Despite this long-standing ban, lead paint can still be found in many older pre-1978 homes.

You are able to paint over lead paint with a special material called an encapsulant. Conventional paint is not considered to be an encapsulant, and it is not suitable for painting over lead-based paint.

There are many methods for making your home safe if it contains lead-based paint. While the use of encapsulants can be effective in some scenarios, you should make yourself aware of all your options when it comes to controlling lead-based paint hazards.

Will painting over lead paint seal it

It is only possible to safely and effectively cover lead-based paint with the proper type of encapsulant. Instead of considering the use of these encapsulants as just another layer of paint, you should view them as impermeable coatings or covers that will seal lead-based paints.

Normal paint, such as you might find in your local hardware store, does not fit into the category of encapsulants. Using normal paint to paint over lead-based paint will not provide an effective seal, and will not reduce any of the hazards of having lead-based paint on your property.

While it can be tempting to adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to lead paint, and simply paint a few new layers over the top, this would be extremely unwise.

Besides the long-term dangers associated with not properly encapsulating or removing lead-based paint, the actual act of painting over lead-based paint can be hazardous.

If done incorrectly, painting over lead-based paints can cause particles or flakes of this hazardous paint to flake off the wall, window sill, door, or another surface that you are painting. These flakes can be highly toxic and can present a real risk to your health and the health of your family.

Do you use a special paint to cover lead based paint?

Do you use a special paint to cover lead based paint

A special type of paint called an encapsulant is used to cover lead-based paint. Although not strictly a paint in the same sense that we regard a normal paint from a hardware store or paint shop, encapsulants are applied to surfaces in much the same way as normal paint – usually with a brush, roller, or spray gun.

When it comes to choosing and using encapsulants, there are several key factors that you may wish to consider. First, and perhaps most importantly, is whether the lead paint-covered surface you wish to encapsulate is in fact appropriate for this procedure.

Surfaces that endure a high level of traffic, such as a floor or porch, surfaces that rub against one another, such as window sills and door frames, and badly damaged surfaces are not suitable for encapsulation treatment. Encapsulants are most suitable and most effective on clean, dry, stable surfaces.

Another consideration when weighing up whether or not to use an encapsulant is the type of encapsulant you wish to use. There are three main types of encapsulants to choose from.

  • Polymer encapsulants create a strong, flexible coating over lead-based paints. They can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray gun.
  • Epoxy or polyurethane polymer encapsulants form a hard coating over lead-based paints. As with polymer encapsulants, they can also be applied with a brush, roller, or airless spray gun.
  • Encapsulants that are similar in texture to cement contain polymers that harden to create a thick covering over lead-based paint. Due to their nature, a trowel or similar tool is used in their application.

You will need to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines to determine which encapsulant is appropriate for your individual circumstances.

It should be noted that using an encapsulant to cover or coat a lead-painted surface is not a permanent or long term solution. You will need to check the state of the encapsulant on a regular basis and make repairs to any areas that might have deteriorated during that time.

Is lead based paint safe to live with?

Is lead based paint safe to live with

There are many homes that still contain lead-based paint throughout the United States. As long as this paint is in good condition, and you can not see any visible cracks, flakes, or paint dust, it is usually safe to live in a property with lead-based paint.

Should this paint deteriorate, however, and begin to show some of the signs of wear and tear mentioned above, you will need to take immediate steps to remove the lead-based paint from your property.

How do you tell if there is lead based paint?

Lead paint testing

If you live in an older building, particularly one that was built before the Eighties, you may have lead-based paint. Although this age test is not conclusive on its own, older properties are much more likely to contain some level of lead-based paint.

If there are several layers of paint on any surface, either inside or outside your home, and the structure was built before lead-based paints were widely banned, there is a good chance that one of the layers of paint is lead-based.

In order to be completely certain, you can purchase a lead testing kit from most hardware stores. These kits come complete with guidelines as to how to test for lead in the paint in your home.

If you suspect that your home might contain lead-based paint, you should definitely consider purchasing a lead testing kit, particularly if you have children.

When was lead based paint discontinued?

Lead-based paint has been banned in the United States since 1978. However, this does not mean that every home or object in the United States can be considered lead paint-free.

Many homes and properties built before 1978 still contain lead paint. It is estimated that there are 37 million properties in the United States that are coated in lead paint.

Lead paint was used widely for decades, to paint homes, decorate toys, and adorn furniture. As an extremely dense and opaque paint, it was prized for its ability to cover large surfaces with relatively small amounts.

Efforts to ban and restrict the use of lead-based paints began in the early 20th Century, with the League of Nations leading the charge on this endeavor. As the dangers of lead poisoning became more widely known, many Western countries fell in with the push to ban this paint.

Unfortunately, lead-based paints can still be found, and are indeed widely used, in many developing nations around the world. Part of this problem lies in incorrect labeling on many paints, as well as the relatively ready availability of this element.

What are the dangers of lead based paint?

The dangers of lead-based paint all come back to the risk of lead poisoning that they pose. While lead poisoning is particularly dangerous for children, it can also impact adults in a variety of ways.

One of the most troubling aspects of lead poisoning is that you may not display any symptoms until you have been exposed to extremely high, dangerous levels of lead. Some of the more common signs of lead poisoning in adults include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Lapses in memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Abdominal pain

Lead poisoning poses a particular threat to children, who typically demonstrate more, and stronger, symptoms. Many of these symptoms have to do with the child’s development, which can be severely hindered by lead poisoning. Some symptoms that children with lead poisoning may experience include:

  • Developmental delays and learning difficulties
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and constipation
  • Loss of hearing
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Regardless of age, prolonged exposure to lead represents a severe health risk. In large enough doses and with enough exposure, lead poisoning can exact lasting damage or even be fatal.

Tips for hiring painters

When it comes to hiring painters, especially if you know or suspect you have lead paint on the property, there are a few key tips to keep in mind

is there a warranty on painting?
  • If you have tested the paint in your home for lead and it has come back positive, you will need to appraise your painters of this information before they begin work. The painters will need to take additional precautionary measures in order to work in your home.
  • Obtain a full quote before they begin work. Ensure that the quote you have received is comprehensive, and contains information about the cost of labor, materials, and paint, as well as the expected timeframes for your painting job.
  • Make your expectations clear. If you are having a room, or even your entire home repainted, you will need to discuss color schemes, paint types and brands, and finishes well ahead of schedule.
  • Check the painters’ credentials. Research the necessary permits and licenses required by painters in your state, and ask to see the latest copies of these from your painters.
Kate Bolster
Author: Kate Bolster - Kate Bolster is a writer, journalist and foreign correspondent with almost a decade of experience.