family from one generation to the next, the chances are that they contain lead based paint. Many small children bite or swallow these items, especially when they are teething, and the subsequent ingestion that occurs can cause a child to become ill from lead poisoning. It isn’t only old toys that can be affected either. There are some countries in the world whose health regulations are less stringent than in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Europe. Importation of cheap products from these countries often contain harmful levels of lead and other toxic substances.
Cosmetics. Many lead compounds are used in cosmetics because of their bright colours. Usually the levels are quite low but there are a few cosmetics that are imported from other countries that contain comparatively high levels of lead. Go to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website for more information on levels of lead in cosmetics.
Food and drink containers. Some types of glass, porcelain and pottery (lead crystal and lead glazed pottery in particular) can contaminate the food and drink stored or served from them. Visit the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website for more information on the levels of lead in food and drink containers.
Plumbing components. Historically lead was always present in water pipes and fittings due to the metal’s ease of shaping, bending and soldering. These days the use of lead in new pipes and solder is restricted in materials in contact with drinking water, however older properties still might have lead or lead lined pipes delivering the mains water. The amount of lead present in the water will depend on the acidity of the water and how it reacts to the lead pipes and the age of the plumbing fittings.
Today we are going to narrow down the lead problem and talk about how to go about removing lead based paint from your home and the costs associated with it.
Most countries have rules regarding lead in household paints and it is up to you to find out the rules as they apply to your country. Not only that but environmental contamination laws are becoming stricter every day so even if you remember what has been stated here, always check that the rules have not changed since time of writing.
Although many states in the USA will allow the removal of lead paint as a DIY project, it is always better to employ a contractor who is trained and certified in lead paint removal. The contractor will be able to assess your problem and determine the best possible strategy to remove it safely.
The US law states that any contractor who is involved in renovation, repair or painting any home built prior to 1978 must avoid contaminating the house or the environment by taking appropriate precautions during demolition, repair, construction or cleaning up.
If more than six square feet of the interior of your home or more than twenty square feet of the exterior is intending to be disturbed by a project, then the contractor must be certified and trained in suitable work practices so no lead contamination takes place. For those contractors who do not comply, the fine is up to $37,500 per day (correct at time of writing).
Surprisingly home owners are not subject to the regulations.
House paint bought before the 1970s contained lead compounds, so even though you cannot buy paint containing lead now, you still might have paint in your house which contains lead. This could be a problem as when the paint ages it can crack and crumble and cause dust which if inhaled can cause serious health problems especially if there are children or pregnant women exposed to it.
The only way to be completely sure whether paint contains lead is to have tests done by a qualified professional. You can buy home test kits but the results from these are not 100% reliable.
If you are doing a small project that does not disturb old surfaces which have lead-based paint, renovations can be done safely. Always assume that building materials involving an older home contain lead, and take appropriate precautions. If your project is a larger one then always get the work done by trained professionals.
If the lead paint is in good condition then it usually is not a hazard. However, if you are planning to do a project that will disturb the paint, you must take proper precautions and do the work carefully.
What methods of removing lead based paint are the worst to use?
Some methods of removal can create large amounts of dust and fumes such as:
Once the dust is released into an enclosed space such as in your home, it can be inhaled and make you and your family very ill. Never use a removal method that makes dust or fumes.
This is one of the main reasons to hire a lead paint removal specialist. The contractor will be able to carry out a risk assessment of the various methods used in your personal circumstances and decide on the best and most efficient method. The contractor will have the appropriate tools and resources as well as the knowledge and personal protective equipment needed to do a good job. Another reason is that removing the old lead paint can be a messy and difficult job if you don’t know what you are doing. Why not just hire someone to do the messy stuff and leave time for you to do the fun stuff?
You must take suitable precautions to protect yourself and your family. If you have children or if anyone is pregnant then they should be excluded from the work area. Pets can carry dust in their fur from contaminated areas to clean areas so exclude them as well. Remove all rugs and other furnishings (even carpets, if possible) before starting the work. Seal all air vents; turn off heaters and air conditioning systems. Seal off the work area with plastic sheet and tape the joints to contain the lead dust.
