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How do I tell if a house has lead based paint?

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January 24 2011 - Denver
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Answers (7)

Our best answer is to hire an expert.
Jon
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March 03 2011
As a licensed home inspector in NJ for 18 yrs, I get this question a lot. Simply, pre-1978 homes likely had some lead based paint at some time. You can spend $300 and up to have a scope pointed at the walls and they will find lead based paint. What then?

The EPA does not require the home to be stripped and re-finished. The issue is not the presence of the lead based paint, but the presence of exposed lead hazards. That is a conditional exposure that required very poor maintenance, which is why most toxic exposures are in long term rentals. The peeling, spider type cracking and chipped paint on walls and ceiling and wood moldings are easy to spot and then verify. The remediation procedure are clear -do not sand and use a mask and hepa filter - then seal, prime and paint. Old wood framed windows very often need to be replaced because of lead dust in the sashes ans ills due to friction over the years.

A home that has been properly and normally maintained will not have extensive or significant lead hazards. There may be some obvious spots and the old windows would be one of them. Like everything in life, wwe need factual information that is unemotional to take the fear factor out of the equation. As a licensed home inspector, objective science is essential to providing useful information that gives real answers to complex questions.
JPSerino
Avon, NJ
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February 02 2011
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I don't agree. Having a professional test means that you must disclose whatever they find valid or not. Since that professional often gets paid a lot more to abate than find nothing, what they find may be self serving. Less scrupulous companies have also been known to turn owners in who refuse abatement for things like ground contamination from chipping paint.

Calling a professional in for lead testing is like having a well test done by a well digger. The well digger may say you need a new well or an expensive UV filter. If you hire an independent lab, they get paid for doing the test with no stake in the result. 
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February 02 2011
Tommy Lorden, Your answer is the Best.

You are the MAN!
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February 02 2011
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-lead.html

All homes permitted prior to Jan 1 1978 have the potential for lead paint. 
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January 24 2011
The only sure way is to have it tested...there are do it yourself kits, but hiring a qualified professional to do it is not that expensive.  Just google it and you should find local inspection companies that can help you.
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January 24 2011
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You have to test it to know if it is lead. Most houses built before a certain year have lead paint somewhere. Test kits are inexpensive here and easy to use.

Lead paint is usually not an issue as long as it is encapsulated beneath other paint in good condition. Problems mostly arise when lead paint is sanded, damaged or the paint layer is peeling. You can get more information on lead paint abatement and testing here. Hope it helps.
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January 24 2011
 
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