Encapsulating Lead Paint: How to, Can You Seal With Polyurethane?

Does your home date back to 1978 or earlier, and do you plan to get it repainted for the first time?

If so, you may want to put down your sander just yet. You need to understand why repainting in old homes is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you are at risk of dealing with lead-based paint.

Did you know that millions of homes built before 1978 are suspected of having used lead paint? It is believed that around 35% of homes in the entire country have this type present.

You may think that paint that contains lead is just a trivial matter. It is not, particularly if it is already damaged. This type s the causing of lead poisoning in both adults and children alike. Because of the fine dust invisible to the naked eye, no one knows that they are being exposed to it until they experience symptoms.

And if you are unaware, its poisoning causes serious health issues and can be fatal.

Don’t worry. You can still get your home repainted, although you need to take additional steps to ensure that the hazards involved are minimized or removed. One of the fastest ways is by doing lead paint encapsulation, which traps it underneath it.

We have developed this ultimate guide for encapsulation if you have no idea what it is.

Yes, that old plaster and those hairline cracks on the walls aren’t simply things you can ignore. If you live in a rental place, you should also know that your landlord has certain responsibilities.

Can You Paint Over Lead Paint to Seal It?

Shortcuts – who doesn’t like that? You might think that painting over it using ordinary stuff is the perfect shortcut, but it does not work that way. It does not do anything. It may cover it up, but the risk level remains the same. It’s especially when applied over damaged parts.

But before doing anything else, you should first confirm if lead paint is present. You can use the popular test swabs since they are easy to use and have instantaneous results. Since a basic kit only has two swabs, the bulk kits are ideal if you plan to test your entire house. With 144 swabs, it is more than enough to test various surfaces of your home.

Once you confirm the presence, you need to check its condition. If you do not see any signs of damage, you can safely paint over it. It’s not before applying an encapsulant.

Simply applying any conventional paint on top of it is not recommended. Ordinary stuff is susceptible to wear and tear, especially in high-traffic areas. Once it gets damaged, there is a chance that the layer underneath will also be damaged and release toxic dust.

You must first use encapsulants that act as the barrier or seal that keeps the paint in place to prevent this. Encapsulants prevent it from chipping or creating dust and keep anyone from getting into direct contact with it. Once they are applied, that is the only time you can apply conventional stuff over it.

Encapsulants come in three different types:

  • Cement-like Materials that Contain Polymers – these membranes have a curing period and will form a thick coating once set. It is applied just like ordinary cement, which makes use of trowels easy.
  • Chemical Compounds or Polymers – applied via airless spray guns, rollers, or brushes and the resulting membrane is known to be robust but flexible.
  • Polyurethane or Epoxy – the membrane it creates is also flexible but tougher. They are also applied using a brush, airless spray gun, or roller.

But if the lead-based paint is already damaged, you cannot apply encapsulants over it. Your only solution is to remove the damaged parts completely.

How Much Does It Cost to Encapsulate Lead Paint?

Most homeowners know that addressing the is expensive, especially if you get licensed contractors to handle everything. Fortunately, it does not cost as much to encapsulate it. It makes it a practical option for most people.

If you plan to do it yourself, you only need to purchase the sealant or encapsulating compound. It has an average price of $50 per gallon or $230 for 5 gallons. This means encapsulating a home with square footage between 1,000 to 2,000 will cost around $800 to $1,400.

It is far cheaper to DIY than hiring a professional, as it can cost $4 per square foot for the materials and labor of contractors. This means encapsulating lead paint in a 1,000 square foot home can cost $4,000. It is a far cry from the average price if you do it yourself.

There are also different encapsulating compounds out on the market, one of which is Lead Stop. Dumond manufactures it. However, not all products will work on all surfaces. It is important to check which ones will meet your needs.

Can I Remove Lead Paint Myself?

If you want a more permanent solution for dealing with the issue, a complete removal is your only option. But compared to encapsulation, removal is a much more dangerous task. It’s because the chances of being exposed to dangerous particles are higher. It’s why we don’t recommend you remove lead paint yourself.

Should you choose to proceed anyway, here are your options:

There is a myriad of ways to remove it, and the most common are:

Wet Sanding

The surface must be wet first by spraying water or applying wet sanding sponges. Water will trap any dust generated by sanding, which lessens the possibility of the dust becoming airborne. You don’t need to make the surface dripping wet, but it should remain wet at all times while you work.

After wetting the surface, you can use either sandpaper or a sander to remove it. Manually sanding the surface using sandpaper generates less dust but is slower than using a sander. Maybe you prefer power sanding instead of sanding by hand. Ensure that your sander has a HEPA vacuum attachment to immediately collect any dust produced by sanding. Power sanding is messy and creates a lot of dust, which must be avoided.

HEPA filters are a must for doing this type of work. It’s because they are capable of trapping minuscule dust and other particles that ordinary filters are not equipped to do.

