Author Topic: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?  (Read 3902 times)

ragesinggoddess

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Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« on: January 11, 2016, 05:31:40 PM »
We own a 2-family home in Massachusetts. The home was built in the late 1800s and definitely has some lead paint. We've self-tested a few areas and the main problems seem to be inside the windows, which are covered in peeling lead paint. I could see lead dust being created when the windows are opened and closed in the summer or when our cats roll around in them trying to get some sun.

We're expecting a baby in April and I'm worried about her getting exposed to lead dust. We've looked into just having the windows replaced by a window company--that would run at least $3,000 and probably more. We could also have the MA lead authority look into it but that could be way more of a process, as I understand it. I don't know anyone who has willingly submitted themselves to that kind of scrutiny.

It's not really clear to me just how dangerous it would be to simply leave the windows as they are for now, and worry more when our child is toddling and putting things in her mouth. If we do replace the windows (which would be good from an energy standpoint anyway), what seems reasonable for 7 windows?

Really appreciate thoughts from people with experience in this area.

justajane

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2016, 05:40:23 PM »
I understand your concern. We live in a 1920s home which definitely has lead paint. Thankfully none of our three kids have been overly oral. They stick some things in their mouths, but as long as you don't have peeling paint that they could ingest, I wouldn't worry about lead dust, unless you know for a fact that someone has sanded in recent memory.

If it makes you feel any better, none of our kids have tested positive for elevated lead levels. Since we live in an area with lots of older homes, the state requires multiple lead tests throughout early childhood. Even if your state doesn't require that, you could always pay for tests to put your mind at ease. I know my 20 month old had a test at 12 months and will likely have another in a few months. It's just a pin prick and you get the results within 15 or so minutes.

I don't mean to dismiss your concerns, though. I couldn't locate the article, but I recall a mother on the East Coast (maybe Manhattan) writing about how her baby unexpectedly tested positive for lead poisoning. It turns out that there was lead dust in the apartment building in which they lived. But this was a large building over which they had very little control and if people were sanding paint somewhere else in the building. You have a 2-family home in which you can most certainly control the dust.

Tom Bri

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 06:43:45 PM »
Safest to assume any paint older than 1978 has lead, and paint after 1978 can have lead, it was an additive used to make the paint go on smoother, and was sold in paint stores long after its use was outlawed.
For lead in place you have two options, either get it removed, or seal it in place. Most people go for sealing, which basically means chipping off everything loose and easily scraped away, and painting over it. Wear a mask and vacuum frequently. 
One thought, if you get the windows replaced, you also get a lot better climate control, so the cost can be considered in that light as well. Payback time on $3000 would be pretty long, but also helps with resale.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2016, 10:52:42 AM »
I would pay somebody with an EPA lead certification to seal it. Since you're currently pregnant, this isn't the time to DIY.

Not all old houses have lead paint. My house was built in 1910 and the trim was originally stained rather than painted. When some guys came to replace some windows (not original, don't get mad, Argyle) they were shocked to not find any lead in their test.

GoatStache

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2016, 11:14:45 AM »
http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/environmental-health/exposure-topics/lead/delead/financial-assistance-for-deleading.html

I would recommend getting rid of as much lead from windows and door jambs (anything that moves) as you possibly can.

Daleth

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2016, 11:34:57 AM »
I would pay somebody with an EPA lead certification to seal it. Since you're currently pregnant, this isn't the time to DIY.


Absolutely. Definitely. If it's peeling you can't seal it, but a lead certified contractor can seal each window off on both sides with plastic and remove enough paint with paint stripper to get it to a point where you can seal it, and that should create very little dust (scraping the paint stripper off will create some dust, which is why you need to seal each window with plastic).

There is a paint stripper that encapsulates lead and renders the stripped-off paint safe for ordinary garbage dumps, so no need for complicated lead-safe disposal methods. http://www.leadoutpaintstripper.com/
Getting your contractor to use that might make the process a little faster and simpler. Possibly cheaper too, since they don't have to pay for lead-safe disposal and therefore neither should you.

