Lead paint is no danger if it’s whole and sticking to the surface. However, it’s a hazard when it is damaged, deteriorating, and swallowed (as chips) or inhaled (as dust). The most common danger is from paint particles on the floor or in the soil outside.
Lead is a poison that causes many health and mental problems, particularly for children below six years old whose brains and organs can easily absorb lead. Even pregnant women can absorb and pass the poison to the fetus.
Thus, the Australian government recommends eight (8) best methods for removing lead paint from your home or property. This guide summarises the methods in ascending order of preference.
10th Best Option: Lessen Exposure
If lead paint is in good condition with no chipping or damage, and no children under the age of six live or visit regularly, lead paint may not be a concern.
There is a chance it could be buried under many layers of paint applied over the years and has been properly maintained.
However, if the paint is peeling or chipping, or if intact lead-based paint is on window sills and stair rails, and children under six years old are present, you should begin with a clean-up, then do lead testing, and then find out how to regulate lead-based paint.
Lowering your exposure to lead paint will only cost you some time, some management, and some minimal expenses for general maintenance.
Dust Management and Lessening Exposure to Lead
- Cheapest amongst all options
- Safe if the paint is in very good condition and not likely to be damaged by wear and tear or chewed by children
- Very easy; no technical requirements
- Produces no toxic waste materials for disposal
- Not useful when lead paint is cracked or deteriorating.
- Inspect all painted surfaces regularly
- Must ensure the lead paint is always in good condition
- Does not remove the source of lead toxins
- Requires constant and careful monitoring
Over time, old paint will deteriorate, crack, peel, and chalk. This method is not recommended because when that happens, lead paint poisoning is a real threat that must be addressed regardless of cost.
At that point, lead paint mitigation or abatement will not be an option. Instead, a costly removal strategy will be required.
9th Best Option: Enclosure
Another way to deal with lead paint is to enclose it with wallboard, gyprock, or other sturdy material to cover walls and trap the lead-painted surfaces.
It is not a permanent solution. If the enclosure is removed, the lead-containing surfaces underneath will be exposed again, and the threat of lead poisoning continues.
Enclosure costs around $10 per square foot, but the total cost depends on the materials and the labor required to complete the project.
- Children first: If on a limited budget, prioritize children’s rooms, particularly those below 6 years old and particularly susceptible to lead poisoning.
- Confirm with a pro: Before enclosing lead-painted areas on your property, ask a professional to help you decide if an enclosure is the best decision for the project you have in mind.
- Get free money: Check to see if your state offers any financial assistance through grants, low-interest loans, or tax breaks. For instance, see the HomeBuilder grant if you are renovating your home in Queensland.
A lead-painted surface is covered with new drywall, new panels, or new siding.
- Limits exposure to lead paint
- Keeps toxic dust from spreading
- It only works on smoother surfaces.
- Moldings, curved surfaces, and trims are difficult to enclose.
- If the cover is removed, lead exposure and poisoning is still a real threat.
8th Best Option: Low Heat
Low-temperature heat from a heat gun or infrared lamp can be used to loosen or soften the paint.
The infrared method of removing paint from wooden surfaces is an alternative to mechanical and chemical paint stripping techniques for exteriors.
Infrared rays penetrate and warm the area below the paint to make it easy to scrape off.
When properly used, infrared heat appliances leave behind a porous surface with a tooth to grip on to the primer and new paint for a longer-lasting finish.
- Always keep the heat low: The fumes will contain lead so wear appropriate safety gear including respirator and gloves. Also, provide good ventilation and keep everyone else away whilst you work.
- Wear the good mask: Lead in paint becomes gas at high temperature. Workers must wear expensive, organic vapor masks.
- Fire risk alert. Blowing hot air or torches can easily ignite dust, spider webs, bird nests, and other small, dry particles. Be alert, be careful, and be ready to use a fire extinguisher anytime.
- Extra fire risk alert. Always check what you can’t see. The materials behind the wood are heated and can catch fire many hours after the stripping is done.
- More work alert. At high temperatures, wood is easily scorched and even burned. Burn marks must be sanded.
