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New EPA lead paint rules--options for old house exteriors?

14 years ago

Does anyone have information about updating the exterior of an old house that was previously painted with paint containing lead given these upcoming rules?

I was planning to re-side my house this year (after being told by a painter that it would be over $10,000 to paint, given new lead-abatement requirements. My house is roughly 1,000 sq ft). Now, the siding contractor tells me that taking off the old siding and replacing with fiber cement will also require abatement (meaning big labor expense) too. He's coming to talk to me next week about options--for example, simply cladding the existing house with another layer of siding.

Any comments or information? It seems like this will be a big issue for those of us with older homes in terms of expense and upkeep.

Comments (37)

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  • 14 years ago

    Thank you oldhousegal. Things have actually progressed and not in a good direction. The quote I got for fiber cement was way higher than what I want to spend. I was presented with vinyl as an option. I realize that is a very unpopular solution on this forum, so I am hesitant to even mention it.

    I will look over what you've included here. The contractor I'm working with said that homeowners cannot opt out of lead abatement responsibilities even for DIY (which is fine). Realistically, I will not be doing it myself, so someone will have to get paid for the labor this will involve. Also, my siding really isn't that lovely any more--it will need much repair (more labor and cost) to be in decent shape. So the future is not clear yet, but I don't think fiber cement is going to be part of it.

  • 14 years ago

    "The contractor I'm working with said that homeowners cannot opt out of lead abatement responsibilities even for DIY (which is fine). "

    That depends on what state you are in.

    Some are much more officious than others.

  • 14 years ago

    Well, it's true I haven't checked out the regulations here for myself--I've only heard from a painter and a GC about this.

    Here's something creepy though--the GC said he heard (not in his required class for getting certified, somewhere else) that contractors were being encouraged to report any sites they saw that weren't complying with the regulations. Sheesh.

  • 14 years ago


    When I wanted to repaint my 90 year old house, I had 3 quotes, ranging from $10-$25. The last one was when I told him I wanted to strip the paint. I think he said, "good luck" before tacking on another $10K.

    As a homeowner, you are still responsible for doing things right. But, once you include all these "certified" lead abatement contractors, they will tell you to do something different as many of them refuse to do this type of long, intensive labor. So, putting up cement board or vinyl, which is quick and good work for them, will, IMHO ruin your old house. Look into other options.

    I am still getting compliments from folks in my neighborhood about me being crazy enough to strip and repaint my house, but it sure looks better than these re-sided homes that are old but look newer. Vinyl over old siding- just don't do it!

    After I read the new rules, I understand that I have to use more plastic to protect my neighbors, and be a bit more careful when sanding the wood that had lead paint. It's not rocket science, and it can be done. Talk with your local authorities about it and see if they can give you advice how to do this without spending a ton of money on different siding. I can't imagine any municipality would want you to tear off old siding an let it end up sitting in the dump, leaching lead into the ground and future water systems.

    If it were me, I'd buy a couple of infrared strippers, buy a bunch of tarps and plastic and throw a party for all your friends to come help you strip this old wood down, while being compliant to the EPA. Have a big party and get it done. Save yourself some money and save your siding! And some of the wood putty's out there go a long way to repairing problems in siding as well.

    If you hire it out, expect to pay a lot of money, although in this economy, I can't imagine not finding someone willing to help you fix the old at a much better rate than putting up new. A lot of folks are out of jobs right now and willing to bargain.

    Of course in my state things may be different.....

  • 14 years ago

    "As a homeowner, you are still responsible for doing things right."

    The definition of "right" is not clear.

    Most of these laws do NOT apply to individuals working on there property, but are aimed at contractors.

    Many states have tighter regulations for contractors than homeowners.

    This likely will turn into another case of 'better is the enemy of good enough.'

    The high cost will result in deferred work and even worse overall conditions.

  • PRO
    14 years ago

    After I read the new rules, I understand that I have to use more plastic to protect my neighbors, and be a bit more careful when sanding the wood that had lead paint. It's not rocket science, and it can be done.

    I can't imagine any municipality would want you to tear off old siding an let it end up sitting in the dump, leaching lead into the ground and future water systems.

