How to Tell if Your Home has Lead-Based Paint without Spending a Dime!
This is a short primer on Lead-Based paint that is focused on quickly being able to tell if a painted surface may contain high levels of lead.
Since lead-based paint testing can be very expensive, there are several ways to determine if there is even a possibility that you may have high levels of lead in the paint in your home. Following are some quick tips.
In a post to follow, I will give some quick tips to make sure your home remains lead-safe even if you don’t know for sure if you have lead-based paint.
*****I AM NOT GOING TO DISCUSS THE HEALTH RAMIFICATIONS OF LEAD EXPOSURE TO YOUNG CHILDREN OR ADULTS IN THIS POST. I THINK IT IS WELL DOCUMENTED ABOUT THE PHYSICAL HARM THAT LEAD POISONING CAN DO TO YOUNG CHILDREN. ADULTS ARE NOT IMMUNE FROM HEAVY METAL POISONING EITHER*****
When Was Your House Built?
Lead-based paint is only a concern for homes built before 1978.
EVEN IF your home is built in the 60’s or early 70’s, there is a high degree of certainty that your home does not contain any lead-based paint above the HUD recommended levels as paint maunfacturer’s were already reducing the levels of lead in the paint during this time.
From our experience, even homes built in the 50’s is hit or miss for finding any lead-based paint.
The likelihood of having lead-based paint in your home increases for homes built in the 40’s and before.
Is Any Paint Cracking or Peeling?
Lead-based paint is usually a “thicker” paint than non-leaded, oil-based paint and latex paint (non-leaded, water-based paint). One of the most distinct visual indicators of having lead-based paint is: – it usually cracks in a distinct manner – it is called “Alligatoring” because the cracks look like alligator skin. See photo below.
Alligatoring Lead-Based Paint
As you can see, the paint appears to be rather thick and it is cracking in little squares with straight lines.
Where To Find The Highest Probability of Lead-Based Paint
Since lead was mainly used in paint as a weatherization agent to make the paint last longer on the exterior, exterior paints contained alot higher concentrations of lead in the paint. The good thing about exterior paint is it may not be as large of a concern than if it was located on the interior of the house. HOWEVER, there are some locations that could pose some significant concerns:
- Front, rear, and side porches – floors, posts, railings, ceilings.
- Exterior door thresholds
- Painted steps
- Window troughs
- Window jambs
- Exterior sides of exterior doors
- Exterior door jambs
- Siding – paint chips fall down on the dirt next to the house
Areas on the Interior of the House:
- Window Sills
- Window & Door Casings/Trim
- Doors & Door Jambs
- Built-in Kitchen/Bathroom Cabinets & Interior Built-in cabinets
Believe it or not, USUALLY – interior walls and ceilings do not test high for elevated levels of lead-based paint, even in very old homes! (We have observed in really old homes – built in the early 1900’s and in the 1800’s – where some wallpaper contained lead). Again, this can be attributed to the fact that lead was added as a weatherization agent as well as an agent to help provide tough, durable surfaces that were smooth like paints usually used on wood trim. SOMETIMES lead is found in the varnish of hardwood floors of homes built around or before 1900.
Has the Home had any Significant Renovation Work Performed?
You may also not have any surfaces that contain lead-based paint if renovation work has been performed in your home since the 60’s/70’s. Work performed like having new windows or doors installed, or having rooms gutted where all the trim was taken out and new trim added have already removed those surfaces that may have contained lead-based paint.
Does Your Home Have Hardwood Varnished Floors?
IF YOU HAVE A HOME BUILT AROUND 1900 OR BEFORE AND YOU HAVE HARDWOOD FLOORS THAT ARE VARNISHED – THESE MAY STILL CONTAIN LEAD!
Since this is a floor and is subject to high amounts of friction, this can be a significant source of lead exposure for young children crawling around on these floors!
Rule of Thumb: Be SAFE rather than SORRY! Do not wait until your child is tested and you discover that there are high levels of lead in their blood. Consult a lead-based paint professional in your area.
ADULTS: You are not immune to heavy metal poisoning. Usually adults are affected from renovating old homes where you are creating large amount of dust and are breathing it in and/or get it on your hands and ingest the dust. ALSO – be very careful when soldering plumbing pipes because the vapor from the solder may also contain lead that you breath in. Take protective measures to minimize exposure like wearing proper dust masks (HEPA filtered).
Please comment with any questions or observations that you may have – would love to hear from you!