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Old 08-11-2009, 12:43 PM  
Flemish Bond
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Default Lead Paint Removal

Hi All,

First time on the forum and I've got a perplexing dilemma.

I am buying a townhouse (rowhouse) in inner Washington with lead paint. The house has a notice of violation as several children were injured by lead present on window sills, walls, etc.

I was informed hiring a contractor to abate the lead would cost 27,000. I think I'd rather tackle this myself. The city's new legislation mandates that Ieither have a team certified in the District come in and abate the lead, or that I take a 16 hour lead worker course to learn to abate the lead myself. I am going with the latter. Either way, a city certified inspector needs to come in and sign off that the house is clean once the work is complete.

The house has beautiful chestnut wood trim around door and windows - much of which is covered in lead based paint. Additionally, the metal inner sills have lead paint.

Can anyone recommend paint removal processes, chemicals or generally any advice? I really don't want to spring for a team when I know this can be handled properly and for much less money. Thanks for any advice.

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Old 08-11-2009, 11:22 PM  
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If memory serves, a Flemish bond is a way of laying bricks to connect two wythes together in a two wythe brick wall (thereby making the wall a lot stronger).

You should go to that course because my understanding is that it's more important to remove the lead paint from some areas than others.

For example, if you have lead paint on door frames and doors, then you can have the paint on the edge of the door rubbing against the paint on the frame each time you open and close the door, and that can create paint dust, which will contain lead, and which you will subsequently inhale. On the other hand, that same paint can be on a wall or ceiling and pose much less risk because paint dust will only be produced by someone sanding that paint (when patching a nail hole, for example).

Also, the greatest risk of having lead paint in a house is that it exposes young children to lead, and they are at the greatest risk of harm because their growing bodies incorporate the lead they inhale or chew up into their bodies much more readily that a full grown adult (who isn't growing). Since the youngest kids (that are growing the fastest) will put stuff in their mouths (cuz they have more nerve endings in their mouths than on their finger tips so they can investigate things more fully by feeling them inside their mouths than by feeling them with their finger tips), it's most important to remove lead paint from anything a toddler might try to chew on or put in his mouth. If, for example, you have slender ballisters holding up the handrail of a stairway in your house, you wanna get the paint off those ballisters cuz that's a favourite thing for a toddler to sit on the steps and teethe on.

So, you need to know what areas are most important to do, and do them more carefully than other places, like ceilings.

Lead based paints never actually contained metallic lead. Prior to the early 1970's, the white pigment in common use was lead carbonate, which is white in colour and therefore was found in abundance in white primers and white and off-white paints. When the use of lead was banned in house paints, paint companies got religion and promoted "Earth Tones", which were basically all the inorganic pigments and are best thought of as nothing more than "pulverized coloured rocks". Rocks are opaque, and if you pulverize a coloured rock into a very fine powder, then that powder will be equally opaque, and if you then use that powder as pigment to make a paint of the same colour, you're likely to get a paint with good hide because the "coloured pigments" in it are tiny rocks, each of which is opaque.

So, with the banning of lead in paints, then lead carbonate was out the door as the white pigment in primers and paints, and paint companies started preaching the virtues of one-ness with nature and introduced "Earth Tone" colours that would provide good hide because they use pulverized rocks as their coloured pigments...
...that is, until chemical companies had developed Titanium Dioxide, TiO2, as a replacement for lead carbonate, and then it was free flowing sex drugs and rock'n'roll again as paint companies abandoned "Earth Tones" and started developing bright intense colours using TiO2 as the new white pigment.

Lead carbonate was banned in architectural paints, but you can still buy it in art supply stores. Just ask for "Flake White". You can, in fact, buy lots of pigments that paint companies aren't allowed to use in house paints, such as cadmium red and yellow, cobalt blue, lead carbonate, and several others I can't think of right now.

Nowadays, every paint will have some TiO2 in it, but the better quality paints will have more of it than the lesser quality paints so that they can achieve better hide. DuPont is the largest manufacturer of titanium dioxide pigments in the world for the coatings industry with their "Ti-Pure" line of titanium dioxide pigments.

Anyway, I regularily remove the latex paints from flat surfaces (my fir window sills) so that I can paint them with a polyurethane paint that forms a much harder and stronger film. To remove that paint, I use a heat gun to soften the paint, and then scrape it off with something I like to call a "Nestor Scraper", named after it's inventor.

To make a Nestor Scraper, you simply grip a single edge razor blade in a pair of needle-nose style locking pliers. You hold that tool upside down, and the long jaws of the pliers will hold the razor at a near perfect angle for scraping. When scraping paint off wood, however, it's more effective to BLUNT the edge of the razor blade to prevent the razor from cutting into the wood. What I do is hold a razor blade against the moving belt of a 1 inch belt sander to dull it, but I'm sure a piece of fine grit sand paper would work equally well. Wear a leather glove on your working hand because the Nestor scraper will get pretty hot.

When you heat paint, it softens up and is then much easier to scrape (really, shave) off the surface of wood. You will also find that using a tungsten carbide paint scraper works well on hot soft paint too, just make sure you have a paint scraper that has all metal construction around the head where the tungsten carbide blade is, otherwise your scraper will melt on you.

If you go this route, I highly recommend the Milwaukee Model 8978 heat gun. It's the only heat gun I know of that's light enough to hold up all day long without getting a sore wrist. Also, it has an electronic temperature control that allows you to accurately adjust the heat intensity to avoid scorching wood. The temperature control is numbered from 1 to 6, with a stop at each number on the wheel, but it's an infinite control because you can set the dial anywhere between the stops to set the heat intensity part way between stops as well. Mine cost me about $200.

