Home Renovation: Tips for How Avoiding Lead Dust When Doing Repairs Yourself

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How To Avoid Lead Dust For DIY Home Renovations

How To Avoid Lead Dust During Home Renovations

Containment, Wet Methods, HEPA Vacuum and Prompt Clean-up are the main work practices to follow in order to reduce exposure to lead dust during renovation. Sticking to these concepts will help avoid most common pathways of exposing your family to lead dust. Whether or not the paint in your home contains lead, it is always a good idea to follow these safe work practices as paint may also contain other harmful compounds.  A lead paint inspection can be helpful to know if the paint in your home is lead-based paint (LBP is ≥0.5% lead content by weight).

Sticky mat at entrance/exit to a work area cuts down on tracking lead dust into home.

Lead Renovation Containment

Lead abatement is best left for the processionals. State certifications are required to provide lead testing, lead surveys and lead abatement. Side note: In the industrial hygiene business we generally say “abate” when talking about minerals like lead and asbestos, and “remediate” when it’s about living organisms like mold or bacteria. We advise hiring certified lead professionals, but many homeowners cannot afford them.

When doing repairs yourself, contain the work area so that dust does not migrate into the rest of your home. A common mistake made by well meaning do-it-yourself home owners is leaving belongings where they are exposed to work site dust. Here are tips on avoiding lead dust contamination by setting up proper containment:

  • Completely remove all belongings from work areas and clear belongings from entrance/passageways to work areas. A well prepared area is easier to clean.
  • Cover floors and furniture that cannot be moved with heavy-duty plastic and tape, and seal off doors and heating and cooling system vents. Use 6-mil plastic. Don’t use the thinner sheet plastic as it tears easily. Take extra care to protect carpet or other porous materials which are extremely difficult to clean after exposure.
  • Keep children, pregnant women, and pets out of work areas at all times.
  • Remove work clothes carefully, turning inside out, to avoid tracking dust outside work areas.
  • Use sticky door mats at entrance/exit to work areas to trap dust. (These can be found at most large hardware stores).

Wet Methods to Minimize Dust During Construction

The main source of exposure for lead is dust – so do your best to AVOID CREATING AIRBORNE DUST in the first place.

  • Mist surfaces before scraping and use wet sanding techniques. Continue to mist while working.
  • Use sanders or grinders that have HEPA vacuum attachments which capture dust as it is generated.
  • Minimize pounding and hammering – pry and pull instead.
  • Mist before drilling and cutting to reduce dust. Foam, such as shaving cream, can be used to capture dust when cutting or drilling. (This avoids dangers of using water with electrical tools.)
  • Score paint before separating building components. This gives you cleaner breaks and helps prevent paint from chipping when a paint seal is broken.

HEPA Vacuum and Prompt Lead Dust Clean-up

  • Daily and after work is complete there should be NO VISIBLE paint chips or dust. Debris needs to be bagged as areas are completed and by the end of each day.
  • Clean up thoroughly by using a HEPA vacuum and wet wiping to clean up dust and debris on surfaces.
  • Mop floors with plenty of rinse water before removing plastic from doors, windows, and vents.
  • Use a wash bucket and a rinse bucket using disposable rags and be sure not to double dip the rags. Work horizontal surfaces from top to floor. Work your way out of the room doing about a three-foot section at a time, once with the soap water and once with the rinse bucket. You must dispose of rags each time for a thorough cleaning.
  • Concrete floors are sometimes better painted after cleaning as they are porous and lead dust is hard to remove. Hardwood floors should be sealed; they are porous and also retain lead dust.
  • Dust wipe lead clearance testing is required by CDPH after professional lead abatement. Consider taking dust samples to make sure work area has been sufficiently cleaned.

More information:

This blog covers some basics of protecting your family from lead dust during DIY home repairs and renovations. There are many government written guidelines and recommendations available:

EPA Renovate Right Pamphlet

CDPH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch

CDPH Testing your home for lead