Painting Tips by a Professional

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Lead Paint Encapsulation: What You Need to Know About Lead Paint Sealer

The amount of lead-based paint still hanging around is enormous. We really need to educate the public on health risks. Here we discuss how to find the lead and cover or remove it. Doing this requires training for painters and homeowners. Photo below? Old painters mixing paint: lead was used for some whites, yesllows, and in the oils.

Experts agree—there is no safe level of lead exposure, even for adults. But there is a safe way to cover lead: lead paint sealer, a.k.a. lead encapsulating paint. We have another article to find out if you have lead: read how to test for lead paint.

Obviously, first, make sure you really have lead. Here’s all you need to know and do in a short post on lead test kits.

Bad lead news from Nov. 2021 news at the bottom of the page.

Can you paint over lead paint?

It’s best to totally remove it, but yes, if having it removed is not feasible. You can encapsulate it and seal it by painting over it with a lead paint sealer. It costs a whole heck of a lot less if you cannot afford removal.

Remember that if the surface is rubbed (floors, railings, moving windows, drawers etc) you will also rub off this very tough, very thick, lead encapsulation paint.


Four points:

        1. How to paint over lead paint in 3 steps.
        2. The 2 best lead covering products on the market today.
        3. Lead removal supplies list and info: – Jump to this section.
        4. Facts on lead removal and covering lead paint – Jump to this part.

1. How to paint over lead paint in 3 Steps:

  1. Important: do not sand the old lead paint: other websites tell you to do this…Don’t !! Wearing rubber gloves and a chemical filter respiratory (see below), wipe it with Liquid Sandpaper, then throw away the rags you wiped the paint with. in accordance with local laws.
  2. Clean the surface like for any other paint: a water-damp rag (then throw away the rag in accord with local laws).
  3. The best painting method is an airless sprayer or apply like any other paint with a brush and/or roller in for proper thickness (thickness and the number of coats will depend on the chosen products, see below).

Let the first coat dry and apply a second coat if needed. Rarely will you need a 3rd coat with the paints I recommend below.

I’ve written short articles about painting trim and some tips on painting a room.


2. Best Lead-covering Paint:

Apply these like any paint, but do not sand the old lead paint: see above.

INSL-X Lead Block, Lead Encapsulating Paint, by Benjamin Moore. Available online.

A extra-thick coating that has very strong adhesion: it contains a bitter taste additive to discourage any child from eating any chips that will contain the lead layers beneath it.

  • prevents lead from bleeding through
  • brush, roller, or spray (see #1 above)
  • interior/exterior (any properly prepared wall, wood, masonry, stucco, wood, or metal)
  • exterior use not approved in Massachusetts
  • so-called ‘low VOC’: but 100 grams/liter is not all that low for me…(wear a chemical filtering respirator)
  • use this paint as a primer or topcoat
  • white only, eggshell finish only
  • clean-up with soap and water
  • stir well before use and do not thin

The number of coats:

The recommended final thickness is 14-16 mils when wet.

• apply with a brush and/or roller in 2 coats for proper thickness (thickness, when brushed, is 6-8 mills and 8-12 when rolled).

• The best method is an airless sprayer (spray thickness when wet is 14-16 mils: this is the maker’s preferred method). (See my airless paint sprayer recommendation).

Download the technical data sheet explains every detail.

This is the best lead encapsulating paint out there today.


Runner-up: EcoBond Lead Defender

Tested using EPA’s methods by a 3rd party, The EcoBond Lead Defender was confirmed to be effective in protecting human health.

By volume, it has 37% solids in the solution (compared to Lead Block above which is 44%), this paint might require a 3rd coat. But it does cost 15% less.

The brushed thickness wet is 4-6 mil (compared to the Lead Block above which is 6-8).

  • seals and treats lead dust
  • contains a bitter-tasting additive that children will never eat
  • low VOC
  • low odor
  • spray, brush, or roll
  • use as an interior primer or top-coat…or exterior primer
  • stir well before using
  • cleans with soap/water
  • 888-520-7132 is the helpline
These paints are adhesive coatings. This is more than just a coat of paint, in that the thick coating is bonded to the lead paint. It is important to follow product instructions exactly to be sure that a strong, long-lasting bond is created.

3. DIY Removal and Supplies

Can I remove lead paint myself?