Don’t rely on a dust mask. You must wear a properly fitted face respirator with special lead (HEPA) filters. Disposable coveralls, safety goggles and protective gloves are also very important. Do not keep them after use but throw them away after finishing the work. If you cannot dispose of them like that then wash them separately from other clothes. Do not eat, drink or smoke in the working area. Wash your hands when leaving the working area and especially before eating.
You can always cover the lead paint with another surface, such as drywall or wood panelling. You can also use special paints called encapsulants. These seal the lead paint so it won’t chip. Often, if the item containing lead paint is something removable, such as a window or a door then it is often better to replace it completely with a new one.
Yes, but never let the surface dry out as you work. Keep a spray bottle of water to hand to keep the dust damped down. You can also wet power sand too if you have a special lead (HEPA) filter attached to the sander. Do not attempt to burn the paint with a torch as it can be dangerous. It must only be done by a professional with the correct equipment. Never sand blast or power wash lead paint on the exterior of your house as you will be washing contaminants into your garden and into the environment in general. Contaminated dust could be inhaled by any susceptible person.
Do not use standard household grade vacuum cleaners because they blow lead dust into the air. HEPA vacuum cleaners (with special lead filters) are the best. Wet mop with a heavy duty cleaner such as liquid automatic dishwashing detergent and then vacuum with a HEPA filtered cleaner. Wrap any debris from the work in plastic sheet and roll up. Tie or tape the roll securely and dispose of in accordance with your local and national waste regulations for the disposal of heavy metals. After cleaning the work area, dispose of coveralls and other protective clothing in the same way.
The only way to tell if someone has been lead poisoned is by a blood test. Often the symptoms of lead poisoning can either be mistaken for other common illnesses or there are no visible and obvious symptoms of lead poisoning at all. It is important to know if children have been exposed to lead, because you can then prevent further exposure. Among the symptoms of lead poisoning are:
Yes. If you are selling or renting your house then you and the real estate agent must disclose the presence of known lead paint and any other known lead hazards. Contractors who specialise in renovation and remodelling must warn their customers of the hazards of lead paint and if they find any during the work. All companies dealing with the removal of lead based products must be certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Most other countries have similar regulations protecting their citizens so find out about the applicable laws before you start any renovation on old properties in your own country.
Phone or email your local building control authorities who should be able to help you with any concerns you may have.
If you contact the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) they will give you a list of qualified and certified contractors in your area who are able to work with lead based paints. When you have the list you must do the following to be sure in yourself that you have the person who you think can work with:
Contractors hired to test for the presence of lead will usually use an X-ray fluorescence analyser. The machine will detect the presence of lead in the sample and show the concentration of the metal. You will receive a written report detailing the results of the analysis and highlighting the levels above the acceptable threshold. The report will typically have analysed samples from each of the suspected areas and these will be stated as either containing or not containing the lead paint.
Although the analysis will tell you if lead is present and at what concentration, it will not tell you what condition the paintwork is in or whether there is contaminated dust. It will also not offer any advice on the best way to control the presence of lead. This will be the job of the professional contractor who will carry out a risk assessment and give advice based on the report, your personal circumstances and the condition of the paint as to the health risks involved.
Yes you can. Even though the laws regarding lead paint are aimed at contractors, it makes sense to follow the same rules if you intend doing the work yourself. If you intend doing the work as a DIY project then call the National Lead Information Center and ask for more information. Having said this, I would always advise a householder to hire a contractor to do the work if they suspect they might have lead based paint.
Well, you don’t have to follow any rules as long as you are doing the job for yourself but there are rules available for contractors which have been designed to keep people as safe as possible. As well as following usual safe working practices, contractors must adhere to the following rules and it would make sense for you to do the same:
Enclose and contain the working area. Before starting any work, the certified contractor must contain the working area so that no dust or any other material leaves the site during the project. Remove any items from the area that are not necessary to the work. Items can be furnishings, rugs or even carpet if you can easily roll it up. Cover in plastic sheet anything that cannot be removed. Seal the plastic sheet with tape. Close and cover all air conditioning vents and close all windows and doors so that contaminated dust does not travel through your home or exit to the outside.