    What happens to the BILLIONS of tons of lead encased plastic this is going to generate??????? Has anybody at the EPA thought of this? I really don't think so. Being a contractor I have and just me( 1 one lowly painter)would generate at least 3 large industrial garbage bag full of lead filled plastic sheeting per SMALL job. Just imagine if ALL the contractors in the COUNTRY generate this much used plastic that cannot be recycled.Where does it end up? about 15 million years from now it will turn back into lead based oil.I am all for saving the brain cells of little children but there has got to be a better way. I am done ranting now and am going to give up painting and drive a truck, hopefully polluting to earth a little less.

  • 14 years ago

    Needless to say I agree with you all. I want to protect children and the environment. I brought my child up in this old house and took a bit of extra care, knowing there was lead (and probably asbestos) to deal with--not just in the walls, but in the pipes too. But it is all silly on some level--if I had taken care of the exterior of my house before April, none of this would have applied. My neighbors just re-did their exterior (and I am sorry to tell you that they replaced stucco with vinyl) and the whole thing was done without any regulatory consideration whatsoever, but no doubt with the same lead issues.

    I do like the character of my old house. I realize painting is not rocket science but I also know that we are not going to do it ourselves. We are not handy and do not have the time or desire at this age to climb on ladders and learn. So we will pay someone to take care of the exterior. Most of you here are convinced that the original wood is best. I don't feel as strongly, though I tend in that direction. Many, many houses here in this circa 1920 neighborhood (long working class, now more upscale as old city neighborhoods have become more popular) have been re-sided over the years. You see aluminum, asbestos (yesterday's fiber cement), bad vinyl jobs, good vinyl jobs, and now, since we're getting more upscale, nicer (more expensive) fiber cement.

    I am talking to the contractor again next week to see what his alternatives will be since we will not pay the cost of fiber cement. He just took a state-required class for certified contractors in lead abatement so I will find out more about that aspect too.

  • 14 years ago

    "I want to protect children and the environment. "

    So lets drive up costs so that folks will just let the paint flake off onto the ground all by itself.

    The number of lead cases has very nicely tracked the removal of lead tetraethyl from gasoline.

    Maybe breathing in lead from car exhaust might have been a large part of the problem?

  • 14 years ago

    I take the hazards of lead paint very seriously, but I agree with brickeyee that regulations can become so burdensome that homeowners may seek to evade them. Nobody is well-served by regulations that nobody can afford to comply with.

    In another forum, I saw a posting claiming that the new rules to go into effect in a few days state that "HEPA devices" are now required, rather than a mere vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. I confess, that as the owner of Miele, Dyson, and Festool vacuums, I was so discouraged by that posting that I did not have the motivation to learn just what distinguishes a HEPA vacuum from a HEPA device. Apparently, we will all be required to use devices suitable for cleaning up spills at nuclear power plants. It is my understanding the Nilfisk in Denmark has such vacuums.

  • 14 years ago

    Good grief!
    I guess this means I better talk to my favorite contractor and find out what this means for us.

    Our VERY coarse stucco siding will need painting before long, and there is no way I can figure to get down to bare cement without sand blasting! Our house was built in the early 1950s.

    Do you suppose lead paint was used here? I guess I could get a lead test kit and find out. No lead, no problem, is that the message?

  • 14 years ago

    " ... no way I can figure to get down to bare cement without sand blasting! "

    Sand blasting WILL remove some of tree stucco itself.

    Pressure washing is less damaging than sand blasting if used carefully
    If used badly pressure washing can strip stucco also.

    If you use a pressure washer correctly it will only remove loose paint,

    Tight paint can just be painted over.

  • 14 years ago

    My husband and I just bought a house built in 1900 in MO and the owner was selling it "as is" because she couldn't do the upkeep on the house any longer herself. So when the inspection comes up we find this problem and the appraiser found the problem. We were going with a USDA loan so we had to go with what was the laws of our state. My husband works for the federal govt so decided to look up what the requirements were. We found that we could do the work ourselves and were willing, but after he added up the costs of all the equipment and paint and compared that to the bid we got it wasn't worth what we would have saved. I understand that very shortly after our situation came up that all lenders not just govt. funds were expecting the same things and I believe it is nationwide. So I do believe that an owner can do it himself or herself, but after they get ahold of the regulations and requirements under which they are supposed to take in and do to be legal they may find that hiring a contracter that it lead-certified is worth the costs. The Lady that was selling had to put the money in escrow and it stays there until the job is completed and inspected by the lead certified person that the county govt has approved for inspections of such jobs. Then she gets the money back. She had to put in 1 1/2 percent of the costs. Just want to give you a heads up.We are still in the process and have a deadline also which the weather is playing havoc with. Best wishes to you.

