In the past there has been considered media attention on the issue of lead paint but as new paint no longer contains lead the public have been led to believe that lead in paint is no longer an issue. Far from it, lead paint can still be around all of us daily; it is still hazardous if not deal with in a warnings manner, particularly when stripping paint work on an older property.
If a property was constructed before 1970 then it is highly likely to contain lead paint. Previous owners or even you would give the painted area a clean, possibly a sand and paint the next coat on top that hiding any potential risk for another day.
The decision to remove lead paint from a pre-1970s property should be taken after careful consideration. Those undertaking the removal must avoid producing dust, seal off the area, clean thoroughly after stripping and make sure children and pregnant women are away from the property when the stripping is taking place.
There are three viable paint stripping options to remove the threat from your property suggested by the British Coatings Federation to deal with lead paint:
1. Chemical paint stripping – a method of stripping paint off wood surfaces that involves applying a chemical coating or dipping the wood into a chemical bath. This is expensive, messy and time consuming. The amateur must take care as chemicals are highly toxic giving off solvent fumes, so masks are essential, but masks do not protect against dust so great care must be taken. The newly applied paint layers will often fall off and flake prematurely, because even with great care small tracts of chemicals remain within cracks and gaps that stop the paint adhesion.
2. Heat Guns – do exactly as their name implies, they use heat to soften paint off the surface allowing it to be scraped easier. Their working area is relatively small as it is based on the size of the aperture opening of the gun, hence completing large paint removal projects is very time consuming. There are also health and safety considerations with a high risk of fire risk and potential burning of the very wood that is aiming to be preserved. Using a heat gun to strip windows makes precision direction to the necessary area difficult and causes unnecessary window glass breakage. Scorching is a major concern with this method which causes more fumes to be released. Again a mask must be worn, but it can not protect you from these toxic fumes so ventilation is essential.
3. Infrared paint removal – the final method recommended by The British Coatings Federation that sounds like a science fiction solution, but actually infrared paint removal technology has been around for many years. Developed in Sweden there the Scandinavian Heritage Boards have been so impressed with the rejuvenating properties of this equipment it is the only tool that they recommend for paint stripping on their listed properties. It harnesses infrared heat which unlike direct heat operates at almost 200 degrees lower than the heat gun, reducing the risks of fire and scorching. Most importantly this method does not give off noxious fumes or dust which makes it the perfect solution for lead paint removal that is a win-win solution for the operator and residents. On windows this tool has the technology to also soften putty, which allows it to be easily removed and with the lower operating temperature there is very little window glass breakage.