- Low-temperature loosens or softens paint for removal
- Can use torch, heat gun, or infrared equipment
- Produces no dust
- Easy to clean up
- Appropriate for small areas
- Safe if used with care and caution
- Does not require sanding or chemicals
- May produce toxic fumes
- Hard to remove all paint
- Fire hazard
- Should only be done by a professional
- Labor-intensive. The area heated with each application is small at 3”-5”
7th Best Option: Vacuum Sanding
The vacuum sanding method refers to the use of dry power-sanding with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) vacuum attachment.
- Use protection: Remember to use hearing and eye protection as well as nose filter and gloves.
- Cloudy goggles: You’ll see clearly if you first rub your plastic safety glasses and face shields with a used sheet of fabric softener.
- Seal the dust leaks: Check and seal in your dust collection attachment and vacuum hose before you start.
- Use a light touch: Sand with ultra-light pressure, use fine-grit sandpaper, and monitor closely where and how fast the surface is being sanded away.
- Use power grinders, sanders, etc. to remove paint
- Use a HEPA vacuum attachment to collect the dust
- No special training
- Creates toxic dust that may escape the vacuum system
- Not recommended for small confined spaces
- Can damage woodwork
6th Best Option: Chemical Stripping
A paint stripper for lead paint removal renders the lead paint non-hazardous for disposal. If disposed of with care, the lead does not leach out of the paint waste and into the environment.
- Be very careful. Some chemical strippers are highly flammable; others are highly caustic. Cover all your skin, use waterproof boots and gloves. Prolonged exposure to methylene chloride vapor is harmful. Keep away from heat-producing equipment; poisonous gas forms near radiators or a naked flame.
- Not for wood: Chemical stripping can discolor the wood. When wood is sanded before re-coating, lead may be released. A liquid neutralizer must be applied. When chemicals and moisture go deep into the wood, salts seep out and destroy the new paint.
- Waste disposal: If you use a chemical stripper to remove lead paint, control the waste by using drop sheets and disposing of any scrapings into a garbage bag or bucket as you go.
- Choose a thick stripper such as gel, semi-paste, or paste to help contain the lead paint waste and make clean up easier. These thick strippers adhere better to vertical surfaces and can cover more surface areas. They can take longer to strip lead paint, but they balance safety with effectiveness.
- Use liquid paint strippers to soften the paint
- Scrape or strip away the softened paint
- Effective in removing paint without producing dust
- Preferred by many professionals where the surface must be protected
- EPA and OSHA list chemical stripping as an acceptable method of reducing exposure to lead dust
- Chemicals can be toxic and should only be done by a professional
- Chemical stripping cannot be carried out in a sealed room
- Vapors from paint strippers can contaminate other surfaces near where it is being used, making them unsafe
- EPA certification programmes do not provide training on use of chemical paint strippers
5th Best Option: Wet Scraping
Use a scraper or wire brush to remove paint. Light water misting is needed to control dust.
- Wipe and rinse often: Wipe often each area that you are scraping and rinse the sponge or rag in a bucket of water.
- Mind the ground: Dispose the water and debris properly to prevent toxins from seeping into the underground water sources.
- Waste disposal: If you use wet scraping to remove lead paint, control the waste by using drop sheets and dispose of any scrapings into a garbage bag or bucket as you go.
- Use a handheld water spray bottle to wet a small area
- Scrape the paint so that the flakes fall on the plastic sheet
- Discard according to local waste regulations
- Reduces the amount of toxic fumes and dust
- Produces a large amount of paint chips
- May damage woodwork
- Hard to remove all paint
4th Best Option: Wet Sanding
Similar to but faster than wet scraping, the wet sanding process requires wetting the lead-painted surface or using a wet-sanding sponge before sanding. Electric sanding equipment with a HEPA vacuum attachment can speed up the job.
- Wipe as you go: Wipe the area you are sanding often and rinse the sponge in a bucket of water.
- Dispose of waste responsibly: If you use wet scraping to remove lead paint, control the waste by using drop sheets and disposing of any scrapings into a garbage bag or bucket as you go.
