Lead-Safe Renovation, Repair, and Painting

Information for Homeowners, Contractors, Landlords, and Tenants

Some renovation and remodeling activities can increase the risk of lead exposure. Homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint, often under newer paint. If you disturb the painted surface with a repair project or are planning to renovate or remodel an older home, it's important to do the job safely. Lead paint dust or chips can cause serious health problems. Children and pregnant people should stay away from work areas until the area is clean.

Reducing Lead Hazards During Remodeling

When it comes to lead, you can WORK SMART, WORK WET and WORK CLEAN without much cost or effort. Here's how to keep lead dust and fumes to a minimum:

  1. Choose paint removal methods that minimize dust. Avoid sanding, burning, and grinding, and replace building components rather than removing paint when possible. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while working including a painter’s hat, coveralls, shoe covers, and an N-95 respirator.
  2. When paint removal is necessary, use water while working to reduce dust and fumes. For example, use a water spray bottle to wet any surface to be scraped or sanded.
  3. Prepare the work area. Use plastic sheeting to cover floors, furniture, and other items that may collect dust. Close windows and cover doorways to work areas with plastic sheeting. Plastic sheeting isn’t expensive and must be thrown out after the job is done.
  4. Clean up after the work is complete. Use a wet mop with a removable head and then throw out the mop head after you’re done. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter followed by mopping to ensure surfaces are dust free. Shop vacs should not be used for cleanup because they can spread lead dust.

Fix Lead Hazards Safely

If you work on pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities where lead-based paint is disturbed (including certain repairs, maintenance and painting activities), you must be trained in lead-safe work practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that if you disturb more than 6 square feet of interior surface or 20 square feet of exterior surface, you must be certified in Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP Rule). Although the RRP Rule does not apply to homeowners renovating, repairing, or painting their own homes, do-it-yourself projects can easily create dangerous lead dust.