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Old 06-16-2012, 04:37 AM   #1
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


We (myself & spouse) purchased our 111 year old shotgun home 2 years ago. We paid for the inspections & the house was cleared for our FHA loan.

In 2 years time we've had more of a nightmare than a dream come true.

Our first spring, when the rains came, the toilet stopped flushing & would sometimes overflow. With no clean out, they ran a camera in from the street & noticed that the tree in the right of way is wrapped around our sewer line. The assumption was tree roots. When the yard was dug up they discovered that the angle of the line from our yard to the street was too steep & a clog developed in our clay sewer line. ....Eight feet long!... Evidently, every time water went down the line the fittings of the clay allowed the liquid to seep out. A makeshift septic system...... o.O

We had to rip out 1/2 the bathroom floor due to termites & a leaking toilet that were present prior to the sale. (So much for the termite inspection.)

Had to supply a gift funds form 4 times in the first year after closing on the loan & my social security number 3 times after the one year mark, because the mortgage company (BoA) *lost* them.

One of the living room outlets is now disconnected from the breaker box because it was throwing sparks in the panel. Much of the wiring was covered in crumbling cloth & had to be replaced. (So much for the home inspection.)

The furnace crapped out at the end of our first winter here. We have since discovered that the main trunk of the duct work was laid directly on the ground at install, & as a result, the bottom rusted out.

The kitchen sink & bathroom sink were both leaking slowly at the wall & both cabinets had to be replaced, along with portions of the walls.

The 3 original rooms had paneling & drop ceiling. One of the tiles in the kitchen ceiling gave one afternoon, brought down by badly delaminating plaster above it. (Best guess, the washer & dryer's humidity.. The worst of the separation was above them.) The paneling & drop ceilings have since been removed to deal with falling debris, etc.

One of the living room walls had to be stripped to studs & drywalled because of severe damage to the plaster & lath.

The entire house (save for the one replaced wall) has no insulation. Not the 3 original rooms, the 3 additions, or the attic...

Upon replacing a missing section of plaster & lath on an interior wall next to the kitchen we discovered what looks like carpenter ant damage under the wall in the seams of the hardwood floor headed into the kitchen. The kitchen is covered with plywood underlayment & vinyl, so we have not yet investigated the extent of that damage.

The roof is sagging where the chimney used to exit. At some point it was removed just below the roof line & repaired. There are several spongy areas over the additions as well.

The vinyl siding is brittle as #e!! & there's crumbling shingle siding beneath it that's falling out the bottom of the wood, shingle, vinyl sandwich.

I received notice from the health department a few days ago that my 2 year old tested very high on lead levels. We also have a 1 year old. I picked up testing kits for water as well as solid surfaces. It's the paint. Shocking, right, in a 111 year old house... My issue is this... The walls tested positive on the old paint, as well as on the new paint (kilz primered walls, etc)

Sorry for the long ramble about a POS house & poor judgement on our part.. That having been said, what is our best option for dealing with this? Referring to the lead paint at this point.

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Old 06-16-2012, 08:48 AM   #2
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


I wish there was a way to answer your question with a few post. Basically you have to make sure there is no deteriorated paint and have a very clean home (HEPA vac, swiffer and etc.). A good place to start is http://leadfreekids.org/. Before doing any DIY projects, you need to find some "how to" at this site.

If your child (children) have high enough blood lead levels, the city/county/state may do a EBL Investigation. This will help you a lot to identify dangerous areas. What level is your child's blood lead level?

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Old 06-16-2012, 02:39 PM   #3
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


Hey Dean CRCNA, I`m pretty sure I read that lead tested positive on the new coating with the KILZ primer underneath. Doesn`t that mean the lead which has been in the old paint for who knows how long, would have had to leach through the primer into the new paint??? I would think either they got a bad sample or didn`t test properly. And if they got a bad sample here, how many more bad samples were there or how many more bad tests? Any thoughts? Might domnavenalis want to have areas tested by an independent outfit to find out exactly what and where?
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Old 06-16-2012, 02:44 PM   #4
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