- Dust wetly: Any dust you leave behind should be mopped up using disposable rags (i.e., wet the rags, wipe the dust, chuck them out; don’t dunk the rags back into the bucket)
- Vacuum and filter: If you must sand, wet sand, or use a sander with HEPA dust extraction. Although wetting the paint minimizes lead dust from getting airborne and being inhaled, be safe and use a vacuum attachment with a HEPA filter.
- Use a water spray bottle to moisten each area to be sanded
- Sand the paint so that the flakes fall on a plastic sheet
- Discard according to local waste regulations
- Faster than wet scraping
- No toxic fumes produced
- Less amount of toxic dust
- Produces a large amount of paint chips, waste, and residue
- Consumes electricity
- May damage the woodwork or metal surfaces
- Hard to remove all the paint
3rd Best Option: Removal & Replacement
The Australian government’s third most recommended lead abatement practice is removing all the surfaces that have been painted with lead paint.
This requires removing lead-painted surfaces and replacing them with new and safer materials.
Note: Replacement can reveal other issues such as asbestos, radon, or termites leading to more abatement costs.
The Environmental Protection Agency requires workers to be trained and certified before doing lead paint removal. You can find certified professionals online.
Replacement can range between $1,000 and $15,000 depending how much surface area must be safely cut out and replaced.
- Replace lead painted windows, sills, doors, jambs, baseboards, ceilings, walls, skirting boards, trims, and moldings
- Remove lead-painted items and replace with new, safer materials
- Can be done fast
- Easiest option for odd-shaped surfaces such as skirting boards
- Removes lead source and improve energy efficiency
- Pros use HEPA vacuums and seals to prevent dust from getting into air and furnace systems
- Pros completely remove and replace affected surfaces with safe materials
- Full replacement eliminates the danger and increases the property’s value
- Can be difficult or expensive to find replacement items to match existing items in some older homes
- Not always possible for heritage listed buildings
- Need to dispose of unwanted items in a way that complies with the relevant government regulations
- May be expensive and requires skilled workers and special tools
2nd Best Option: Encapsulation
One question we often hear is: “Can I paint over lead-based paint?” Yes, you can paint over lead-based paint, but not with just any type of paint. You need to use an encapsulant.
The Australian government’s second most recommended lead abatement practice is to cover the lead-painted area with an encapsulant, a paint-like coating that creates a watertight bond that seals in the lead-based paint.
Liquid cover or encapsulation requires brushing or rolling on a specially made liquid or adhesive. Note: Ordinary paint is not an encapsulant.
- Encapsulation products start at about $50 for a gallon of sealant or $230 for 5 gallons at a local hardware store.
- Expect to pay between $800 and $1,400 to cover all areas of a 1,000 to 2,000 square foot home (not including labor).
- For best results, estimate about $4 per square foot when hiring a professional to do the work for you.
An encapsulant works best on clean, dry and solid surfaces.
Wood surfaces stripped with caustic strippers should be neutralised with acetic acid solution before painting and encapsulating.
Always check instructions on the productlabel before using it.
If for some reason, you are unable to conduct a DIY test for lead paint on the property, or if you find the results unclear, you can hire a lead inspector for a professional analysis.
- Cover or paint over existing lead paint
- Sturdy covers or thick polymers prevent flakes or dust from entering the environment
- Encapsulants can be brushed or rolled over to seal the lead-based paint and prevent the release of paint chips or dust
- Can be DIY
- It is non-invasive if prep work is not needed.
- Faster than removing paint
- Cheaper than removing paint
- Produces little or no lead dust or debris
- It works well for spot treatments
- Suitable only if original paint is in good condition
- Difficult to use on detailed work such as molding
- Can distort or change the look of the design
- It wears down with moving parts; opening and closing doors and windows can wear off the coating
- Lead paint is not removed
- Peeling, cracking, or chalking lead paint must be removed
Best ofthe Best Options: Tap A Pro
Knowing the dangers of lead paint poisoning and the best ways to remove those dangers to people who are important to you, you might decide to hire a suitably qualified and experienced contractor to do the job for you.
