Today’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.