Testing usually is for the presence of lead based coatings -at any level- of the coatings. To do a swab test you are supposed to cut through all layers, and the Xray gun can see through all layers.
That said, lead does not actually leach through a coating, it must be exposed in some way to the outside, and then usually needs some source of abrasion to cause it to turn to dust to become a problem.
This is why painting ( or priming ) alone is not considered 'disturbing" the lead layers, but any sanding or cutting through it is.
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Old 06-16-2012, 03:18 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by MorknMindy View Post
Hey Dean CRCNA, I`m pretty sure I read that lead tested positive on the new coating with the KILZ primer underneath. Doesn`t that mean the lead which has been in the old paint for who knows how long, would have had to leach through the primer into the new paint??? I would think either they got a bad sample or didn`t test properly. And if they got a bad sample here, how many more bad samples were there or how many more bad tests? Any thoughts? Might domnavenalis want to have areas tested by an independent outfit to find out exactly what and where?
Bushjockey gave a good answer and you are correct too. Test swabs are made to where they give many false positives and very few false negatives, because of liability concerns. Plus, some test swabs are better than others. Just the nature of the beast.

In reading some of the past threads from the OP, there are 2 primary red flags. One is that disturbing of painted/stained surfaces have been done in the recent past and the second ... is the possibility of deteriorated paint (or the child chewing on painted surfaces).

National averages state that on pre-1940 homes, there is a 21% chance of lead based paint on the interior. A 61% on the exterior.. Additionally, there is a 6% chance of lead based paint on the interior walls.

So as far as odds go ... the walls are not probably the culprit. Never say never, but just mentioning odds.
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Old 06-16-2012, 06:38 PM   #6
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


I contacted her physician's office regarding the levels. They said at 1 year she tested 1 μg/dL & at 2 years (3 weeks ago) she tested 14 μg/dL. The source of her lead exposure is either in or around our home, as my spouse is at work 80 hours a week with our only car (so we don't get out much).

I read the instructions fully before I used the lead tests. While I do understand that you are supposed to cut through all the layers of paint, when I tested the new paint I did not. That was mostly for curiosity sake. So, if lead does not leach, then it was a false positive.

Yes, I am an idiot regarding some of the recent work done to the house. Especially so, given that the thought of lead paint didn't even cross my mind. I did seal off the rooms during the work, use a HEPA vacuum, attempt to minimize dust, thoroughly clean during & after, etc. Not because of lead, but because the shell of this house is full of soot.

As for friction points that create new dust, the windows & doors were all replaced prior to our purchase. The only area(s) that currently move against one another is the ceiling/walls. The seams where the two meet have separated & we acquire ample dust (primarily soot). The ceilings themselves (living room primarily) is badly cracked & the broken segments shift each time someone goes through the attic.

The only odd thing I have seen my children actively consume is their *mud pies*. They only eat the soil in the rear of the home, just behind the additions. To test soil for possible exposure, how would I go about that?
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Old 06-17-2012, 07:14 AM   #7
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domnnavenalis

80 hours a week! Whew!

Hey don`t be hard on yourself about what is going on. Nobody I ever heard of got any wiser by osmosis. Things are what they are. It sounds like you are doing the right things to take care of the situation you have and I applaud your fortitude.

If we look at the information Dean CRCNA gave us we come up with a roughly 6% chance the interior is the culprit so it might be good to look at other possibilities.

First off if there is a lot of soot around the structure walls on the inside that could be a source of lead as there is no telling what a person with a fireplace used it for back then besides keeping warm. What about pouring fishing weights while he waited for spring to come or whatever. If the soot is in the walls it could have also settled on the ground outside. Not saying the soot is the problem only there is an avenue for deposition of lead dust there which could have contaminated the yard. Especially if the fireplace was disturbed for cleaning etc. the past 100 or so years or however long it was in use.

Next, back then there were many many situations that would lend themselves to depositing lead in the soil. For instance until 30 years or so ago, most gasoline was made using tetraethyl lead and if enough was spilled or poured to kill weeds in the back yard you could get lead there. Fishing weights, bullets, buckshot, babbit for cast iron piping seams, nails with lead washers, old exterior paint scrapings,etc. We do things a lot different now than them ole boys did back then.

I`m not saying you have a superfund site in your yard but a long time ago lead was used in ways we have now long forgotten with the new type caulks and sealants.

