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If you live in a vintage home, you’ve probably encountered lead paint or have wondered if it’s lurking. To be honest, unless a previous owner took the initiative to remove it all, the chances are pretty good it’s someone in the house.

Generally speaking, a good benchmark is 1978. After the federal government banned lead-based paint for consumer use in 1978, most people became aware that it was toxic. So if your house dates back before then, just be aware that the subject might come up at some point.

There is good news, though. If the paint is in good shape or buried under layers of paint or wallpaper, you don’t really have to worry about it. The problems arise when you want to remodel and create a construction zone or when the paint itself becomes damaged. That can mean anything from peeling, cracking, chipping, water-damaged paint.

To see if you have lead-based paint in your home, it’s pretty easy to pick up a DIY test kit. If you want it removed, though, it might be best to consult a pro. Plenty of people do try to rid their homes of lead paint but it’s a messy job—and it’s toxic. We like to recommend the “better safe than sorry approach.”

Here are a couple of tips to remember:

  • Covering up a layer of lead-based paint is OK if you straight up cover it. If you sand anything, that creates lead dust. So, little lead clouds, if you will.
  • If you remodel, that will disturb the paint so you’ll need a pro to help rid the area of paint and dispose of it.
  • Regardless of if you’re remodeling or want to update your paint job, pay special attention to friction areas, like windows and doors. Opening and closing them can cause damage to the paint.
  • Absolutely no children, pregnant women or pets in the vicinity of lead paint dust or removal.

So if you are in the market for a vintage house or already live in one, consider what it might take to get rid of the home’s lead paint.

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