  • 14 years ago

    A few tips on dealing with lead and asbestos

    - DON'T deal with the federal or state governments. Deal with your town or municipality

    - Have a written plan including pictures of how you are providing abatement ready to go

    - A high quality HEPA filtration system is very easy to implement and not very costly either. A HEPA air filter, plastic, and duct tape 9 out of 10 times will fit the bill.

    - PPE (personal protective equipment) is a required part of any plan

    Asbestos specific:

    - Research how friable it is considered to be. Floor tile is on the extreme low end, keeping it wet and not using any power tools and you are golden. The stuff used to cover duct work and the like mostly used in old factories mostly is on the high end (hire a pro if you are dealing with this)

    - Include liquid in all abatement plans. Asbestos is considered an air borne hazard. Liquid prevents dust.

    Lead specific:

    This can get a bit tricky as lead is considered a hazard in any form. Infrared and scraping in my opinion is the best way to do it, however, covincing the powers that be that this causes no out gassing can be challenging and any suspision of out gassing and the cost goes thru the roof for filtration.

    If you run into a brick wall on infrared, scrape it as much as you can then sand with the same HEPA filtration system you laid out for asbestos abatement. Except use NO liquid.

    Now the bad news, this is so state/county/city/town specific that it can all be taken with a grain of salt.

    Now the sad news, where I live there is NO restriction upon how I dispose of the HEPA filters I used to make sure none of the toxic dust I created escaped from my work site. In other words I just took all that toxic dust I made, consentrated it into one small area, and it is perfectly fine to just chuck it in the trash bin.

  • 14 years ago

    Instead of speculating on the rules and regulations, check out theEPA site. It states that "If you are a homeowner performing renovation, repair, or painting work in your own home, EPA's RRP rule does not cover your project."

    These new rules and regulations are quite a boon to the economy, raising costs and employment not only for bureaucrats but for an army of private "lead abatement" specialists, trainers and salespeople. Cost is no object when the spectre of endangered children is invoked.

  • 14 years ago

    I am late putting my 2 (or 22)cents in.

    1: Non wood siding doesn't have to look bad. I have a 1920s home that was covered with aluminium siding many decades ago, long before we owned it. My dh has lived in it for 30 years, and I have for 26 years. In my youth I hated the siding but now that I'm older I'm grateful that I don't have peeling paint everywhere. Fortunately the window and door trim were not covered by siding, nor the beautiful cornice molding and fascia (not sure of terms). Nor the 4 porches, except where there was siding originally. In short all the nice trim is not sided and must be painted.
    Anyway, what we have done recently to make the house look better is replace the little aluminium strips that are vertically on the corners of the house with wood boards of a width that makes sense for the period the house was built and the scale of the house. The contractor cut through the aluminium siding and butted the new pieces up against it (dh's idea) the dh caulked. That combined with dh painting the siding (its faded, and now it has slight brushstrokes where he painted, it looks great! With $20,000 into porch repair there is no way we can consider removing the aluminum siding and repairing and painting what ever is underneath. I admit there are still a couple of oddities that we are figuring out how to deal with.
    My point is if you are careful siding can look good. Don't let them put tiny strips around the windows and doors instead of real trim and on the corners. A friend of mine just had her little cape sided with vinyl and it looks much better. Remember to add a good layer of insulation if you go through all that trouble. I think the old wood siding for our house is underneath the aluminium. I wonder why your house can't just be covered? Also if you are going to have blown in insulation, do it before you side if possible, otherwise it has to be done from the inside (at lease with alum.) That's a post subject in itself.
    2. Thanks Oldhousegal for the link and testimonial for infrared strippers. We have many porch spindles and pillars to strip in place with old white paint on them. I've been considering the IRstripper but was not certain.

    Good luck with your project Pamela. How is it going at this point?