I would definitely test the soil for your youngsters sake and see what comes up there, with the caveat that you`re going to get false positives which is in this case not a bad thing. And as far as testing goes you might want to get someone like Dean CRCNA to come out and give you some help. It will cost you a little money yeah, but this guy will be able to better help you narrow down what you have so you can figure out where to start making things better.

See if you guys can build the kids a cheap sandbox or something until you can put all your evidence in order so you don`t risk exposing them to dirt that might be contaminated. Then, try to get your grass up so there will be at least a cursory barrier between you and your yard soil. So long as you can keep the younguns from ingesting or inhaling contaminates they will be better off.

One of my brothers has an old house and he got in the attic for several winters (your climate might be mild enough to get up there more often.) and vacuumed it clean before he reinsulated and maybe since you seem willing to do what it takes to fix this problem you could think about doing that if you can even get up there. He just used his wet-dry-vac. My sister-in-law says it made a lot of difference in the house. Just be sure you wear the proper clothing and respirator and make yourself a secure area to remove your tyvec or whatever you wear over your regular clothes. You don`t want to get sick up there trying to make things better. Or maybe you can find someone who will do this for a reasonable price.

From what little I know I can see where this is overwhelming but just take a step-by-step approach so the mountain doesn`t seem too high.

I`m not a professional remediator now so you should think about what I have written and maybe some of the guys here can add more that will be of help to you. I sure hope you can find a solution that is agreeable to your wallet and DIY expertise and I hope your youngsters don`t have any more contamination than what they have now been exposed to. Don`t give up. It will get better.
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Old 06-17-2012, 08:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by domnavenalis View Post
I contacted her physician's office regarding the levels. They said at 1 year she tested 1 μg/dL & at 2 years (3 weeks ago) she tested 14 μg/dL. The source of her lead exposure is either in or around our home, as my spouse is at work 80 hours a week with our only car (so we don't get out much).

I read the instructions fully before I used the lead tests. While I do understand that you are supposed to cut through all the layers of paint, when I tested the new paint I did not. That was mostly for curiosity sake. So, if lead does not leach, then it was a false positive.

Yes, I am an idiot regarding some of the recent work done to the house. Especially so, given that the thought of lead paint didn't even cross my mind. I did seal off the rooms during the work, use a HEPA vacuum, attempt to minimize dust, thoroughly clean during & after, etc. Not because of lead, but because the shell of this house is full of soot.

As for friction points that create new dust, the windows & doors were all replaced prior to our purchase. The only area(s) that currently move against one another is the ceiling/walls. The seams where the two meet have separated & we acquire ample dust (primarily soot). The ceilings themselves (living room primarily) is badly cracked & the broken segments shift each time someone goes through the attic.

The only odd thing I have seen my children actively consume is their *mud pies*. They only eat the soil in the rear of the home, just behind the additions. To test soil for possible exposure, how would I go about that?
Good information.

Eating mud pies would definitely do it. Playing with mud pies could definitely do it.

If you want, you can mail me soil samples and I will check them for free with my XRF. Send me a PM. I can also mail you some dust wipe test (free). Not as good as an XRF, but better than nothing. Of course, like the above post says, if you have the funds, you can hire a lead risk assessor.

Last edited by Dean CRCNA; 06-17-2012 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 06-17-2012, 08:40 AM   #9
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domnnavenalis

If we look at the information Dean CRCNA gave us we come up with a roughly 6% chance the interior is the culprit so it might be good to look at other possibilities.
6% chance of lead based paint on the walls ... not interior.
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Old 06-17-2012, 09:20 AM   #10
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


Depending on where you live, it can be in the outside soil, if you are tearing up materials, it can cause the dust that has the lead dust in it, to become airborne. When working on a old house, you almost have to keep the dust wet to keep it down, and wipe surfaces a few times.

