The front of my house has an overhang extension of the roof, held up by three posts. The bottom of these posts are getting worn out, and overall the paint needs a fresh coat. The worst post (with green at the bottom and rougher texture) is still solid to the touch, only the slightest bit softer than the rest of the posts.

Hoping I can repaint these to keep them in use, I'm wondering about removing the old coat of paint. My main question is, how do I know if this is lead paint, and does it matter? I planned to put tarps over the shrubs and then scrape any loose paint off the beams until any remaining paint won't come off easily, then dump the tarp and sweep/vacuum chips left on the ground. Then I'd put some rags down and apply a few coats of milk-based paint and tung oil.

The home was built in the 60s, largely DIY'd by first owner, in the northeast US. Sorry if this is a silly question, I know very little about paint and go to great lengths to avoid pollution.

posts overall

middle post (out of place in reference to different issue)

worst condition post

  • 1
    Since it's outside and you'll clean it up, I wouldn't worry about the lead unless you're going to eat the chips.
    – dandavis
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:09
  • @dandavis I plant a ton of plants that myself or other animals eat, and I want to avoid long lasting contaminants wherever possible.
    – cr0
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:40
  • 1
    You're asking two questions here. That's not allowed. Please revise to ask just one. At this point I'd go with the one addressed by the answers below.
    – isherwood
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 15:06

3 Answers 3


Assume that there's lead in the paint and use a shop vac along with a scraper or putty knife to remove any flaking paint. Basically hold the end of the vacuum hose up against the scraper and catch any flakes before they hit the ground. You won't need to get down to bare wood or anything, just knock off anything that's loose.

I would wear gloves and eye protection to prevent injury, but since you'd be dealing with large paint chips as opposed to fine dust (like produced by sanding) and a relatively small surface area, there's not much need for respirators, etc. A shower afterwards might be worthwhile.

Repaint the posts with a coat of primer (especially the bare wood areas) to ensure good adhesion and even coverage. (Zissner makes good primers for use in this situation.) Then apply a couple coats of a good exterior grade latex/acrylic paint. To cover only three posts you might be able to get it done with buying quarts of each paint. This approach should last many years.

Milk paint or tung oil is not appropriate at all in this context. Tung oil wouldn't be used on painted surfaces and would likely inhibit proper adhesion applied under paint. I'm not sure milk paint would stand up to weather particularly well when applied over existing paint or oils.

  • +20 for the last paragraph alone!
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 19:16
  • Thanks for all this. I paint bee boxes and other things with milk-based paint, then put Tung oil on top of that. But I'll look for a more standard exterior-grade paint.
    – cr0
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 0:48

Not a silly question at all.

You can buy kits to test for lead. But if the house was built in the 60s, there's a very good chance that there's lead in the paint. USA didn't ban lead paint until 1977.

If you're serious about trying to contain the contaminants, then replacing the posts might actually be the easier option.

  • If test kits find this and other outdoor paint is not lead, anything else to be wary of when chipping old paint to put on a fresh coat?
    – cr0
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:54
  • 1
    Wear eye protection. Make sure the wood dries thoroughly before you paint. That's about it. Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:01
  • Though the house was built in the 60s, I'm not sure what's original or newer. The roof is very new. An addition was built in the 80s and I imagine the trim around its outside rim joists was painted then, though maybe with older paint. These posts could be original, but for all I know they were installed 30yrs ago rather than >50yrs ago.
    – cr0
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:01

Personally, I'd DIY it, even if it's lead paint, per Mike's answer. Wear a respirator and cover yourself with as much PPE as possible.

However, the easy button would be to simply cover the entire post in a vinyl wrap and effectively encapsulate the (assumed) lead paint. Might even cost less money if you don't have to buy PPE.

Examples (YMMV since IDK what size your posts are):

https://www.deckexpressions.com/vinyl-post-sleeves-and-post-wraps/ https://www.weatherables.com/accessories/railing/post-wraps-cladding/smooth-vinyl.html

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