  • 14 years ago

    Hi there Kathy, I just checked in here and saw your post. I thank you for the note that non-wood siding doesn't have to look bad. Though I hesitate to post it here, we have indeed decided to go with vinyl. I posted over on the home decorating forum and got some very nice pictures of older sided homes and felt much better about the process. And, I took a good look around my neighborhood and also felt ok about it.

    I will be talking to a contractor today and when it's all done, I'll post a picture (but maybe not here, maybe on the home decorating side!).

    To the others who gave specific recommendations, thank you--I did not realize this thread had been continued, sorry not to note your efforts. We did weigh all the options, and while ours may not be the direction of choice here on the Old House site, I know your information will help the homeowners who are willing to take the steps necessary to preserve their wood siding and paint.


  • 14 years ago

    Not to hijack your forum, Pamela, but I am so furious about these rules! We have a 1940 home with original steel casement windows that are badly in need of repair. Last year we got bids from several contractors but just couldn't afford to do the work.

    We have saved for a year and are now ready to do it, but when I phoned my contractor today he said due to the new EPA rule, he can no longer afford to work on old homes. He will only work on homes that are 1978 or newer!

    I feel like banging my head on the table. Why didn't they do a better job of letting people know about this!?!? I would have started the work a month ago! Now, we can't afford to do it, nor do I have the time to get new bids, review contractors, etc. This is maddening! Only big businesses will have the cash to comply, putting more small painters out of business. Terrible. :-(

  • 14 years ago

    A carpenter friend of mine just did the lead certification course but is completely consternated about how to proceed because our local recycling/city dump will not accept loads of the encased lead shavings. So what is one supposed to do...?

    It does seem these rules leave the contractor holding the bag. Literally.

  • PRO
    14 years ago

    . So what is one supposed to do...?

    If you find out, let us know. I asked this question a month ago and still don't know.I guess you are supposed to hide it all in a big black contractors bag and forget about it

  • 14 years ago

    Can it be encased in sculpture? No seriously, lead must be used for something. I just asked dh and he said we can legally bring it to our landfill. This is fortunate for us because we are talking about a lot of paint from our front porches and trim. The painter we talked about coming to do some of it hasn't gotten back to us. I guess its fortunate that we aren't too old to do the work ourselves, tho I'm not willing to paint on an extension ladder.
    I agree totally with protecting people, but preventing people from having the lead removed isn't safe at all.
    What a boondoggle.

  • 14 years ago

    lead must be used for something.

    Lead supply pipes are still in use in my area.

  • 13 years ago

    I know I'm a little late to the party on this one but do I have a story. After owning our 1840 home for 28 years, and DIY painting it completely many times, this summer we decided to pay a professional to paint just the front of the house which is three stories high. Five years ago I had stripped up to above the first floor windows and primed and painted. It was holding perfectly so we decided if someone stripped the rest of the front we might not have to worry about it again. We were quoted $2500 but when the certified half of the duo saw the job the price went up by another $650. But their references were good so we told them to get going. The first day of prep work was our son's wedding. We left the painters scraping, grinding and using infra-red to get the paint off. 15 minutes before I was ready to walk down the aisle, I got a phone call from the painter saying that the police had come and told them to stop working and go home. Some one in the neighborhood had complained. We came home from the wedding to have to talk to the police, the building inspector and the state Dept of Occupational safety. We got the painters to resume work on Tuesday, by lunch time they had been scared into stopping work again. Now we have the DOS wanting to visit the worksite (our home). The painter is so nervous he is ready to walk off the job. DH says to him "If you want to work on old houses (and we live in an area where old houses are the norm not the exception) you need to make friends with this guy". Really long story short, they did make friends, everyone is happy and we are just about ready to have the final coat of paint put on (if the weather ever breaks). My feelings about all of this? For the amount of time we spent talking to people and nitty-gritty cleaning up after the painters, we could have taken a week unpaid from work and done it ourselves and still been ahead monetarily. We raised 3 children in this house from babies. As far as I can tell, they are all bright well-adjusted adults who have good jobs and families of their own. I have been scraping paint off this house every summer for almost 30 years and don't see any ill effects. Are there true cases of lead poisoning? Probably. Are these regulations going to stop any further poisoning? Probably not. All it will do (as said by a few of the previous posters) is encourage unscrupulous contractors to jack up the prices and encourage homeowners to put off maintenance thereby allowing the lead paint to fall onto the ground anyway. By the way, the makers of HEPA equipment are going to make a killing off this. Typical of government regulations for our own good, there are unintended consequences.