Minimise dust. The certified contractor must ensure that dust is not transported outside the quarantined area by means of shoes, clothing or tools. Power tools such as planers, sanders, grinders and disc cutters must be fitted with a shroud and a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum filter. The contractor may take other precautions such as wetting down surfaces with a water spray bottle.
Always clean at the end of the day. The certified contractor must clean the working zone at the end of every day. When the all the work has been completed use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to remove as much dust and debris as possible. During the final cleaning the following steps must be done to minimise dust production:
There are various methods to either remove or enclose the lead paint and we will talk about each of these now.
Enclosure. This means covering up the old surface with a new one. Options are to:
Encapsulation. This is probably the easiest to do and the least expensive to get done. This method involves applying a specially made coating. It applies like paint so can be used with a brush or roller. The coating forms a watertight and airtight seal around the lead based paint and effectively quarantines it from the outside world. A major disadvantage is that over time, the coating will wear away if used on doors and windows that are continually opened and closed.
Removal. You can remove lead based paints safely in a number of ways, such as:
Replacing the painted pieces is the option to use if it is difficult to remove all the lead paint or if the wood is rotten. This is not as difficult as it sounds as skirting boards, doors, windows and other woodwork surfaces eventually will wear out and need to be replaced. Better to do it now rather than later.
One last choice could be called the ‘do-nothing option’. If the lead based paint in your property is in good condition and there are no chips, flakes or other mechanical damage and you do not have regular visitors under the age of six years then you can leave the paint alone and safely do nothing. You will however have to declare that you have lead paint if you ever decide to sell your house.
If you find out that you have lead based paint you should always contact your local EPA office to find out how the regulations are applied in your region and if they are different to the list above.
Even if your lead paint is in good condition it is always a good idea to adhere to the following common sense guidelines just in case lead dust is present.
If you decide to remove your own lead paint you will need to buy various items to ensure you do the job safely. You can buy these from construction suppliers, online or home improvement stores The average approximate costs of various necessities are as follows:
|Materials for DIY lead paint removal|
|Ecobond lead defender encapsulation product||1 gallon||$48|
|Ecobond lead defender encapsulation product||5 gallon||$225|
|To encapsulate surfaces in a 1,200 to 2,000 sq. ft home||$800 to $1,400 approximate|
|HEPA back pack vacuum cleaner||$550|
|3M lead paint removal valved respirator||1 per pack||$13|
|DuPont disposable elastic wrist, bootie and hood white coverall suit||Large||$8|
|Safety goggles||2 per pack||$16|
|3M Lead check testing swabs||8 per pack||$22|
|Hygienall Leadoff surface decontamination spray cleaner||2 pint container||$19|
|Hygienall Leadoff wipes||45 per canister||$12|
You may decide to choose a certified lead paint removal contractor to do the job. According to the EPA the approximate average cost will be as follows:
|Cost of professional lead removal contractors|
|Contractor rate||$8 to $15 per sq. ft|
|For 1,200 to 2,000 sq. ft house||$9,600 to $30,000|
|Average project cost||$10,000|
There are a number of factors affecting the cost of removing lead based paint in your home.
Age of building. The age of your building will significantly affect the amount of lead based paint likely to be present on the property. If your home was built before 1978 (in USA) there is a good chance that the paint was lead based.
|What are the chances that your home contains lead based paint?|
|Age of building||% chance of containing lead paint|
|1960 to 1977||24.00%|
|1940 to 1959||69.00%|
The other factor regarding age of building is that the older the house, the more chance there is of having paintwork being damaged with age. It makes sense therefore that older houses will need more repair work done to the paint than in younger houses.
The amount of lead paint used in your home. When lead paint was used it would have been found mainly in oil based paints such as primer, undercoat and gloss so would have been used on wood, asbestos and metal components, although some plasterwork was also painted in lead paint.
