Found Lead Paint? Now What?

Nov 9, 2020

Receiving results that your property contains lead-based paint can be difficult news to hear. However, you’re likely not alone because lead-based paint is actually not uncommon in properties built before the late 1970s. Depending on the condition of the painted surface and renovation plans, managing lead in a property can range from easy and inexpensive to contacting lead certified professionals. In each scenario, managing lead-based paint is possible and in this blog, we will discuss strategies for managing lead paint in a property.

Basics of Lead

Lead is a heavy metal that is soft, malleable and has a relatively low melting point. Lead has been used in products since antiquity and could be found in many cosmetics, elixirs, and paints. Lead acts as a neurotoxin in the human body and can be found in tissue and bones after ingestion. The primary exposure route is via ingestion. Lead can leach into water supplies via lead-coated water lines and historically through plumbing where water was collected for drinking. Lead was used in paint due to its added durability and ability to make certain shades of color stand out. 

Encapsulating Lead-Based Paint

If lead paint is found in a property that is in good condition, it can remain there if no renovation activities disturb it. Lead-based paint becomes problematic once it has been disturbed and begins to crumble and eventually turns into dust. If the paint is not in a poor condition where it can be turned into dust, then there is no immediate need for abatement or corrective actions. If there is concern about the layers, then the paint can be encapsulated with newer layers of non lead-based paint or an encapsulant. This can prevent future degradation of the lead-based paint layer. 

Managing Damaged Paint & Renovation Considerations

If paint is peeling in areas, it is recommended to encapsulate those spots with newer layers of paint also. Paint can be damaged or begin to peel — often in high contact areas. These areas are window troughs, window sills, and door frames. Paints can also peel due to condensation, water damage, or physical damage. If damage to the material on the surfaces is too severe and cannot be encapsulated, then the material may require abatement or repair following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule, also known as RRP. 

One of the most concerning locations for lead-based paint in on windows.  As a window is open and closed, the friction between the painted surfaces leads to the creation of fine dust. Unlike large paint chips that you might find from water damage, this fine dust cannot be readily seen but it can be easily ingested by a crawling infant.

RRP Rule

If you are planning to renovate a property built before the late 1970s and have not tested for lead or will not pursue lead abatement, contractors working at the property must follow the RRP rule. The RRP rule was created in 2008 by the EPA and states that workers who may disturb lead in homes, child care facilities, and kindergartens must be certified by the EPA in properties built before 1978. The rule states that workers must follow safe work practices such as sealing off the area, using wet methods, and personal protective equipment (PPE) — among many other guidelines. Contractors must attend an 8-hour class and pass an exam. This rule does not apply to homeowners renovating their own properties but the EPA does provide information on best practices for these situations as well. Surprisingly, the EPA does not require lead wipe based clearances, that are typically performed after lead abatement to verify that the work area is not contaminated.


Lead-based paint can be managed in a property if the proper steps and precautions are taken. If lead paint is in good condition, it can be left in place or encapsulated. If lead paint is compromised and cannot be encapsulated or will be disturbed by renovation activity, further action may be required which may involve a lead certified professional. If you are concerned about lead-based paint or clearance after renovation or abatement activities, Indoor Science can provide these services.