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Painting Over Lead Paint

If you can confirm that your home has lead paint or have your suspicions, then you may wonder if you can paint over lead paint. Painting over lead paint, also known as encapsulation is a recommended option if you don’t want to go through the process of removing the lead paint. You need to follow all the necessary steps and precautions to ensure the safety of yourself, anyone else performing painting, and the inhabitants of the home.


An added benefit of encapsulation is you get the opportunity to remove an undesirable coat of paint and replace it with one that you love.


This blog post will look at why encapsulation is a safe option, the cases when it may not be, and how to do it.


How To Identify Lead Paint


There’s no point in painting over paint that doesn’t have any lead in it. Before you can take steps to remove or paint over lead paint, you should first do a lead paint test. Most homes built before 1978 have lead paint, so anyone living in a home older than that should have it tested for lead paint.


You have two options:

  • Submit samples of your paint to an EPA-approved lead paint testing laboratory for an accurate analysis.

  • Purchase one of the two EPA-approved DIY at-home lead testing kits.


Once you’ve identified you have a lead paint problem, you can paint over the original lead paint with confidence. You can pick up an at-home DIY test kit from your local hardware store or home improvement center for around $10 to $15.


Is Lead Paint Dangerous?

Yes! If you’re reading this article, you already know how dangerous lead paint is. But what makes it so dangerous?


Lead is a toxic metal that can lead to a variety of health issues in people, especially children. When lead paint cracks or peels from sanding, demolition, or wear and tear, it can be ingested or inhaled. Lead can damage almost every organ in the body causing disability, sickness, and even death.


Some common symptoms of lead poisoning are:

  • Stomachaches

  • Nausea

  • high blood pressure

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • memory loss

  • diminished motor skills.

  • Fatigue or irritability

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of appetite


Children can experience developmental issues, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities. Lead paint exposure can happen through exposure to small remnants over a long period of time or through exposure to a large amount of lead paint over a short period of time.


Treatments for high-level exposure to lead include medications like calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).

When It’s Not Safe To Paint Over Lead Paint

The second step is to determine if it’s safe to paint over lead paint. You need to examine the condition of the wall and paint to see if you can safely encapsulate the paint. If the wall is chipped, damaged, bubbling, or peeling, then painting over it will not encapsulate the lead paint. The toxic paint will still be exposed and continue to chip and peel risking inhalation or ingestion. You’ll also want to determine the strength and integrity of the walls. If the paint and walls are in good condition, then it is safe to paint over lead paint.


Some surfaces may not be in good condition, but they can be restored through proper preparation.


Surfaces with dirt, grime, dust, smoke residue, mold, and charring should be cleaned. Damp surfaces should be dried because most encapsulants cannot tolerate wet environments. High-gloss surfaces should be deglossed with a chemical deglosser.


Can You Paint Over Lead Paint Safely?


It is safe to paint over lead paint when you follow specific steps and safety protocols. Encapsulation is an effective remediation technique that is far less expensive than lead paint removal.

Tips For Proper Encapsulation

  • Don’t Chip, Scrape, Or Sand Lead Paint: Lead paint encapsulation is safer than removing lead paint because it doesn’t involve chipping, scraping, or sanding, all activities that can release particles of lead dust into the air and onto the ground. As we’ve discussed, lead paint can be hazardous to human health. All of these activities apply friction to the surface when instead, you should wipe down the surface with a warm, wet towel to gently remove dirt and prep it for painting.

  • Take Safety Precautions: Take steps to protect the painting area, on-site workers, and family by laying down drop cloths and securing them to the floor with painter's tape. You should also wear protective gloves, clothing, and foot coverings. Wear respiratory protection to ensure you don’t inhale lead dust. Lastly, run a HEPA air filter to filter lead dust out of the air while working.

  • Use An Encapsulant: Normal oil and water-based paints are not sufficient encapsulants. They are thicker than regular paint primers and seal lead paint behind a membrane. Encapsulants cannot be used on surfaces that are walked on, surfaces that rub together, or surfaces that are badly deteriorated. There are three types of lead paint encapsulants traditional polymers, epoxy or polyurethane polymers, and cement-like substances that contain polymers.

Final Words

Proper encapsulation can protect lives and keep adults and children safe.





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