How to paint over old lead paint


If you live in an older home chances are there is still some old lead paint somewhere on your walls. The layers of paint may have been covered over but are there lurking below the surface. If you take the proper steps and are careful in dealing with old paint no problems should arise. It is easy to avoid issues with lead poisoning caused by dust from painting.

Lead poisoning results from having too much of lead in your body. It can affect your heart, bones, intestines, kidneys and nervous system. Effects are particularly bad in children. The symptoms of lead poisoning include confusion, abdominal pain, anemia, headache, infertility and irritability. If left untreated lead poisoning can cause seizures, coma and death.

At one time lead was commonly used in gasoline and paint. Vehicle fuel is now unleaded. Lead is still added to the fuel used in airplanes. Historically many painters including Caravaggio and Goya likely experienced lead poisoning from the paints they used. In Canada regulations were passed on lead in paint in the ’90s. Modern paints will not contain lead.

You should not be afraid to paint over old lead paint. In fact covering over lead paint to seal it in a great way of preventing lead exposure. However, you should be aware of certain precautions and steps that need to be taken when dealing with lead paint.

Windows and doors

Windows and doors have moving parts. This causes friction that breaks down old lead paint into dust. Windows and doors are two of the most dangerous places to have lead paint as it can easily get into the air as it breaks down. The dust will be at risk of being consumed by children as they crawl around. Replacing old doors and windows with new lead free ones is a good option for removing this risk.

Avoid sanding and scraping

While repainting you want to release as little lead paint dust into the air as possible. Sanding and scraping are to be avoided. If surfaces are uneven try to fill them in or leave them.

Seal off vents and turn off heating

While working in a room with lead paint cover the ventilation and heating grates in the area. This will prevent any dust from getting into your ducts and settling there. Turn off the furnace, air conditioner and ventilation. Avoid repainting in winter otherwise you have to worry about pipes freezing. Turn off fans in the area.

Cover or move furniture

Any furniture that you can move out of the area you should. This will prevent it from getting any dust on it. Anything that is too heavy or big to move you should cover with a plastic sheet and seal off.

Cover doors and windows

Doors and windows in the area should be covered and sealed off. Leave a flap on any doors you need to get in and out of.

Paint over old paint

One of the easiest ways to deal with old lead paint is to put a new coat of non-toxic paint over it. If there is no peeling or damage to the paint applying new paint over it will seal in the lead. Once covered it can no longer get in the air or cause dust. Aside from doors and windows where these layers get exposed as paint wears away this seal is quite effective.

Hire a professional

If you have serious concerns about lead paint in your home, want a consultation or are uncomfortable painting over it you can hire professional painters or a remediation expert to do the work for you.

It is relatively easy to paint over lead paint as long as you take the proper safety precautions. Contact a professional if you are uncomfortable dealing with lead paint.

Leave a Comment