Have Lead Paint in Your House? Here’s What You Need to Know



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Lead paint is a hidden danger that could be lingering in any home, especially older properties. Unfortunately, extended exposure to lead paint may cause brain damage and affect other vital organs, as well as promote behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and even death. Young children and pregnant women are at an even greater risk. Still, people of any age, and even pets, can experience health problems if living in a home with lead paint.

Here's all you need to know about lead paint, its dangers, how to test for it, and what to do if your house has lead paint.

(Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical or legal advice and is only for informational purposes. If you think you have asbestos in your home, it is best to consult a professional.)

What is lead-based paint?

As the name implies, lead paint is any variety of paint made from lead. Lead paint was commonly used in many older buildings and homes, especially those constructed before 1940.

Why was lead used in paint?

Lead-based paint has a history dating back to more than two thousand years ago, when ancient Greeks used it to manufacture clay pots. Even back then, lead paint was associated with health risks, but it stayed popular for centuries due to its thickness, opacity, durability, and ability to dry quickly.

Is lead paint dangerous?

Unfortunately, lead paint's usefulness was outweighed by its toxicity. But, it does pose serious dangers. Inhalation can lead to health problems, including organ failure, nervous system damage, physical and mental development delays, and even death in extreme cases.

Lead paint is made even more dangerous because it has a sweet flavor, and small children have been known to eat flakes of peeling paint or lick objects covered in paint dust.

When was lead paint banned?

While Europe began enacting lead paint bans as early as the late 1800s, in the U.S., it was legal to use lead paint in the construction of buildings, furniture, and toys until the late-1970s. That means any American home built prior to 1978 may very well contain lead paint.

Is there a test to identify if the paint was lead-based?

Most hardware and paint stores sell DIY lead test kits for home use. The tests come in two types: rhodizonate for testing colors other than red or pink and sulfide for testing colors that are not too dark.

These DIY tests are inexpensive, but they do sometimes produce false positive and negative results, and are not as reliable as hiring a professional to inspect your home for more definitive testing.

What is involved with a lead paint inspection?

Be aware that there is a difference between a lead paint inspection and a lead paint risk assessment.

With a lead-based paint inspection, a certified professional will use a machine to examine your home's interior and exterior surfaces to test for lead. However, the inspection alone will only alert you to the presence of lead; it will not tell you how much of a risk is posed by the lead that is detected.

On the other hand, a risk assessment provides more thorough testing by sending samples to a lab. You'll receive an explanation of what the test results mean and what steps you can take to make your home safer.

How much does a lead paint inspection cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, lead paint inspections in the U.S. typically range between $225 and $416, with an average cost of $317. In Texas, these inspections usually cost between $200 and $500.

What should you do if your house contains lead paint?

Depending on the amount and condition of the lead paint, it may or may not be safe to leave it alone.

If your assessor tells you that the paint does not need to be removed at the moment, be sure to frequently inspect any areas of your home containing lead to make sure the paint is undisturbed and clean the house often to reduce the spread of dust.

If your assessor expresses concern about the lead paint that's present in your home, or you are otherwise uncomfortable with it, you should hire a professional to remove the paint.

Can you paint over lead paint?

Because lead paint enters the body in the form of paint dust, a fresh coat of paint can help reduce the risk of exposure. However, lead paint that is chipped or flaking should not be painted over, as disturbing it will cause the dust to spread more. High traffic areas that experience a lot of contact or friction should also not be painted over. Furthermore, ordinary oil or water-based paints will not successfully trap lead paint underneath it, so it is necessary to use a paint that is specifically designed to work as an encapsulant.

How do you remove lead paint from a home?

While DIY lead paint removal kits do exist, it is wisest to leave potentially dangerous work to professionals with proper training and tools. Once you have emptied your house out for lead paint removal, a contractor will remove the paint using either an electric sander or a heat gun and use a specially designed vacuum cleaner to eliminate dust and flakes.

How much does it cost to have lead paint removed?

Lead paint removal generally costs between $8 and $17 per square foot. For a full house requiring removal, the total cost will average between $10,000 and $15,000. This may seem like a steep price, but it's well worth the cost to ensure the health and safety of you and your family.

Is it legal to sell a house with lead paint?

It is legal to sell a house containing lead paint, but federal law requires the seller to release any known information about the presence of lead paint to potential buyers using the Environmental Protection Agency's official disclosure form. The official form used in Texas promulgated by the Texas Real Estate Commission is here.

Failure to adhere to this law can result in thousands of dollars in fines, and if any of the home's new residents suffer health problems resulting from lead paint, they can hold the seller liable for damages.

How do you fill out a lead-based paint disclosure?

The EPA's lead paint disclosure form requires the seller to indicate whether they know of any lead paint existing on the property and attach any documents providing details on the lead paint if applicable. The seller's real estate agent will also need to sign the form to acknowledge that they are aware of the legal requirements involved with selling the house.

How can you quickly sell a house containing lead paint?

Finding a buyer who's willing to purchase a home containing lead paint may be difficult, and you might feel compelled to spend thousands on abatement or removal before putting your house on the market.

If you want to sell your house fast but don't want to spend the time, money, and hassle of removing lead paint, AMI House Buyers can purchase your home quickly, and even pay your closing costs. We buy homes in any condition, so no prior repairs are necessary, and there are no fees or commissions. Contact us today for a no-obligation cash offer.

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Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman is the owner of AMI House Buyers and a seasoned real estate investor with a heavy focus on the Houston & Katy, Texas areas. She has done numerous flips, has owned multiple rental properties, and is also a licensed real estate agent in the state of Texas. She is heavily experienced in the areas of foreclosures, water damaged properties, burnouts, and inherited properties, and works with distressed homeowners in all types of situations to help them understand their options and find potential solutions.


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