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Ask the Craftsman: How to Encapsulate Lead Paint

Ask the Craftsman: How to Encapsulate Lead PaintToday’s question comes from Jacques:

“What would you recommend for plaster walls and wood trim/mouldings on a 90 year old house? My wife and I are planning on having kids, so we’d like to get the house lead free in a safe way.”

Jacques, in a 90-year old house you’re not as likely to have lead paint on your plaster walls. The more likely place is on painted trim and windows & doors. Semi-gloss white and yellow enamel paint are the most typical culprits of lead paint.

Use a lead test kit to determine if there is lead present (follow the instructions to make sure you test correctly). If it comes out positive, you have a couple options.

Option #1 Paint Removal

Strip the surface down to bare wood using any of the techniques listed here. This works well for woodwork but is very time consuming to do yourself and requires protection from any dust that is created. Plus, if complete removal of all traces of lead paint is what you’re after it’s probably best to hire a lead abatement company which can cost $$$.

Option #2 Encapsulate

There are products like LeadStop and ChildSafe that are lead encapsulating paint/primers. These products are painted on the offending surface and then you can top coat them with whatever finish paint you want. I have not used them so I cannot speak as to their effectiveness, though they have undergone extensive testing.

Ultimately, if your paint is not peeling or flaking off, you may be better off simply priming and painting again. By this time, they have probably already been painted over once or twice.

The danger for lead paint with children is that it has a sweet taste, which makes them want to chew on sills and eat paint chips. If the lead paint is covered with new coats of lead-free paint and it isn’t peeling, then you should be pretty safe from your new baby being exposed. Full scale removal isn’t always necessary.

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42 thoughts on “Ask the Craftsman: How to Encapsulate Lead Paint

  1. I had a friend of mine mesh out my living room plaster walls and coat with joint compound. Is that enough to encapsulate the lead paint that is underneath it?

  2. I have a 1940 house and 10 years ago had it Xrayed for lead. My husband applied Leadstop encapsulation paint to the interior trim and over the plaster 1.5 years ago. I now have an 8 month old baby who tested 4.0 (intervention level is 4.9). I am so upset. It is a fairly high level and completely preventable (by not living inna lead painted.house). It is literally the bane of my existence trying to keep my children away from lead. We can’t find a house to move to right away and so I want to prevent as much as I can now. Any ideas?

    1. Amy, Im so sorry about your situation and hope your child is getting better. Did you have a lead assessment following your child’s test results to see if they advised the encapsulation wasn’t working or if it was another unknown hazard? I ask because I’m considering encapsulation for my trim, etc. but am worried it’s not enough.

    2. So sorry to hear about your baby. Were you able to find more info? I know it’s not easy to find people who are educated on lead. I would highly suggest looking into “The lead safe mama”. She is a wealth of knowledge on the subject! She has a website as well as a Facebook group. If you can’t find it you’re welcome to message me on Facebook and I’ll get you a link! Jessica Magee – Cranias

  3. I have found articles on how to remove lead paint from wood, but not from plaster. Is there a way to keep the plaster and remove the lead paint, or is it easier to just replace with drywall?

    My house was built 1925. I have not tested the plaster walls for lead yet, but given the age they may have lead paint.

  4. We have a roll in shower that has mosiac tile and we have learned it contains lead. What would you apply to encapsulate the old tile so we could cover with new mosiac without lead. Too expensive and difficult to remove the existing flooring. Help

  5. I live in a 1929 house and all windows are now peeling off old paint How do I find out if this old paint has lead in it?

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