Only if you have government-approved training. This website does not advise that anyone without government-supervised training attempt to remove lead paint. As a professional painter, even I do not do this.

I will only advise you as to where you can get the training: you should only trust the EPA and not handyman websites like this one! This work comes with much danger.

However, I will get you started with a few documents and supplies you will need in any case. I am not providing the ‘how-to’ steps, just supplies and information on how to get trained.

Shopping list for lead paint removal project:

  1. paint stripper
  2. plastic sheeting
  3. respirator face mask and the right filters*
  4. HEPA filters in your respirator
  5. vacuum with HEPA filters
  6. safety goggles
  7. nitrile gloves
  8. duct tape
  9. plastic buckets with lids

* The world of respirator filters and masks is complicated, but I simplified all that in this post.

Things you have already:

  • old clothing
  • garbage bags
  • rags
  • window fans (blowing OUT)

Key Safety Tips:

How do you get rid of lead paint? Download this authoritative page shows you all the steps you will take, and it comes from a trusted source. Download and read this excellent document from NY State on the risk and the precautions to take.

When in your home, professional lead removers should:

  • Work for 15 minutes, then take a break in another space.
  • Never use sanders or heat guns to melt lead-based paint—this creates toxic dust and fumes with lead.

Indoors, workers must make sure the workroom is well ventilated. They should set up a fan so it blows air out a window, and start by applying stripper near the fan and backwards, so fumes are always blowing away from you.

Never forget (in addition to all the information given here), workers should follow these rules from the EPA:

  • Remove all furniture, carpets, and drapes and use plastic to seal off the work area
  • Never eat or drink in the work area
  • Keep people (especially children and pregnant women) out of the paint removal area
  • Unless there is lead paint to be removed from the floor, cover the floor
  • Wear a respirator with HEPA or “P100” filters (they are the same thing)
  • After the job is done, dispose of the work clothing
  • Do not wear work clothing outside the work area
  • Destroy or wash work clothes separately from all other laundries
  • Clean up using vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters
  • Wet mop after vacuuming
  • Clean well all tools and dispose of all other contaminated materials in accordance with local laws.

4. Basic facts about lead

2.1 million homes with lead paint and a child under six. Not good.
  • Do I need to worry about lead paint?

Yes, for any dwelling painted before 1979, and it can be either exterior or interior paint. I recommend to my customers to test any old paint. Lead paint testing doesn’t cost much. If the paint is latex, it is probably safe.

  • How do you know if the paint is latex or oil (alkyd)? Put some acetone (most nail polish removers have it). If the paint gets gooey, it’s latex. No: it’s oil. Lead is almost solely found in oil-based paints.
  • How do you know if you have lead paint?

There are 2 main ways to test: DIY kits or by sending a sample to a lab (info in this post).

  • How can a homeowner get rid of lead paint?

I would say no, but people want to do it anyway! There are many safety concerns you absolutely must know before you do this yourself. See the EPA docs just below.

  • Is it dangerous to live with lead paint?

Yes, it is for all of us, but especially for pregnant women and small children. Simply opening and closing a window frame or waking on paint chips can liberate lead dust into the air. Whether we breathe it or swallow it, it causes permanent brain damage.

Lead affects the brain and there is no way to be safe if you have lead paint exposure in your house. Remove it, or encapsulate it with special paint right away.


List of EPA documents on how to remove lead paint.

It’s very pleasing to know the EPA is trustworthy on lead issues.

For any info at any time, call the hotline: National Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD. They will have the most current list of accredited labs and removal contractors.

These are just the pages I selected as central to the issue: they have lots of good links to follow.


Is there anything you think we should have mentioned? Do you have a question? Please use the comment form below. Good luck.


News, 2021: The number of young children with lead poisoning may be about to more than double


For an informative look (with some humor) at the dangers of lead in water and paint, watch John Oliver on HBO.

Lead in paint was banned in the US in 1978, the year after I became an apprentice painter! So guess what was I scraping and sanding all those years.

Another excellent resource is from a lab in Wisconsin.

15 thoughts on “Lead Paint Encapsulation: What You Need to Know About Lead Paint Sealer”

  1. I wrote to you earlier about steps to use latex paint over oil based paint. Thanks for the info. I have decided to try liquid sandpaper and wondered about the application. The bottle says to apply with a rag in a circular pattern. Could this be applied with a brush and wiped off? I also read on another site that you must prime and paint right after deglossing or you will have to degloss again, this sounds off, but the site indicated the gloss would come back??? I have a lot of trim and doors to degloss and wanted to get all of the deglossing done before priming and painting. Any info is appreciated.

