We just purchased a house. It was built in 1939. There are areas of the house, around the base of some molding, door corners, around some door frames, etc., where paint is chipping.

We didn't get the house inspected before we bought it because we just assumed that there is lead paint underneath.

We haven't moved in with our kids (5 and 3 years old) b/c we are renovating. I recently used a lead paint test stick on a wall under a big piece of peeling paint in the bathroom. It was positive for lead.

Now that got me thinking and possibly considering getting a professional to come it to do some XRF testing. Is it worth having it tested or is it adequate to just follow EPA RRP guidelines and recommendations...such as cleaning the house more often, wiping your shoes before coming in the house, eat a less fatty diet (less lead absorption), etc.


3 Answers 3


Beyond simply identifying whether you have lead, there are two main reasons to consider getting a more thorough XRF lead inspection:

  1. If you're trying to fully de-lead your home, this is a thorough test to determine if the deleading project has been successful.

  2. If your goal is to make your home safer without going as far as a full deleading project, you can use XFR to prioritize remediation work. For example, you may find that some areas do not contain lead and can be safely ignored.

For safety impact, the most important rules are:

  • Any repair work should be done with proper personal and work area protection. Work done without proper precautions is a major risk for dangerous levels of lead exposure.
  • Peeling or chipping lead paint should be safely removed and replaced or covered (e.g. with an encapsulating primer designed to secure lead paint).
  • Lead paint in areas subject to frequent motion (e.g. window partition beads, door jambs) or in child-accessible areas (e.g. base and window molding) are higher priority for remediation.
  • Keep your home clean (vacuum more often with a HEPA filter equipped cleaner).
  • Supervise your children and/or remove lead paint in their primary play areas.
  • Watch out for any new paint chipping and clean or remediate as needed.

Of course, it is safest to fully de-lead your home. You should come to your own conclusion about how much risk you and your family are willing to accept around this.

  • 1
    If I just assume that there is lead and go about any renovation with that assumption is that enough? I plan on using a sealer to seal the chips. Then I'm going to paint with a primer/sealer made for securing lead. Then I'm going to paint.
    – milesmeow
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 2:49
  • 1
    It's up to you to decide what is enough -- that's a cost/risk assessment that depends on your opinions. What you've described is similar to what I've done in my 1893 home, but just to be clear any chipping or peeling paint should be removed, not just sealed over. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 21:53

Are you removing the lead paint (or painted boards) as part of the renovation? If so, I would wait until I was done removing the lead paint that you already know about, and then get a lead inspection to help you find anywhere that you might have missed. If you are uncertain about a wall, and want to wait for the inspection, that sounds reasonable. I really think this question is, it worth the peace of mind? Only you can truly answer that.

If you were not planning to remove the lead, or if you are on the fence about it, would a lead inspection prompt you to (ahem) get the lead out? The advice of an inspector is perhaps more qualified, especially if he/she has tools to see exactly what you are dealing with. But inspectors are human too; you should ask for references before blindly following any advice.

If you are just going to cover it up, no matter what, then I suppose an inspection would be a waste of money. Regarding RRP guidlines, vigilent cleaning will be helpful even after you remove all the lead (that you can find) because lead has a way of getting around.


1939? We all know what that means: your house probably has both* things in it.

You haven't moved in yet so that's good. Get as much demo done as humanly possible in this first go. Hopefully your next rehab will wait until the kids are older; when lead will be less of a concern towards their development.

Don't ever let your roof or the siding leak, or there will be peeling paint...

*If you find asbestos, have it removed or just encapsulate (paint) it.

If whatever it is, is painted: paint it again. Try to stick to latex; it adheres well to all types of undercoats.

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