Typical exterior domestic surfaces painted with lead paint would have been:
Typical interior domestic surfaces painted with lead paint would have been:
As you can see the amount of painted surfaces can be considerable and would have all been coated with at least three layers of lead based paint.
Testing. If you are not certain whether your paintwork contains toxic lead compounds (or other toxic substances) it is advisable to pay to have an assessment done and we have discussed this in greater detail previously. Testing for lead can cost an average of about $320, whereas a risk assessment (including testing) can cost from $350 to $450.
|Costs to test for lead or other toxic substances for a three bedroom, two bathroom home|
|Typical range||$250 to $350|
Types of lead products. As stated earlier, the presence of lead in homes was not limited to paint. Plumbing fittings and water pipes were also traditionally made from or included lead. If you have other types of lead in your home it would make sense to replace this with modern materials at the same time as removing the paint. It will cost less to remove and encapsulate lead paint than it will to remove and replace lead pipes, plumbing fittings and windows.
Other hazardous work. Once the presence of lead has been identified, the tests may also identify other dangerous substances such as asbestos or radon gas, both of which may have to be removed and replaced with other, more modern materials. If you have to do significant work to replace these you may also find traces of domestic vermin such as rodents, termites or wasps which will have to be removed. All these will have to be paid for.
Restoration and repair work. After all the toxic substances have been removed or safely contained, you may find that significant restoration has to be done. This may involve carpentry and will almost certainly involve painting and decorating. Other restoration work may involve specialist asbestos removal contractors and landscape gardening contractors for your garden.
Disposal. After you have removed all the lead based paint and accumulated a pile of disposable protective clothing what are you going to do with it all? You cannot just take it to the local dump or put it out for your local waste collectors, after all it is toxic. The contaminated material, including any soil which has also become contaminated must be disposed of responsibly and in accordance with your local and national waste disposal regulations and laws.
Whereabouts on the house is the paint? If lead paint has been found on sidings or on fascia and soffits then the person tasked with removing the paint will need access. If it is a contractor who is doing the work then they will require proper scaffolding platforms to work from, safely constructed by trained erectors. If you are doing the work yourself, then you could theoretically do the work from a ladder but you will find that standing for hours at a time on a ladder is tiring and is definitely not to be recommended. I would always recommend that either hard scaffolding is erected or hire a cherry picker mobile working platform.
Locality. The location of your home will affect the cost of the work. Not only will it affect travelling time for the contractor but will also affect the delivery of materials and removal of waste.
The health and safety practices involved in removal of lead and other hazardous substances can be split into two different categories, those that are specific to lead in particular and those that are related to construction work in general. Any safety practices used on a construction job will affect the costs, both by affecting the time spent on the job (it is always more uncomfortable and work is slower if you are dressed up in protective clothing) and by the extra cost involved in buying or hiring the safety equipment. Safety on a construction site (as in any place of work) is vitally important and should not be shirked by ignoring the rules or skimped by using poor quality but cheap safety equipment. Always use the correct safety practices and equipment as recommended by the manufacturer or by an independent safety organisation. It would be worthwhile listing all of these practices and talking a bit about each one and how they will affect the work.
Insurance cover. A licensed contractor is required to hold adequate insurance to cover claims for damage to property, personal injury and death to the general public and the customer and injury to his employees. Do not hire a contractor who does not have the correct adequate insurance as you may be found liable to pay if an accident happens.
General risk assessment. Before any work starts, the contractor should do an assessment of the hazards present on the work site and how he will overcome or mitigate the subsequent risks. Usually his insurance company will require a risk assessment to be done to prove that the contactor has adequately considered all problems and their solutions.
Scaffolding. Working at height from a ladder can be very tiring and is usually dangerous. Hard scaffolding gives the contractor a stable platform from which to work at height as well as somewhere to leave tools and materials while working.
Mobile working platform. These are commonly known as ‘cherry pickers’ and are a motorised mobile vehicle fitted with an extendible arm onto which a standing platform has been fitted. The platform can usually hold one or two persons plus tools but some are available which can hold more people. The operation of the motor controlling the vehicle’s wheels and the extension of the arm can be controlled from a panel inside the working platform. These are particularly useful when there is little room for a permanent scaffold or where a lot of movement is required both vertically and laterally.