Wet Scraping

Hand scrapers, wire brushes, and other similar tools are used to scrape off the paint by hand. Just like in wet sanding, the surface must be wet first before you start scraping. Wet scraping is also time-consuming and labor-intensive, but the creation of dust is minimized.

The goal of wet scraping is to remove any loose or peeling parts but not remove all the paint present.

Dry scraping and sanding can also be done, but this is not recommended because it will generate a lot of dust. And in some states, dry scraping as a means of removing it is even prohibited.

Wet Planing

Like wet scraping, wet planing scrapes off the paint. A plane is used instead of scrapers. Because of the tool involved, wet planing is only done on wood surfaces. Wet Planing is also ideal for high impact or friction surfaces, like edges of doors and windows.

Heat Removal

Heat guns are used to soften the paint, making scraping easier. Because too much heat can create toxic fumes, heat guns set to temperatures exceeding 1200 degrees Fahrenheit must not be used. Appropriate heat guns should only be used at a maximum of 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using Chemical Strippers

A more recent innovation, there are chemical strippers intended to remove lead paint. It works by trapping the paint to it like glue. Once the paint strippers are peeled off, it comes off safely. This is now considered the safest method to remove it because zero dust is generated.

Blasting

Aided by high-powered equipment, high-pressure water or abrasive blasting is also used to remove paint. Water blasting is done in homes, while abrasive blasting is catered to industrial surfaces. It includes surfaces such as bridges with lead paint.

Because of the amount of mess it creates, this method is only used on exterior surfaces. The water used to remove paint can also trap particles. You must cover all surfaces where water contaminated with lead can end up. Even if it is naturally occurring and present in the soil, too much of it present can cause soil contamination.

Since you are working outdoors, this means placing protective coverings on the ground and trees. It includes plants and other surfaces.

Among all these methods, power sanding and heat removal are not advisable for DIY work. These two can generate the most dust and toxic fumes that can harm anyone, especially those involved in the work.

Even if only licensed contractors are required to observe safe practices according to the RRP Rule, homeowners who plan to DIY the task must also do so. The RRP Rule does not technically apply to homeowners working on their own homes. They are free not to follow these practices. They are strongly encouraged to do so since this type of work increases their chances of lead exposure.

These practices help prevent those working with the material and inhabitants of the affected home from acquiring the health hazards. Even if it has already been removed, dust that can be easily inhaled or ingested may still linger in various parts of your home.

If you remove it yourself, make sure that you are equipped with the right safety gear and equipment for the task and clean up afterward. It includes:

  • Protective clothes that will cover as much skin as possible, like goggles and coveralls. Gloves and shoe covers are also needed. Make sure that these will be laundered separately afterwards.
  • A disposable face mask or respirator specifically intended for such work. Those with a HEPA filter N-100, P-100, or R-100 that are NIOSH-certified are recommended.
  • Coverings to seal off the work area, such as heavy-duty plastic sheeting or tarpaulins. Tape to keep the seals in place.
  • Plastic bags for any debris generated and cleaning materials. You should ideally have separate buckets and rags for your cleaning solution and water for rinsing.
  • Vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters. Ordinary vacuum cleaners have a chance of releasing dangerous particles into the air, so they should be avoided.

While removing it should ideally be handled by the pros, homeowners like you can still do it. Follow safe practices before through after removing it, including cleanup.

It is also vital that you work wet to minimize the chances of lead dust becoming airborne.

How to Encapsulate Lead Paint?

Encapsulation is not the only way to cover up lead paint. You can also deal with it by covering it up using the enclosure method.

Enclosure involves installing a solid cover over the surface where the dangerous paint is present. But instead of using encapsulants, materials such as plywood and paneling are used. Do note that installing wallpaper or contact paper on top is not considered a method of enclosing it.

However, this is also a temporary fix. Once the enclosure is removed or damaged, you are again at risk of exposure.

Damaged parts must first be removed before the enclosure is installed. You also need to address source problems first since these can weaken and ultimately damage the enclosure, like leaks.

Installing the enclosure is not just placing it over the surface. To prevent any dust from escaping, you need to ensure that it is sealed off properly. It’s particularly at the seams or edges. Even if it is just a temporary fix, you must install it like it will be a permanent addition over a surface.

Encapsulating vs Abating

You already have an idea of the basics of encapsulation and other means of dealing with lead paint. These are the different abatement methods defined by the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction of 1992 to permanently address hazards.

Note that the law’s definition of permanent is not the same as what we know. In this case, what has considered permanent by the law is a fix or method of addressing lead paint that surpasses twenty years in terms of effectiveness.

From this definition alone, we can see why all these four methods fit their definition of permanent:

  • Replacement or changing the component of a house. It includes things such as moldings and windows with lead paint with a new one that is completely lead-free.
  • Encapsulation
  • Enclosure
  • Removal

Often confused with the RRP rule that focuses on activities that may disturb the paint, the goal of abatement is only to remove hazards permanently. However, this does not necessarily mean the removal of lead paint. That is why encapsulation and enclosure still fall under this category.

