Extreme care must be taken when removing lead paint on older windows. Lead paint, which may be found in homes constructed prior to 1978, can lead to serious health problems. This is particularly true for children under the age of 6 who are exposed to lead. The source of the danger comes from flaking or chalking lead paint. The risk of exposure is amplified when sanding old windows during a remodeling project.
The use of lead based paints was prohibited in residential construction after 1978. Therefore, if your home was built after 1978 you are less likely to have an issue. Most homes built prior to 1950 will contain lead paint. For homes constructed between the 1950 and 1978 the existence of lead is very likely but you can test the paint to be certain. You can purchase a test kit from your local paint supply store, or you can send a sample of the paint to a lab for more accurate results. If lead is discovered, you will want to read our tips below to learn the safe measures you should take before removing lead paint from your old windows.
Safely Removing Lead Paint
STEP 1: Controlling the Dust:
If you plan to do any sanding or scrapping on your window frames and sashes you will need to control the dust. Even a small amount of rogue dust can be hazardous to small children. Cover the floor and furniture with plastic sheeting. Use masking tape to secure the plastic along the baseboard. After removing lead paint from the windows, you can simply roll up the plastic to dispose of the dust.
You can use the same plastic sheeting and masking tape to cover any open vents. Of course, you need to turn off the heat or air conditioning while your sanding operation is underway. Be sure to thoroughly clean up your work area before turning the ventilation back on.
Wearing protective clothing is advisable. The best option is disposable overalls. If you must wear your regular clothing, launder your work clothes separately upon completion of the project. Wear a dust mask and rubber gloves throughout the process.
STEP 2: Working Wet When Removing Lead Paint
Working wet when removing lead paint prevents the dust becoming airborne. Use a spray bottle filled with water to spray a fine mist on the surface you intend to sand. The lead contaminated dust will tend to adhere to the wet surface in lieu of floating in the air. After sanding, simply wipe away the wet sludge with dry, disposable rags.
STEP 3: Clean Up
Keep in mind that the remaining dust is still hazardous. You will need to vacuum off the surface with a HEPA vacuum after the wood dries. Use the vacuum to pick up any chips that may have fallen on the floor. Be sure to thoroughly vacuum the window sill and the upper and lower rails that the window sashes sit in. You may need to use a screw driver or putty knife to loosen debris that may have become packed into the corners. Roll up the plastic sheets and load them into a large trash bag. The same goes for your disposable overalls, gloves, and dust mask.