If you're a fan of This Old House like I am, you've undoubtedly seen the recent focus on the new EPA guidelines and restrictions when it comes to hazardous materials handling by contractors. From lead paint stripping to asbestos removal, the workers covered in white suits look like nuclear facility works, and the buildings or homes, covered in scaffolding and plastic, appear to be harboring ET. Though it's one thing to see it on TV, it's another to see it in person.

Living in the historic district, there's no shortage of ongoing construction projects at any given time. On our many runs or walks with Lulu, we often ooooohhhh and aaaahhhh at the new scaffolding that we see set up at various houses.

We talk about the tuck pointing taking place, or new copper roof and gutters being installed.

And we reminisce about the long and torturous days when we did our own siding work.

But several weeks ago we had one of our first glimpses at some of the extra efforts that are necessary whe it comes to protecting neighbors and pedestrians when lead hazard is involved.

A very nice wood frame house on Lee Street was having its paint stripped from the original wood siding. Here's a Google street view photo of the house prior to the commencement of the siding work.

By the time we saw it, the scaffolding had gone up and plastic wrap applied to the exterior of the scaffold to keep any lead dust contained.

When I took these photos, much of the hard work had already been complete. However, each day, at the end of the day, the workers needed to wrap up any paint that had been scraped from the house and properly dispose of it.

You can see from the side shot just how much had already been completed. The paint was largely removed from the side and the clapboards exposed, while the front of the house already had it's first coat of paint.

Some people wonder why you should strip paint rather than putting another coat over the old. The answer is simple. Sometimes it's necessary, and sometimes it's a preference. If the existing paint has failed to the point that it's beginning to peel and flake, you need to get rid of the failing paint so the next cost can properly adhere. Otherwise you're just throwing good money after bad. Often removing just the failing paint will leave such a bumpy and poor surface to paint over, that it is far more aesthetically pleasing to take all of the old off and give a nice and smooth surface to work with. And sometimes, when it's lead paint or the owner just likes the smoother look, paint removal is the only way to achieve the end goals.

A few weeks after the first photos were taken, I stopped back by the house to check out the progress. What I saw was a beautifully painted home that looks like its ready for another 200 years (with proper maintenance, of course).

They had done a very nice job with stripping and surface prep and seemed to have a great base to work with. The best part is that the owners chose to do both the facade of the house and the side. Many people opt to leave the side untouched in tight alleys, but that's just opening yourself for problems and inconvenience down the road.

Have you seen anything similar in your neighborhood? I assume this sort of thing is not normal in most places, as you'll typically only see it in historic districts with pockets of many older homes. What do you think?

Comments 9


4/26/2012 at 12:13 PM
As far as I know, we don't have regulations like this in Canada. The majority of the remaining old homes in Ontario are brick, anyway!
Your comment makes me realize that I have no clue as to regulations in most other countries. I know that the US building code is far less progressive than most European countries, but that's about the extent of my knowledge.
4/26/2012 at 12:20 PM
We stripped the paint off the internal doors in our flat and it was only after finishing that we thought about the possibilities of lead paint....oops!!

We don't have regulations like this but in Edinburgh repairs on tenement flats like ours were sometimes carried out through the council's stat notices and a job that started off costing a reasonable amount can more than triple to such high amounts people would have to sell their homes. Turns out it was fraudulent and they are getting investigated, you can read more here www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-14965150

One door won't do too much, it's the bigger and more sustained exposure that you really need to worry about.

I just read the article that you linked. That's crazy! Government corruption when it doesn't directly affect a single person or small group is one thing, but then it can cause financial ruin for an individual it's a whole other realm. I do hope they get what's coming to them.
4/26/2012 at 1:59 PM
Actually, our neighbors are doing this to their 100+ year farm house. We live in a 50s ranch next door, if that gives you an idea of how eclectic our neighborhood is. Many of the older Victorian and other homes with the wood siding have taken the half-hearted approach to scrapping and the repainted houses don't look nearly as crisp as our neighbors' progress.
Kudos to your neighbor for taking the time to do it right! Plus I'm sure you appreciate the efforts given you're next door. :-)
4/27/2012 at 9:08 AM
Our neighbors down the street are stripping all the paint off their half-timbered WWI era house. It's a slow process, but it's going to be worth it in the end. It seems like the DIY-ers and some professionals of generations past just slopped thick layers of paint over everything and never prepared a surface first. I think of this every time I look at our radiators and see the flat interior paint intended for walls that was used on them years ago swelling and cracking every winter.

Lead, schmead. Sometimes I think we're being regulated to death. It's amazing that common sense no longer applies (don't eat the paint that has been scraped off, don't snort the dust, etc.) :) I can see taking precautions inside, but putting a tent around the entire exterior of a building seems like a little overkill.
The bad flat DIY Paint is the main reason why we're stripping all of our molding. I'm fine with thick paint it if is good, but huge drips and peeling paint due to no primer, that just looks plain bad. Do you think you'd ever get your radiators blasted or anything?

I pretty much agree with you on the lead. I can understand the need for the wrapping and containment when it comes to the workers who are exposed to it day in and day out. The prolonged exposure is the issue. For us DIYers, a good mask, gloves and long sleeves when working in the dust, some common sense, and a shower when you're done will typically do the trick. Oh, and what you said about not eating those oh so tasty paint chips. :-)
5/8/2012 at 10:19 AM
Did you do a post before about your siding or was that before the days of your blog?

I read somewhere that your average house could be about $30k to strip all the paint. I have a 1940s colonial with horrid siding added in the 1980s. The original clapboards are still underneath. As much as we would love to restore them, it isn't our forever house so we will probably just eventually replace the siding.
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