Hiring a Lead Abatement Contractor

Small Home Gazette, Winter 2010

Hiring a Lead Abatement Contractor

Surprisingly, we had difficulty finding contractors willing to do residential lead paint removal. Most companies we contacted work almost exclusively on large industrial jobs. One such contractor, Jeff Lehtinen of Minneapolis-based Envirobate Metro, explained that lead paint removal is tedious and labor intensive. “Many people are very concerned about lead paint in their homes,” said Lehtinen, “until they find out what it will cost to remove it. Then they suddenly get more comfortable with it.”

Still, lead paint in and on old homes is a problem, and it’s one more thing anti-old house curmudgeons can use to argue that bungalows aren’t worth saving. It turns out there are people out there who will do lead paint abatement on houses, including Terry Wold and Thomas Ritchie of Wold Environmental Services, in Blaine.

Small Home Gazette: Many homeowners would like to get rid of the lead-based paint in their homes but lack the skills to do it themselves. Can they hire someone?

Terry Wold: Yes. Look in the yellow pages of phone books under “Environmental and Ecological Services.”

SHG: Should homeowners have lead-based paint in their homes removed, or is encapsulating it safe?

Wold: The decision would depend on the condition of the lead-based paint. Badly deteriorated paint should be removed; paint in good condition can be encapsulated.

SHG: What is encapsulation? Is adding a coat of paint on top of the lead-based paint enough?

Wold: According to EPA regulations, another coat of paint will cover it but not encapsulate it. Encapsulation can only be achieved using an encapsulating paint that meets or exceeds EPA guidelines.

SHG: Many people value the original elements of their bungalows. They’d rather not remove exterior and interior trim and replace it.

Wold: Both interior and exterior paint can be either removed or encapsulated. Part of the decision is economic. If you’re planning to sell your house in a few years, less expensive options may make more sense. Up front, removal of the old paint is labor-intensive and therefore more expensive than encapsulation. Over time, however, the costs of repeated applications of encapsulant each time you repaint will add up—and the lead paint will still be there.

SHG: The exterior paint on many older homes is flaking and peeling. Should homeowners remove all the paint?

Wold: That depends on the overall condition of the exterior trim and your plans for ownership (short-term vs. long-term). If the lead-based paint is flaking and peeling over less than 10 percent of the trim, we’d recommend scraping what is loose, then painting all of it with a lead paint encapsulant. If the lead-based paint is flaking and peeling over more than 10 percent of the trim, we’d recommend scraping all of it; then painting everything with an encapsulant. When scraping, remove everything down to the wood (primers are also likely to contain lead). If you plan to sell soon, you could simply do the minimum, but be sure to alert any prospective buyer of the presence and location of lead paint. This may be an instance where removal and replacement of exterior trim is less costly.

SHG: What would it cost to have all the lead-based paint removed from a typical bungalow’s exterior?

Wold: The price will vary depending on where lead-based paint is located (siding or trim or both), accessibility, landscaping, time of year, level of detail, etc. Assuming a 1,000-square-foot (24′ by 30′), one-and-a-half-story bungalow, removing lead-based paint from siding and trim would cost about $8,000 to $12,000. It’s best to get quotes from more than one environmental service contractor.

SHG: What would it cost to safely strip the paint from my living and dining room woodwork?

Wold: Costs vary depending on several factors: total amount of trim; the number of windows and doors; whether there is a fireplace mantel, built-in bookcases or a buffet; and the level of detail.

For more information about Wold Environmental Services, contact:

Terry W. Wold, 612-759-5433

Thomas J. Ritchie, 612-306-5434