Strip paint safely
We live in an old farmhouse and the door frames and wooden ceilings still have some of the original paint on them. I want to have them stripped but I’ve heard that bottom coats in old homes may contain lead; is this also applicable to woodwork? How do I have them safely cleaned? My son is two years old and I’m pregnant – I don’t want to take any chances!
Gladman Maphuma, a construction specialist, replies
It is possible to have the lead paint safely removed, but since you’re pregnant and there are kids around, you should rather vacate your house for at least 24 hours during the process as you could be exposed to potentially harmful fumes and vapours.
The paint can be removed with a paint stripper or a heat gun; if you choose to use a heat gun, it’s important that the work is done by a professional as it’s quite easy to burn the woodwork. If you use paint stripper, we suggest a water-based non-toxic option.
If the woodwork is peeling, it needs to be scraped off and then cleaned with sugar soap before you can apply the new undercoat. As far as possible, use water-based products as turpentine or thinners will give off potentially harmful fumes. Whichever method you choose, the person doing the work should always wear a mask to protect them from fumes or dust. Also, if you’re doing any sanding make sure the area is well-ventilated.
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The paint on wooden door frames can be safely removed, even if it’s lead-based, but it’s best to vacate your home for 24 hours.