I'd like to repaint my 100-year-old wooden front porch. It almost certainly had lead paint at some point. I would very much like to avoid stripping it, or any other procedure that might mobilize the lead paint, as I have young kids (and, if any dust were created, it would be very hard to keep it out of the front yard).

However, the porch also has lots of dirt ground in to it, and in some places the paint is totally worn away. Is there a way to properly clean the wood without mobilizing the lead paint?

  • Why not just make stripping it a weekend project and have the family stay out for the weekend?
    – monksy
    Sep 3, 2013 at 20:43
  • @monksy - so far as I know, in general you need to enlist an environmental services group to do this "properly", just like with removing asbestos shingles; the jurisdiction my parents live in, for example, requries such professional treatment
    – warren
    Sep 3, 2013 at 20:53
  • Oh, I had no idea
    – monksy
    Sep 3, 2013 at 22:30
  • My main concern is moving lead dust into the yard (where the kids play, we grow some edibles, and from where some of it would inevitably get tracked into the house)
    – Drew Steen
    Sep 3, 2013 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


You need to remove flaking and loose paint or else it will eventually chip off and be a hazard in itself.

One approach is to avoid sanding and do a moderate scraping with a carbide paint scraper. This will generate some flakes which can be much more easily contained than dust from sanding. Vacuum with a shop vac and wear a mask.

Then prime and paint with a good outdoor deck paint. The surface will not be perfect, but is should be good enough and the risk of freed lead paint is minimized. Besides, 100 year old houses should not have glass smooth wood surfaces! (my 144 year old one doesn't).

  • 1
    Yup, to be clear: I don't really care that much about it looking picture perfect. I just want to get some new paint on it to protect it from the weather, & get the surface prepped properly so the new paint will stay on.
    – Drew Steen
    Aug 29, 2013 at 14:45

Whatever generates the least dust.

  1. Hand wash (least dust)
  2. Hand scraping
  3. Hand sanding (wet if possible)
  4. Power sanding (most dust) (should be connected to HEPA vac

Murphy oil soap (trademark for soap recommended for wood) on the dirty sections. Prime with the best, most tenacious primer.

Pros must follow the EPAs RRP rules: mask off work areas, put down plastic outside in a 10ft perimeter outside, wear protective gear, If using vac, must be HEPA certified, wet cleanup, seal all debris and protective plastic in plastic bags


Last I checked, professional remodelers must abide by EPA guidelines. Unless there is a local ordinance, as a homeowner you're able to do your own lead paint removal.

Stick with a no sanding approach - you don't want to aerosolize the lead. I suggest you line the underside of the porch with 6 mil plastic, use a chemical stripper to loosen the paint, and scrape it all off. The chemical stripper will help keep any lead from becoming airborne. Send the family away anyway like @monsky said, wear a gloves and a respirator (maybe $25 at a big box store) not a simple mask, and when you're done wrap up the plastic and drive it all to your local hazardous waste facility.

Or dismantle it and start from scratch :)


You better know what youre state laws are. The fines will be huge if you dont follow epa rules. In pa: the side you work on the windows inside must have plastic over them to prevent lead dust out. Plastic must be laid 12 foot out on the ground. Plastic must be put in trash bags and goose necked then taped. Employees have to wear paper suits and use dust masks.

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