The lead abatement practice most recommended by the Australian government is to hire an expert to address any lead poisoning concern. A licensed professional will choose the best method based on wear and tear as well as test results.
Abatement projects are expensive and rare. Homeowners often choose more affordable mitigation strategies such as encapsulation, enclosure, or management methods. However, these only diminish the toxic effects without fully removing the source of poison.
- Mitigation to contain lead paint hazards can cost from $1,100 up to $4,600, depending on the area, materials, and labor to repair or cover instead of replacing parts of a home or building.
- Full removal from initial testing to final disposal is estimated at an average of $800 to $25,000.
- Abatement: Lead abatement to permanently and completely get rid of lead-based paint hazards can cost as little as $100 or as much as $25,000 with near-gut rehabs of homes with technicians in masks and full-body suits to strip walls and ceilings, replace doors, windows, even pipes, and soil.
- A general estimate is an average range of A$8 to A$17 per square foot. Labour, removal of the waste, and the cost of repainting your home can run the project over $30,000.
- Windows: Stripping paint from windows can cost from $8 to $17 per square foot. Window removal and replacement can cost from $1,000 to $15,000 depending on the number of layers of paint to be removed, the number of windows, and the cost of installing new windows.
- House: For a 1,200 to 2,000-sq. ft. house, the cost of full lead paint removal can range from $9,600 to $30,000.
- Apartment: For a 1,200 square foot apartment with lead-painted walls, windows, and doors, expect to spend between $10,000 to $20,000.
The cost of lead paint removal depends on many variables, including:
- The materials to be used
- Prepping and cleaning of the surfaces to be treated
- The testing processes
- The disposal of the lead-based detritus and hazardous waste
- The accessibility to the project area
- The accessibility to the surfaces to be treated
- The labor required to complete the project
- The equipment required to complete the project
- Protective gear and decontamination equipment to be used
- Cost of repainting
- Cost of repairs and replacing doors and windows
- Evacuating the area
The only way to get an accurate estimate is to get a quote from a professional service provider to visit your site and provide you with an estimate of the cost of your project.
- Take your time: Do not rush when choosing a professional lead-paint removing service provider. Take your time and use evidence-based decision-making.
- Choose with care: Closely examine all proof of business licensing, insurance for service, materials, and workers.
- Closely examine all proof of ability and quality such as past projects completed, and past customer satisfaction.
- Before you sign: Closely examine all contracts, a detailed list of materials to be used, and work stages and completion schedule.
- Hire a professional to address lead paint issues on your property or home
- The customer is protected by the job contract, insurance, and consumer laws
- The professional service provider has extensive experience and expertise
- The customer does not need to invest and store rarely used equipment and leftover materials
- May cost more than a DIY lead paint removal project
- Results may not always be as expected, mostly depending on experience and service quality
- May affect the homeowner’s privacy or sense of safety and security
Lead poisoning is a major health hazard. A lifetime of health problems cannot be reversed and even fatal.
- The real danger: The danger from lead paint is when lead dust is inhaled or when lead-based paint chips are swallowed. There are several options for removing lead-based paint. Whether it’s a rush job or a future repaint, if you have budget constraints, need a 10-year warranty paint job, or a 36-month repayment plan, ask us for a free estimate.
- Be safe: Do not eat, drink, or smoke while working. Ordinary paper or fabric dust masks does not protect from lead dust. Use properly fitting HEPA respirators to filter lead dust and fumes. Use disposable coveralls, shoe covers, hair covers, gloves, and goggles.
- Forbidden methods of lead paint removal include open flame burning or torching, machine sanding without a HEPA attachment, abrasive blasting, and power washing without a means to trap water and paint chips. These are unsafe practices that can be penalized for poisoning others, the air, the soil, and even underground water.
- Cost: Stripping paint can cost from $8 to $17 per square foot. Labour, waste removal and repainting can cost over $20,000. Management, enclosure, or encapsulation can mitigate the problem at less cost but will not remove the risk permanently. If you need help with this, call us at 0449 846 744, email us, or chat with us on Skype or Zoom. We’ve got a cost-effective solution for you.