Remodeling an Older Home with Lead Paint

By: Guest Author , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Construction, Home Improvement Tips

If you plan to hire a remodeling contractor to perform extensive work on an older home built before 1978, you should assume that it will have lead-based paint on the walls, windows, and doors. As you know, deteriorating lead paint poses a hazard to adults and children, potentially causing a variety of health problems. Inhaling dust that contains lead is the most common way lead gets into your body. Common renovation activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition often create potentially harmful dust and lead-paint chips.

Whether you are doing the work yourself on your old house or hiring a remodeling contractor, follow basic lead safety procedures. These include:

  • Cover up. Cover unmoved furniture. Sturdy plastic should cover floors and seal off doors and vents to prevent dust from filtering into the rest of the house.
  • Minimize dust. Use a variety of techniques to minimize dust. You can decrease dust by spraying the work area with water before sanding, scoring old paint before removing it, and pulling building components apart instead of breaking them.
  • Clean daily. Thoroughly clean the area every night with a HEPA vacuum followed by a wash-down to remove dust and paint chips.

If you’re hiring a remodeling contractor to do the work on your old house, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires lead paint certification from all contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting projects in homes built before 1978. All remodeling contractors must have special training and must follow specific work practices.

Ask your contractor if he or she participated in this training and ask to see a copy of the training certificate. Contractors are also required to give homeowners an Environmental Protection Agency pamphlet about lead paint. EPA’s requirements do not apply to minor maintenance defined as disturbing less than six square feet of lead-based paint inside a house or fewer than 20 square feet outside.

If you renovated a home built before 1978, please comment on techniques used in your older home to deal with existing lead-based paint.


Photo courtesy of Case Handyman & Remodeling in Halifax, Canada.

Joaquin Erazo, Jr. is the senior vice president of marketing and public relations at Case Handyman & Remodeling, the country’s largest home remodeling company.