Tom Bri

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2016, 08:04:01 PM »
Ah! Reading later replies I realized that I had not read your original post carefully enough. Since you are pregnant now, do not start scraping and chipping at old paint, like the post (smarter reader than me) above mentions! It is the scraping that releases the lead. In that case I agree with them, get a pro to seal it or remove it, while you are absent. Probably very low risk, but why take any risk?

ragesinggoddess

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2016, 06:00:32 AM »
Even the government agency we contacted about this recommended against having the MA government officials look at the issue because of the enormity of the hassle! So we will have our windows replaced and I will stay well out of the way while it is happening.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2016, 06:03:40 AM »
Window replacement might not deal with the windowsills, though, which is going to be the most accessible part to your child when they're in the mouth-everything stage.

ragesinggoddess

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2016, 03:15:39 PM »
You're absolutely right, luckily our sills are newer or not painted. It's only the insides that have tested positive and are flaking.

Daleth

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2016, 07:55:03 PM »
Window replacement might not deal with the windowsills, though, which is going to be the most accessible part to your child when they're in the mouth-everything stage.

Right. We had to hire two different contractors, one to strip and paint the sills, the other to replace the windows.

JLR

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 11:13:56 PM »
When I was pregnant with our youngest my husband sealed off sections around windows with double layers of thick, plastic, creating a small room around the window being treated (including plastic on the floor). He then gowned himself up with a mask, shoes covers, etc and used a product called Peelaway. It is like a paste that you paint on then cover with a baking-paper like material. You leave it for 24 hrs then peel it away, assisting the process with a spatula. It takes the paint off with no flaking.

BeanCounter

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2016, 06:33:42 PM »
My grandfather was the head chemist for one of the big paint makers. He spent 35 years developing paint. He says the lead paint issue is completely over blown. A person/child would have to consume massive amounts of paint chips to get lead poisoning. Or it would have to contaminate your drinking water. Yes it has happened, but it's very unlikely.

MrFrugalChicago

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2016, 08:04:18 AM »
My grandfather was the head chemist for one of the big paint makers. He spent 35 years developing paint. He says the lead paint issue is completely over blown. A person/child would have to consume massive amounts of paint chips to get lead poisoning. Or it would have to contaminate your drinking water. Yes it has happened, but it's very unlikely.

That's cool but I think people should not put the health of their children in the hands of an internet strangers grandpa who was paid to sell poison paint, over the EPA.

Fishindude

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2016, 08:16:23 AM »
Your grandfather was correct.  This hazard is way over-blown.

Now ..... if your kids are eating paint chips, lead or other .... you've got another issue.

BeanCounter

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2016, 09:30:00 AM »
My grandfather was the head chemist for one of the big paint makers. He spent 35 years developing paint. He says the lead paint issue is completely over blown. A person/child would have to consume massive amounts of paint chips to get lead poisoning. Or it would have to contaminate your drinking water. Yes it has happened, but it's very unlikely.

That's cool but I think people should not put the health of their children in the hands of an internet strangers grandpa who was paid to sell poison paint, over the EPA.
No one is disputing that eating paint chips from peeling windows is hazardous. Simply stating that it would take LOTS and LOTS of paint chip consumption to cause a problem.
 I lived in an old home with small children and if I had an area that was peeling or starting to chip I would absolutely fix it. I also wouldn't put my child's bed or play pen next to any of the windows just to be safe. But I'm not going to worry about living in a home with the presence of lead paint. And I'm certainly wouldn't pay lots of money to have someone remove or cover it all.
My grandfathers advice was to me, for my home with his great grandchildren in it. I'm pretty certain he's not trying to sell paint.

Dicey

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2016, 06:37:28 PM »
Commenting so I can find this later. DH and I were just discussing this because I was thinking about a conversation over on Serpentstooth's thread about lead paint on old doors. Apparently, there is stuff you can buy that neutralizes the lead in the paint. He said you glop it on, let it do its thing and then remove it once it's hardened. He's not around to ask right now, but I'll check back when I have more details.

For now, relax and don't worry too much. Your grandfather sounds like a very wise man. And do not attempt anything while you're pregnant. Just let it be, you've got plenty of other stuff to get ready for. Congratulations on the forthcoming baby!
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accolay

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2016, 02:38:44 PM »
One thought, if you get the windows replaced, you also get a lot better climate control, so the cost can be considered in that light as well. Payback time on $3000 would be pretty long, but also helps with resale.

That's not true if the old windows are maintained and a quality storm window is in place. Fixing the old windows and getting a quality wood or aluminum storm window there will always be more cost effective than a new window. The double paned glass inert gas windows, especially if you buy cheap, have been known to leak then fog with condensation inside sometimes after very few years with the only option to replace. You can't fix that. Old wood windows are infinitely repairable unless they aren't there, they're made with old-growth wood and they match the esthetic of your old house.  There is a lot of information about this on the web. When I say old I mean wooden windows probably 50 years or older.