  • 13 years ago

    Yes there are thousands of children with lead poisoning in the smallest state in the Union:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Babies as lead detectors

  • 12 years ago

    I am fixing to get siding bids, we shall see how they come out. Homeowners seem to be excluded from compliance (although not, of course, from some level of responsibility) if they do the work themselves.
    I'm almost 60 and have never used anything like a table saw. I may be learning soon.....

  • 12 years ago

    I can definitely see this as a reality TV show. Maybe I can get some paint advertiser to pick up the costs of materials in exchange for filming a EPA forced DIY.

  • 12 years ago

    "Yes there are thousands of children with lead poisoning in the smallest state in the Union:"

    And there is probably NO conclusive evidence of HOW and WHERE the lead in their system came from.

    It MUST be the paint is not a legitimate conclusion.

    Just as with asbestos & water purity the EPA has run crazy again.

  • 12 years ago

    The original URL I posted no longer works.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Our Daily Lead

  • 12 years ago

    We live in an 1825 house with lots of lead paint. My daughter lived here her 1st few years while we extensively painted and renovated. I used common sense - contained work areas, only work clothes in that area and change to new clothes when leaving, wash the work clothes twice and then an empty cycle in the washer, plus other measure. I would get my kids' lead tested every 6 months. It was always below 4. We temporarily moved to Rocklin CA to a 1 year old house, brand new school, 2 year old pre-school, new stores, new fitness center... Guess what - my daughter's lead levels doubled! The doctors contributed it to the air or water! After 2 years we returned to our lead infested house where her levels dropped in half to the previous levels. go figure!

  • 12 years ago

    "Guess what - my daughter's lead levels doubled! The doctors contributed it to the air or water!"

    One of the largest source of lead was gasoline before the Lead Tetra Ethyl was removed.

    It made all sorts of easily absorbed compounds when the fuel was burned in engines.

    The lead levels of children have fallen as we switched to unleaded gas.

  • 12 years ago

    You know what, I don't think anyone is paying attention to this rule. I emailed several local carpenters whose sites proclaimed they did siding, and asked if they were certified. Only one (who was) returned my email.

    I'm going to do it right and either do it myself or use a certified pro, but I deeply feel many others are simply ignoring the rules.

  • 12 years ago

    Bill Robinson trains people to follow the new lead law:

    Here is a link that might be useful: EPA fines painting company $32,508 for violating lead law,

  • 12 years ago

    The EPA may be fining a few people, but when contractors won't return inquiries asking about certification, what that says to me is that they are working and uncertified.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    While it is true that the EPA RRP Rule does not apply to homeowners working on their own home, there are still the health problems associated with lead poisoning for you and your family. There is also the problem when you go to sell your home, one of the documents you have to fill out as a seller is a lead disclosure form. I'm not a Realtor but I've been told by many Realtors that it's very difficult to sell a home that has been renovated, repaired, or painted without following the EPA RRP Rule.

    Another option on the covering is to lathe and stucco the house. My own house had lead paint on two sides. It also had very little insulation so we opted to place 2" foam board on the house, lathe and stucco. The lead paint is behind all of that so will only present a problem if someone decides to add a window or door!

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Is Stucco over a century old house with lead painted cedar shake siding a viable solution? I worry about moisture retention. I thought many of these old houses need the wood to breathe to prevent mold, rot, etc.

    Stucco over cedar shake siding is an attractive option to me given the huge price savings and potential dangers of stripping the lead paint. I don't want to create a worse problem, though.

    My neighbor is also litigious. He'd jump at the opportunity to sue if some lead dust made it over to his property.

  • last year

    We bought a house that was built in 1920 and the previous owners had put vinyl siding on it to cover the lead paint. Also, when they put that on they put on a thin layer of insulation between the old siding & the vinyl so that also helps with insulation & soundproofing. That's included in the price of the install. That was a big plus for us also because houses built in the 20's didn't come with insulation so you may want to get a price on some vinyl siding installed. It may kill 2 birds with one stone so to speak.