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We have discovered some green paint exposed under the top layer of white paint on our doorframes. Home lead tests came back positive so my question is...

Would it be best to remove all the layers of paint including the lead or is it safe enough to seal it and then paint over it? The chips look to be general wear and tear over the years.

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  • Doing it yourself, probably seal and paint. Removing it will require protective measures to prevent you ingesting lead dust and to prevent lead dust from moving, basically using professionals. If children and/or pets in the house, using professionals might be best option, since they will know proper way to seal or remove. – crip659 Feb 24 at 12:59
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    Answers go down there, @crip659. – isherwood Feb 24 at 14:31
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If the top layer of paint is peeling/chipping away, it will probably continue to do it over time and you'll be stuck repairing it in the future. Getting rid of the problem would be your best bet which was my over cautious sister's approach. I used CitriStrip and also some Peel Away to remove all the built up paint right down to the wood. No sanding was required to remove the paint, just wiped it off after letting the paint remover do its job. No fumes and no airborne particles. We were then able to finish the wood with a stain and it turned out great.

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  • Good call JACK! After my initial posts, I thought maybe a stripping agent would be a good alternative, but didn't know if the OP wanted to do the entire jamb or not. Once you get into a stripping agent (note I'm avoiding the use of the term stripper! LOL), you get pretty committed to doing the entire piece. Just depends upon how much work the OP wants to do. BTW, I've used CitriStrip in the past and have very good results. Way less toxic than other stripping agents. – George Anderson Feb 24 at 16:00
  • @GeorgeAnderson We toyed with using the stripping agent (lol) too. After seeing how easy it was to remove the paint, it was really satisfying to see the results..... just like pressure cleaning a dirty deck, instant gratification. – JACK Feb 24 at 17:50
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I am not sure how we survived back when we would sand lead paint prior to using masks.

I see what appears to be flakes on the lower corner. If the loose paint is not removed the problem will come back and additional coats of paint on the door can also cause more problems if there is any rubbing.

Scraping or sanding with proper precautions would be the proper way to fix the problem. I would use a combination of the 2 methods.

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    It isn't about survival. It's about birth defects and brain damage. :) – isherwood Feb 24 at 14:32
  • I'd scrape the loose bits with proper containment, but avoid sanding. Then Spackle to get to an even surface and re-paint. There is an over - concern about some of this stuff. We've used pure lead fishing weights for years, stain glass artists using it for decades. and as Ed Beal surely knows, for diving weight belts. It's not that bad unless you ingest it or inhale it. You don't want babies chewing on a crib rail painted with a lead based paint for sure. It's just important to keep things in perspective and recognize the real risks. – George Anderson Feb 24 at 14:53
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    One more thought: If you did want to do some sanding to smooth out the bumps, use wet-dry sandpaper and keep the surface wet, that would contain nearly all the dust, wear gloves, wipe down afterwards and let dry. Catch any drippings on a disposable tarp and discard afterwards. Reasonable precautions should be taken, but not extreme. That's just my opinion, your mileage may vary. – George Anderson Feb 24 at 15:11
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    @isherwood I made the statement because lead paint was used for over 100 years , did you not catch the part “with proper precautions” and George is correct I have poured thousands of pounds of lead into 2-3-5 lb sizes for weight belts most recovered from the ocean floor but it was done mostly outside. Or in an open garage. I would agree with George’s second statement nut not the first the spackle would be easily chipped and back to square 1. – Ed Beal Feb 24 at 15:31
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Respectfully, asking a rather vague question will probably get you irrelevant replies. "Best" and "safe" are subjective terms.

What are you ultimately trying to accomplish, and how picky are you to details? How discerning is your eye? Sanding wouldn't be a good idea, unless you have some kind of dust extraction system in place, and everyone involved is wearing the appropriate PPE. Does dried lead paint give off any kind of harmful gases/radiation, especially when it's been covered up with other layers of paint?

If the paint is just on your trim, then I would be inclined to just replace the trim and paint/stain the new stuff. It's an alternative that is quicker than sanding/scraping, and it is less of a mess than using chemical strippers. Will the chemical stripper have an adverse reaction to the lead paint?

You should also be aware of your local ordinances. Some municipalities/govts., ie. California, are very strict on these things. If they find out, they'll probably want to get involved and supervise, so to speak. Now that you know the house has lead paint, unless you remove it, then you might have to make that disclosure should you decide to put the property up for sale. Asking this kind of question can open Pandora's box.

Obviously, just painting over it will get it back to a single color, but you'll be able to see the various breaks of the underlying areas, unless you apply numerous coats, building up the top layers, which is time consuming and requires more material.

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