Technology has a way of working into all aspects of life. In fact, isn't that why you remodel -- because things improve and change? Even a simple test for the dangers of lead-based paint in your home offers a better way to protect your family.
Before a 1978 federal ban, lead-based paint was commonly used in the parts of homes that needed moisture resistance -- areas such as windowsills, bathrooms and exterior porches or siding. If you bought or leased a home built before 1978, you likely received the Environmental Protection Agency's "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home" pamphlet and signed an acknowledgment specifically giving you 10 days to test if you were concerned.
Typically the presence of lead-based paint is not an issue for either party unless small children are involved. From the buyers' perspective, if chipped and peeling paint isn't obvious, they may not be concerned. From the sellers' viewpoint, they are reluctant to have someone cutting out paint samples from various spots in their beautiful home. However, you may need to be concerned about lead-based paint when you buy or lease a home, as well as when you remodel or sell.
With an emphasis on increasing a home's energy efficiency, many owners with pre-1978 homes are taking advantage of the Alaska Energy Rebate Program. Since older homes are prime candidates for window replacements and other remodeling projects, here are a few things you should know about lead-based paint and the different ways inspections are done.
Most homes have been repainted numerous times. If lead was present in the old paint, the newer coat of lead-free paint tends to serve as a shield. The old paint usually does not become hazardous. However, scraping, sanding or heating lead paint can create lead-contaminated dust. Even after such contaminated dust settles, air movement may stir it up, allowing the dust to be easily inhaled and continually poisoning anyone in the area, especially children. Anyone who has remodeled remembers the fine layer of construction dust that settles over everything and floats around long after the job is done.
So before you start remodeling a pre-1978 home, consider testing for lead-based paint. Testing can be done in three ways:
• Do-it-yourself kits are available through most hardware stores for less than $50. The eight-page instruction handout takes you through how to correctly collect 3/16-inch paint samples. Be sure to read the warning and preparation sections for all the safety warnings before jumping into the how-to. While these kits are EPA approved, be aware that different chemical reactions in the tested material can create false positives.
• Take paint chips to a professional for testing. The cost is typically $50 for the first sample and $19 for each subsequent sample. This is cost-effective if you only have a few areas affected by a remodel. If you are remodeling or doing the testing yourself, you may not be as concerned about damage. Confirm with the testing facility how much is needed and how to collect a proper sample.
• Have a certified professional test. The cost for this starts at $180 and varies dramatically based on the type of testing (invasive or not), the number of samples taken and the risk assessment if a hazardous amount of lead is found (1.0 milligrams per square centimeter or more than .5 percent by weight in paint. Dust and soil have different standards.).
For a potential purchase or lease where noninvasive testing (not removing paint samples) is the method preferred by the owner, using a portable X-ray fluorescent machine (XRF) allows the most sampling without defacing surfaces. The purported accuracy of the XRF readings is based on a 95 percent confidence interval (statistical calculation based on the margin of error in the sampling method). The XRF can penetrate from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch of density (depending on the material). XRF testing takes about an hour and homeowners receive a room-by-room report (40-plus samples) for $400.
Because the last option is the most thorough, and the most expensive, you receive documented information (whether you have lead present -- hazardous or not) that you can pass on to a prospective buyer, tenant or contractor.
Finally, if testing reveals hazardous levels of lead-based paint, an EPA-certified contractor must remove it.
For more information about lead-based paint, go to the EPA website at epa.gov/lead.
Clair and Barbara Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Daily News. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.