Ladders. Ladders should never be used for long term working at height. Ideally they should just be used for access to scaffold platforms or to give the contractor just a few feet of extra height.
Protective clothing. This is an essential when working in a dirty environment. Not only does it stop people from worrying more about the condition of their clothes than about being safe but also confines the workplace dirt to the workplace and stops it from being transported home.
Safety spectacles or goggles. Your eyes are amongst the most exposed organs in the body and probably the easiest to damage. Protection is essential when you are subjected to dust, flying grit and sand or any particles produced from power tools. Eye protection should also be used when working with toxic and corrosive liquids as the active ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the eyes and may damage them as well.
Hard hat. This is an essential when working at height as well as on the ground. A hard hat will protect your skull from blows inflicted by falling tools from above as well as loose rocks. If you are continually ducking under equipment or in confined spaces where there is a risk of blows to the head then wear a helmet. In larger workplaces with many people, hard hats can denote the ‘rank’ of the person wearing it. For example, Fully qualified people could wear red hats, supervisors wear yellow, apprentices and visitors wear blue and first aid medics wear green. Architects, engineers and surveyors could wear white. Using this colour code, people can see at a glance who is in charge, who might need help in an emergency and who to go to in the event of an accident.
Safety boots. These are vitally important as there are many heavy objects on construction sites that could fall and cripple someone. Steel toecaps prevent the foot from being crushed. Most safety boots are resistant to chemical and corrosive liquid attack, protecting the feet from accidental spills.
Hi Viz jacket. Fluorescent coats and vests ensure the wearer stands out from the surroundings. This is very useful when crane drivers and other operatives need to know where possible hazards exist.
Personal hygiene. On the construction site there are many substances which if ingested could make the person unwell. Ensuring there is a place for everyone to wash in hot water before meal breaks is an essential.
Adequate lighting. There are many hazards on a construction site that always need full visibility. Adequate floodlighting ensures safety for the person as well as giving enough light to work by.
Ventilation. If working in confined spaces, the technician needs a good supply of fresh air to prevent a harmful build-up of dust or fumes.
Accessibility. The working spaces on a construction site always need good access to be able to work or carry tools without the worry of tripping over obstructions. Good site management ensures that everything is stacked neatly and debris is collected and cleaned up regularly.
Lead removal risk assessment. The levels of lead contamination need to be known so the assessor can identify the best way to remove or encapsulate the contaminated paint.
Disposable coveralls. Coveralls and other work clothing must be able to be easily disposed of when contaminated with lead. They will be treated as a hazardous substance and disposed of accordingly.
Lead particulate respirator. Lead dust is extremely toxic and should not be inhaled. Special lead dust respirators are available with HEPA filters to trap contaminated dust.
Improved hygiene. If lead is ingested through the mouth or digestive system then the contaminant can seriously damage health. Special detergents are available for washing hands when exposed to lead dust. Latex or other types of disposable gloves can give additional protection to prevent ingestion of lead.
Correct disposal of contaminated waste. Unlike normal construction waste, lead contaminated waste must be regarded as hazardous waste and be stored and eventually disposed of according to local and national waste regulations.
Even though lead based house paint has been banned from use since the 1970s, there are still many houses that are full of the contaminated paint. Most of the painted surfaces are perfectly safe as long as the paint has not started to crumble, chip and turn into dust. When that happens, the lead paint must either be encapsulated to isolate it from the outside world or removed and replaced with a lead-free alternative. This can be done as a DIY project but because of the specialist knowledge needed to do the job properly it is recommended that you hire a lead paint removal contractor to do the work. They will ensure that lead testing is done to identify the hazardous surfaces as well as conducting a lead risk assessment to identify the correct solutions for the problem. They will then be able to do the lead removal in a controlled manner with the proper safety equipment. Finally the contaminated debris will be disposed of in accordance with the correct environmental legislation.
I hope you have found this article interesting and have come away with some useful information.