Without knowing how many windows you're getting replaced, I can't say that with a quote of $3k if those windows will be on the lower scale of quality or not. If you're really set on gutting the old windows because of real or perceived lead hazard, at least try to save the old ones for next homeowner if possible.

Christiana

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2016, 04:17:33 PM »
The fatal dose of lead paint for a small child is something like a postage-stamp-size piece of paint; I'm glad you're getting this taken care of.

branman42

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2016, 05:46:06 PM »
The fatal dose of lead paint for a small child is something like a postage-stamp-size piece of paint; I'm glad you're getting this taken care of.

It is much more than that. That is only for brain defects and other problems. Still very serious, but not lethal.

Dicey

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2016, 10:59:06 PM »
Okay, sorry for the delay.  The magic elixir is called Peel Away. It's quite expensive, but less painful if you get the five gallon bucket. It neutralizes lead paint, allowing for safe removal. DH says it's quite easy to use.

This would also be awesome for old doors that have lots of coats of paint. Way more cost effective than replacing doors outright, especially if your doors are solid wood.
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Fishindude

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2016, 05:14:26 AM »
"Peel Away" sounds good, but no matter how a product is promoted, paint rarely comes off of wood EASY.
This is a miserable, dirty, slow process involving foul odors, messy solvent and paint goop, scraping, wire brush work, etc.

Dicey

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2016, 08:08:01 AM »
"Peel Away" sounds good, but no matter how a product is promoted, paint rarely comes off of wood EASY.
This is a miserable, dirty, slow process involving foul odors, messy solvent and paint goop, scraping, wire brush work, etc.
Sorry I wasn't more explicit, Fishindude. DH is a painting contractor by profession. He works for a public utility as a Specialty Surfaces Specialist. Think large things like reservoirs, pipelines and aqueducts. If he says it's easy to use, albeit expensive, I'll take experience with this specific product over general opinion every time.

The reason this is on my mind is that in a journal (Hi serpentstooth!) it was mentioned that people in older homes have doors that have been painted so many times that they won't close. For fear of lead paint, others are suggesting replacing the doors entirely. I thought that ripping out solid wood doors was a shame, so I asked DH about safe removal of lead paint.

He says what he likes about Peel Away is its ease of use and the fact that it neutralizes the lead in the paint. This safely saves solid wood doors from being ripped out and replaced with hollow-core sawdust-and-glue crap, which is hugely more cost effective and resource friendly, IMHO. Before I could post this in ST's journal, the topic came up again here, so I hope it helps both of them. Especially since DH and I are not "promoting" a product, we're just trying to lend a couple of fellow mustachians a hand.
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Fishindude

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2016, 09:23:48 AM »
Peel Away is made by Dummond company.
Check out their website and the video showing how this product is used.  It's a nasty operation, not sure I would want to do that indoors.
Unfortunately there is really no "good or easy" way to strip paint.


Dicey

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2016, 10:46:20 AM »
Peel Away is made by Dummond company.
Check out their website and the video showing how this product is used.  It's a nasty operation, not sure I would want to do that indoors.
Unfortunately there is really no "good or easy" way to strip paint.
Ah, watching videos is at least a good step closer to actual experience. Thanks, Fishindude.

Pretty sure the doors (other thread) and possibly even the windows (this thread) could be removed and the work completed out of doors once the weather improves.

FWIW, it's  D-u-m-o-n-d, but please don't mistake that as a plug for the company, as I had never heard of them before this question arose.
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Dicey

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Re: Lead paint in windows--how much to worry and what to do?
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2016, 06:15:26 PM »
I mentioned this thread and Fishindude's concerns to DH and he gave me more info today. (Huh. Because, of course, he is the first husband to give his wife the "skim" answer, lol.)

There are a number of different Peel Aways. He generally uses Peel Away 7 in his work, but suggests Peel Away 1 for most household applications. Here's the twist: Both of these products are in paste form. They are applied and then covered with special laminated paper, which is left on until all the paint (website says up to 30 coats) is absorbed and any lead is neutralized. Whole different ballgame.

I'm not including a link, because I'm not here to shill their product. I just hope this helps someone, because that was my aim. I have no wish to experience the kind of projects this stuff is designed for firsthand. That's DH's sphere of excellence, and happily not mine.
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