    Reply
  2. Yes, in fact a very small rag with circles is best, but no not a brush.
    Why small rag? Because the more liquid you get in your rag the more will evaporate.
    Good rubber (nitrile) gloves are essential as is a respirator with good chemical filters.
    Just search this site and you’ll find all that.

    And open all the windows. Keep kids out for a day or more.
    No, you don’t have to rush to paint: do all the de-glossing then paint.
    Good luck!

    Reply
  3. Hi
    I have an antique stained glass window that I bought at an estate sale. I want to hang it in our house but the wood frame it is in tested positive for lead. I was thinking I could do 2 or 3 coats of the Benjamin Moore Lead Block. Do I need to use the liquid sandpaper first?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • That depends on whether or not the new paint will adhere. Adhesion is tricky, but in general, if it’s scuffed or weathered, it’s probably fine to just clean and paint. If it’s shiny, you should de-gloss, but don’t sand unless you take precautions. Get the liquid sandpaper on this page (step 1). Or be very careful and sand outside..protect your lungs! A ‘virus’ mask will not be enough. You need a respirator. IT’s just too dangerous.
      I think one good coat will do, but 2 or 3, sure, it’s better.
      Good luck,
      b

      Reply
      • Hi
        I’m in California and have found that the Insl-x lead block cannot be shipped here due to prop 65.

        I guess living with lead is considered better than encapsulating! Other option to deal my lead painted window frame?

        Reply
  4. Hello,
    I have old barn gutters that have bits of old paint that I’m assuming is lead and rust on them. I want to use them to plant lettuce in and hang in garden. Would using the lead blocking paint you recommend make them safe for this purpose? Thanks Tara from Ohio

    Reply
    • If you mean the roots will touch the paint, even if you coat with this paint, I’d say it’s a mistake. Moisture, movement… not good for any paint.
      I cannot really tell what you are doing from what you wrote, sorry. Maybe line the gutters with the rubber mats used for artificial ponds? not just any old plastic
      Good luck,
      brad
      ps maybe test that paint with the kit above on this page?

      Reply
  5. Hey Brad, thanks for the info here. I’ve been looking into this for a few weeks now. We have a large outdoor concrete patio at the house we moved into that was painted several times over the years. The top layers are peeling pretty badly. I tested a collection of the chips and lead was found. My action plan is use paint stripper (either Smart Strip or Blue Bear) to clean off the failing paint, then encapsulate the surface with lead defender. I’m taking a lot of safety precautions with the work. We contacted some professionals about remediation and it’s out of our ability to pay. So I have to do it myself. It’s been stressful trying to figure out, with small kids and moving isn’t an option.

    Reply
    • Pick the brains of the pros. Tell them honestly you cannot afford it, and ask what the procedure is and see how much of the nastiest and dangerous stuff you can afford to pay for and how much they charge for the rest: a al carte.
      If you mean the floor by ‘patio’, you are doing the right thing to remove it as it gets wear. Railings and walls, not so much and you can just encapsulate.
      But if you and they remove all the lead, no need for that expensive paint which is not made for floors.
      Read about concrete prep.
      Learn what it takes and perhaps just buy a grinder with lots and lots of discs and have at it. A good respirator …full face, and many outer paper filters changed. Read about my system of changing outer filters. There is a link in there to the full face respirator too.

      Stripper? On concrete, it may not be possible to get in the nooks. I’d grind down 1/4 inch of the rock right off and paint as I described in the concrete painting posts. Easy to find on this site.

      Good luck
      B

      Reply
  6. I have an antique mantel that was last painted in the 1950’s. The paint is badly chipped and falling off. The mantel is on a covered porch but I would like to seal it like it is and bring it inside. Is this a safe thing to do?

    Reply
    • In terms of exterior paint, it’s ok. In terms of lead, you must test. The 50s? I’m giving great odds that it is lead. If so, encapsulate or have a professional company strip it down. The 2nd is better, but more $
      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Thank you. I think I will leave the mantel on my porch. It belonged to my aunt and uncle. My husband and I removed it before the house was demolished.

        Reply

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