For curved surfaces, I've heard nothing but good things about a product called "Peel Away". Basically, you apply the Peel Away product to a painted surface and cover with cloth. The Peel Away product penetrates into the paint on the surface (and several layers of paint deep, too) and you can then remove the rag and the paint will come off with that rag.

You should also know that the active ingredient in conventional paint stripper is a chemical called "methylene chloride" which is just a methane molecule with two of the hydrogen atoms replaced by chlorine atoms. Paint strippers will be gelled so that they stick to vertical surfaces better, but the methylene chloride molecule is so small that it will evaporate completely from the paint stripper without leaving a residue. So, if you use paint stripper on a surface, and there's any crap on that paint surface after scraping most of the paint off, it's gotta be either residual paint or maybe some gelling agent. It won't be paint stripper because the methylene chloride will evaporate completely and leave nothing behind, just like distilled water. So, don't be concerned about leaving residual methylene chloride behind on a surface that will prevent any new polyurethane or paint from sticking; there won't be any methylene chloride anywhere on stripped wood once it's dry to the touch.

You will probably encounter "citrus based paint strippers" in the hardware stores. These paint strippers use a chemical called d-Limonene to strip latex paint. d-Limonene is a by product of the orange grove industry in Florida. You squeeze orange peels, and the resulting liquid contains he chemical "d-Limonene", which is supposedly the active ingredient in "citrus based (you name it, paint strippers, cleaners, degreasers, etc.)". This d-Limonene does soften latex paints, but it's a waste of time on oil based paints which you're probably dealing with. Actually, the ONLY reason d-Limonene is in so many products is because of the special interest groups in Washington that try to get d-Limonene into every product on store shelves. The Florida orange growers lobby wants to sell d-Limonene to other industries to use, and it doesn't seem to matter whether or not d-Limonene is effective at doing anything. What seems to matter is that the Florida Orange growers sell their d-Limonene to other product manufacturers, not whether or not the d-Limonene enhances that product in any way. Truth be known, d-Limonene is, at best, a mediocre paint stripper on latex paints, a waste of time on oil based paints and at just about everything else, it just plain sucks. It's commonly found in consumer products only because of a strong lobby group in Washington representing Florida citrus growers, not because it's effective at anything except stripping latex paints, which it's not very good at.

If you're looking for an EFFECTIVE paint stripper that works on both latex and oil based paints, and don't want to handle methylene chloride, which is very hard on the skin, then look no further than "Safety Stripper" made by the 3M Company, and available in most home centers. I have very sensitive skin on my hands, and I can have Safety Stripper on my hands all day long without it bothering my skin. I forget the name of the active ingredient in Safety Stripper, but it's "something adipate" if I recall correctly. This is the paint stripper I'd recommend you use because it's surprisingly effective on both latex and oil based paints given that it's very gentle on your skin.

Not sure if this will helps much. Hopefully it will.

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-12-2009 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:11 AM  
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Remember to wash your hands thoroughly with a sanitizer. Lead can cause damages to your health.
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Old 10-02-2009, 09:28 AM  
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Not familiar with WA code requirements regarding lead paint abatement but, I don't think you have to pay for the course. I would think that the required knowledge would be gained by taking the course. Regarding washing your hands, I would assume the course would also advise you to wear gloves, masks and other PPE (personal protection equipment). We had a recent incident here in MI where a city inspector was fired for charging residence of Detroit a fee for this course however, he did not provide anything in return. Come to find out that the city offers lead paint remediation for free.
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Old 10-24-2009, 08:25 PM  
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Thank you, Nestor. I searched for lead paint removal, and your answer was exactly the info I was looking for. One more thing, though....
Tomorrow, I will start stripping a door and some trim that almost certainly have lead-based paint in them. All of the wood was removed from the walls, so I can take it outside. I'm going to be using a chemical stripper. Do I need to worry about fumes beyond just a regular dust mask? And when I get around to stripping the rest of the trim in the house (I want to stain it instead), I'll plan on using the heat gun. Will fumes be more of a problem at that point (inside)? I looked at a respirator that said it was effective for lead abatement, but I didn't really want to shell out for it if it's not necessary.
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Old 10-24-2009, 09:15 PM  
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No, you don't need to worry about fumes outside. Even the slightest breeze will remove the fumes from your work area. Also, if you're using a chemical stripper, then you won't be creating any paint dust, and so you don't need to either wear a dust mask, or a respirator. At least that's what makes sense to me.

Fumes are only a problem indoors, but so far as I know, you're not going to have much in the way of fumes from any paint stripper. The only paint stipper I know of that might give off some fumes is methylene chloride, but I've never had a problem with fumes from methylene chloride either. Methylene chloride (in it's liquid state) is as volatile as butane, and so it should flash off into the air extremely rapidly. However, when sold as a paint stripper, it's gelled, and that prevents it from evaporating rapidly as it otherwise would (why, I don't know). If methylene chloride were to come as a pure liquid, it would evaporate so rapidly that it couldn't be used effectively.

I don't know what your lead abatement instructor said, but normally fumes are a concern when people are working with solvents to remove adhesives. This is especially true in basements when the solvent vapour is heavier than air. The solvent vapour can collect in a depression like a basement and cause the person to lose consiousness. If there happens to be a gallon can of the solvent that he's using open at the work site, then the fumes will continue to accumulate while he's passed out, and that can be a real danger.

As long as you provide some ventilation to the work place, then the small amount of fumes that come off of methylene chloride won't be of concern. If you're using any other paint stripper, then there'll be even less fumes coming off of it.

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