You are already aware that the paint condition is a big factor in the effectiveness and longevity of encapsulants. But, another key factor that you need to be aware of is the surface.

Unfortunately, not all surfaces are suitable for applying encapsulants. Those that they can be applied to include:

  • Non-glossy surfaces. Glossy ones must first be treated with chemical deglossers or undergo wet sanding to roughen up the surface. It’s since encapsulants stick best on rough surfaces.
  • Undamaged and architecturally-sound areas. Any damage present must first be repaired before adding encapsulants.
  • Surfaces that are dry, clean, and free of contaminants. Note that there are options that are water-based and can work on damp, but not wet surfaces. Some can still be effective. But, it should not be applied over surfaces affected by water leaks and excessive moisture.

Encapsulants must not also be applied on surfaces or areas where they will be frequently exposed to friction, such as in high traffic areas. These areas are those where people frequently walk on or interact with, such as doors and windows. Floors and stairs are other examples.

These areas and surfaces easily succumb to wear and tear, which greatly affects longevity. The encapsulant underneath may soon be affected if the surface paint is damaged. It may eventually cause dangerous dust to be released into the atmosphere.

If the surface shows deterioration, encapsulating is still not advisable. It can be a loose wall or becoming separate from the lath. A damaged surface will soon affect the paint present, affecting the encapsulant.

This possibility is the biggest disadvantage versus other methods of addressing the issue. Other cons that you should know of are:

  • Wrong installation will eventually cause lifting of the encapsulant and eventual peeling. It’s particularly when installing over lead.
  • It needs to be regularly checked for any signs of damage, as encapsulation can fail over time.
  • You must test it onsite before applying the product to determine if it will properly adhere to the surface.
  • Certain products can produce hazardous waste.
  • Weak or thin products can be easily broken or chipped.
  • If thick encapsulants are required, this may cover up decorative elements of the surface, such as in moldings.
  • Different surfaces may require different types of products, lessening its cost-effectiveness.

Despite these disadvantages, encapsulation may be the ideal way for you to deal with lead because of the following advantages:

  • It is inexpensive compared to other abatement methods.
  • It does not generate harmful dust, making it one of the safest methods available.
  • It requires little to no preparation.
  • it is quick to apply.
  • The encapsulant is applied in smaller sections. Those living in the same house can simply stay in another area of the house and not vacate the premises while work is ongoing.
  • You have a wide variety of options available out on the market. Aside from the traditional ones, manufacturers are also coming up with products that are environment-friendly. They pose no harm to its users.

Removal poses a greater risk. This type of work is often state-regulated and is best done by professionals. The upfront costs are higher, and removing them means moving out temporarily until the work is done. It results in additional expenses for homeowners. Workers must also install barriers in the site to contain dangerous particles that become airborne or any substances contaminated by it, such as water.

If you want a quick and cheap but still reliable method of dealing with the issue, encapsulation is your best bet. But if you want a more permanent solution, the best way is to get it removed.

Steps of Encapsulating Lead Paint

Suppose you decide that encapsulating lead paint is still the best option for you. In that case, you need to be aware of the different steps involved in the entire process. The actual work is not the only aspect you should be focused on; preparation and cleanup are equally important.

Before starting the process, you must do the following preparations. It’s aside from wearing the earlier safety gear. Note that these also apply to other abatement methods:

How to encapsulate lead paint

  1. Switch off the HVAC system and seal all air vents and ducts using plastic sheets and tape.

    Make sure that there are no gaps for lead particles to enter.

  2. Transfer your belongings placed in the same room or area where you will do the encapsulation.

  3. Cover them up with plastic for items that cannot be moved and add tape to seal.

  4. Close all doors and windows.

  5. Protect your floors by covering them up with plastic.

    Once the preparations are complete, you can start with the actual encapsulation. It involves these steps:

  6. Check the layers to be encapsulated to see if they can withstand wear and tear.

    They must let the lead encapsulating paint adhere to it by doing coating adhesion tests.

  7. If suitable, do a patch test first.

    Wipe the surface clean and apply your chosen product to a small portion, ideally measuring 6×6 inches of that surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the appropriate thickness of the encapsulant.

  8. Wait until the patch is dry to touch.

    Suppose you see any cracking or any visible effects on the encapsulant applied. In that case, you need to use another type or choose another lead abatement method. The longer the wait, the better it is because some products may take days before they show any cracking or peeling signs.

  9. If the encapsulant passes the patch test, prepare the surface to which it will be applied.

    Manufacturers have different instructions for doing so, but you ultimately have a dry and clean surface.

  10. Apply the chemical by following the manufacturer’s instructions for it.

    Typically applied like paint, make sure that the layer is even and meets the required thickness.

  11. Allow it to dry undisturbed.

  12. Follow the cleanup instructions of the manufacturer.

Make sure to check your local laws for any policies involving lead encapsulation. Some states require those who will do the work to undergo training first and fulfill various requirements. It’s even if they only work in their own homes.

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