Summer always feels like a great time to tackle a few DIY projects. Long days and warm weather inspire us to be renovation weekend warriors! But if your building was built before the 1980s there's probably a good chance lead paint is somewhere in your home. Whether you're installing shelves, hanging a gallery wall, mounting a new tv, or installing curtain rods, lead paint can complicate renovation projects even if it's under layers of newer paint.
But don't worry! It's easy to keep yourself protected while giving a room a much needed makeover. We have some tips for how to do a DIY project safely even if you're disturbing hidden lead paint.
Why Lead Paint and Renovations Can Be a Problem?
Lead paint was especially popular up until 1978, before stricter paint safety regulations were put into place. The older the house the higher the probability lead paint was used; if your house was built before 1940, there's an 87% chance it contains lead-based paint (1)! There's no way to visually tell if your paint has lead in it; you'll need to buy a special testing kit to know for sure. You can usually pick these up at any hardware store. Many times, lead paint isn't removed- it's simply painted over by layers of newer paint. And this is generally safe, but if the paint is peeling, cracking, or chipping it could be exposing the lead paint layers. Or if you're doing a DIY project that involves drilling into the wall or that disturbs the hidden layers of lead paint in some other way, then it could lead to lead dust in your home.
Lead is especially problematic for children and babies. There is no known level of exposure that is safe. Lead exposure can lead to developmental issues, brain and nervous system damage, and learning problems (2). Lead paint in a home that is disturbed during a home renovation or DIY project can lead to children being exposed.. In fact, one study looking at home renovation and lead paint found that "children whose housing underwent interior renovation had a 12% higher mean B-Pb (blood lead level) by two years of age compared with children whose housing units were not renovated" (3).
What To Do
So what do you do if you suspect your home has lead paint but you have projects you want to complete? We have some tips
1. Have a dust cloth down for DIY projects. Disturbing the paint by drilling, hammering, etc. will create dust that contains tiny paint particles. Quickly vacuum (using a vacuum with a hepa filter!) up any dust that forms and then go over the area with a damp cloth to pick up any additional dust particles.
2. If you're doing a big job that will kick up a lot of dust, remove all furnishings from the room. This includes things like rugs, furniture, picture frames, and clothing. That way you can clean everything up afterwards easily. If you can't remove something, make sure it's completely wrapped up and sealed in plastic.
3. If you're tackling a big project like knocking out walls or a complete room redo, you might want to call in the professionals. Many companies specialize in lead paint abatement and will remove problematic paint in the safest way possible. Lead abatement can get pretty expensive, which is why we recommend it when you're already tackling a big home reno project.
4. Wash areas with lead paint weekly with an all-purpose cleaner. This includes walls, window sills, door frames, and decorative trim. Also make sure to clean the floors, since dust may accumulate there. Weekly cleaning is especially important if the paint is chipping or peeling, or if children under 6 live in the household.