One of the more dominant themes of the last several weeks of our old house renovation has involved doors and floors. What do these two very different house elements have in common? They were both covered with various degrees of lead paint, some of which was in need of repair.
They are also both considered friction and wear surfaces (as are windows), so they require more attention simply due to the kind of use they endure.
Thankfully, the other areas in the house (such as walls, crown and most base mouldings) do not sustain much wear at all and are therefore in rather pristine condition considering their age.
Before we purchased our house, we began making some phone calls (Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environmental Protection) to better educate ourselves on dealing with lead paint. Through these agencies, I found a non-profit organization that was able to do a lead paint survey on the house. A trained consultant came with a XRF scanner gun that he used to go through the entire house (both inside and out). The key aspect of the XRF scanner is that it senses lead through multiple layers of paint without needing to disturb the paint. He told us where there were traces of lead paint and what the relative levels of lead were in the paint when he found it. For a fee of $200, this was an invaluable investment.
What we found was that all of the lead-based paint was found exclusively in the main portion of the house. The back ell and barn had none. This was the case for the exterior as well.
One method of removing lead paint from wood that we found is a soy-based stripper that is applied to the surface, left to sit, and then scraped off. We read a lot about Soy Gel and its success, especially in removing lead based paint. It's a non-toxic formula made from soy and works quite well if you leave it on long enough (about 24 hours in our case). Even the lead abatement specialists were impressed when they saw the floor samples Mike did.
There are a couple of elements of this method that were not ideal however. First, since we are looking at large areas, we would have ended up with a very large quantity of a gloppy mix of stripper and old paint, and secondly, the stripper needs to be removed from the surface completely and would have required application of a degreaser and lots of scrubbing and rinsing to ensure that the floor finishes would stick.
We were almost sold on using the Soy Gel until I found a post by Katy Elliot talking about something called a Silent Paint Remover. Upon further research, we ended up ordering one for ourselves and again, were impressed with the results.
The Silent Paint Remover is an infrared lamp that heats up the wood beneath the paint which causes the paint to release so that you may scrape it off without the risk of creating lead dust. The device only heats to temperatures well below the threshold of concern for lead. As you can see, the Silent Paint Remover was more successful at removing significantly more of the paint than the Soy Gel method.
The good news is that the Silent Paint Remover really does work quite well. The downside is that it takes a lot of time. If we only had a room or two to do, it would have been the perfect solution, but unfortunately, we had several - nearly 2,000 square feet total to be exact.
And in the end, there is still paint left on the floor and since we are not repainting the floors but instead refinishing them, sanding the floors is still necessary anyway. We will be using the Silent Paint Remover on the door jambs and other areas that will be repainted.
So we ended up hiring a floor refinisher who is certified to work with lead paint in remodeling and renovation projects. The refinisher also specializes in 19th century wide plank flooring. Among other measures, they seal off each room (and all the nooks and crannies in each room where lead dust could settle) that they are working on, and use certified-HEPA vacuums on the ceiling, walls and all other surfaces.
When the sanding is complete and the affected space is fully and completely cleaned, a third party will come to test that the lead dust has been fully removed (using lead test swipes).
We also purchased a Certified HEPA wet/dry vac for our own use on other projects at the house. Government regulations have changed significantly over the last few years regarding HEPA filtration in remodeling and renovation. Look to check that the vac that you are considering purchasing is HEPA-certified, in which all materials are HEPA-contained upon entering the vac and stay contained until safely deposited into the HEPA bag permanently. Unfortunately, standard shop vacs fitted with after market HEPA-material filters aren't certified (because the filtration comes at the end of the line in the vac and there are ways for particulates to escape before they enter the filter). Certified HEPA vacs are generally of high quality it appears, but with the tradeoff of coming with a higher price tag.
As far as the doors go, I found a local company who was able to remove the paint completely using a steam bath method. The cost of having 100% of the paint removed was about half of what the lead abatement professionals would have charged to reclaim just the narrow strip of the door and the associated jamb where friction could occur.
Here is a close up of the upstairs bathroom door showing the condition of the old paint on the doors. As you can see, we felt removing all of the paint was the best choice.
The company, which specializes in antique furniture restoration, wrapped each door in blankets before they loaded them onto their truck.
We sent a total of 28 pieces to be stripped:
16 full size paneled doors
2 full height but narrow closet doors
1 french entry door
8 small cabinet doors to fireplace mantles
1 attic hatch door
Basically, we sent them every door, cabinet or closet door that tested positive for lead paint.
Today, the doors were returned and they look much better. Above are all of our interior doors, including a french door from the side entrance and several closet doors. They will get a fresh coat of no VOC white paint.
These are the fireplace cabinet doors.
As far as the floors go, the floor refinishers are about half way through. Here is one of the rooms upstairs, after the paint has been sanded off.
Here is the landing.
And this is the master bedroom.
As another component to keeping the renovation as clean and healthy as possible, we purchased an IQ Air system that is run after any work is done. Mike leaves it on for 24 hours even though IQ Air operating manuals say that the room's air is completely cycled through (purified) within 20 minutes, depending on the speed that it is set to.
Once the floors are done, we will feel like we've made enormous progress as it has been a vital component to creating a healthy (and beautiful) home before we move in.
For stain and top coat, we will be using a green product that I will save for another post.