Prior to 1940, lead was used in almost all paints. Homes built and painted before 1960 probably contain lead-based paint, homes built between 1960 and 1990 may also contain small amounts of lead in interior surfaces. The highest amount of lead was used in exterior paints. Lead (white lead, being the most common) was added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion. Most older homes have surfaces that were painted with lead-based paint. The likelihood that your home contains lead-based paint depends on when it was built and painted.
It is not always in your best interest to remove lead-based paint. In some situations, leaving the painted surface alone, (as long as it is not chipping or within the reach of children), is safer than trying to remove it. Removing or disturbing this paint when you are renovating could expose people in your home to serious health risks.
Another option is to send paint chips to a lab that specializes in analyzing lead in paint. Two organizations that certify labs for this purpose are:
- The Standards Council of Canada (www.scc.ca); and
- The Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (www.cala.ca).
Be sure to contact the lab first, and follow all directions for gathering and sending the paint chips.
You should consider hiring an expert to do the job.
If you decide to do the job yourself and decide to paint over lead paint you could use oil base paint. If you fear new paint not bonding to the lead paint, prime with a good oil based primer. There should be no worry in just painting over, sanding and scraping is where you have problems.
Consult an expert before attempting any work with lead-based paint.