Old houses are always adventurous, and unless you find something less than forty years old, most are going to have inherent problems like lead paint, etc. Worse when the previous ownership lets it go and does not upkeep the building.
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Old 06-17-2012, 11:09 AM   #11
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


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If you want, you can mail me soil samples and I will check them for free with my XRF. Send me a PM. I can also mail you some dust wipe test (free). Not as good as an XRF, but better than nothing. Of course, like the above post says, if you have the funds, you can hire a lead risk assessor.

look at that ! great hospitality right there
only a fool would not take him up on this.
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Old 06-17-2012, 11:38 PM   #12
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


The only time lead is a problem is when you ingest it. Unless your chewing on the walls or your eating paint chips your OK. I know you have children But i am sure your kids are way smarter and won't eat paint chips. Lead is not going to radiate poison to you. I would be more worried about lead in the solder of the copper pipes then the paint.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:36 AM   #13
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Mud pies are the problem. I'd bet my bottom dollar on it.


My house is 100 years old and I love her. We belong to a group of old home enthusiasts and it's virtually UNHEARD of not to have lead issues with the soil around them, both from the paints and the environmental toxins of city life like leaded gas, etc. A cheap fix, lay out weed cloth and add a layer of mulch over any exposed areas of dirt. Stop the mud pies completely by replacing the area with a $40 turtle sand box with lid. Close the lid when it's not in use to keep the neighborhood cats from using it for a litter box. Think of it this way, any exposed dirt is a lead source, so either effectively cover it in mulch or rock or something, or grow grass there, just to assure the mud pies and mud parties are only in your sandbox.


The lead paint is most often a problem in areas where paint is NOT flat, like interior walls, but with a luster (e.g. doors and windows, trimwork) or exterior paint, where the stronger paint formulas were thought to be advantageous because the areas are more contacted. If your house (exterior) was ever painted by an uninformed painter, they may have pressure washed it to prep it, but that is a huge no-no with old houses (illegal in Iowa, for instance) because it washes particles from the paint into the adjacent soil. Also, when they removed the windows and doors, they may have cut wood and the dust they created is a problem. Wet mop hardsurface flooring daily with a swiffer type (moist) product that you can throw away and instill frequent handwashings with little ones as they tend to crawl around and then put things into their mouths with the dust. Believe it or not, the less carpet you have, the better, because you can pretty easily manage to remove trace dust daily from hard surface flooring. Also, favorite toys that are rubbed on the floors, like say cars that roll on the floor, they are picking up the dust too, and likely being mouthed at that age, so they need a Clorox wet wipe wipe down at least once a week, but think of it as a little added bonus because you'll all have less germs in the house because of that, because that age they are little walking petri dishes LOL.


They replaced ALL the interior doors? Did they pull out all of the trimwork? (As an old home enthusiast, I'd be sad if they did, but I digress) If they left the trimwork, then the new doors may be rubbing during their normal use up against lead paint in the door jamb and releasing the dust. The test is really very easy, too, as is the remediation in this type of scenario. There are 2 ways to handle it, either use a heat gun at a low temp (look up the specific temp so as not to go too high release lead vapors) and get the trim paint to bubble off OR use a gel paint stripper and work it up, then repaint with a couple good coats of trim paint and clean with a moist cloth the doors edges that had been contacting the jamb and making the dust before.

Also, depending on where you are, there may be programs that will pay a tester to come and identify and sometimes even help remediate the problems, but my money remains on mud pies seasoned with the dust of trimwork.


I'm sorry your inspector(s) may have sucked a bit, but try to love your old house a little, and I bet she'll love you back. Old houses have personalities, charms, souls even... and like a grouchy little old lady, when you mess with her it better be well thought out or she might whap you with her cane
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Old 06-19-2012, 04:41 PM   #14
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big rant, lead paint, small budget, small children... help!


As for my children being *way smarter*, that's still up in the air. They're also 13 & 25 months old & still eat everything that crosses their path. (The 25 month old chipped her front teeth a month ago nibbling on a pebble.)

The 25 month old is in speech therapy & is scheduled for testing regarding possible *absence seizures* as well as autism. Her providers are now wondering how much lead exposure has played a role in her struggles.

As for the doors being replaced... the front, rear, & bathroom doors have all been replaced though the bathroom is an addition. There is an original side door in the living room which has not been opened in years. It's basically a window. (We have never opened it, just weather proofed around it's seams.) There are no other interior doors (which sucks!).

All of the original trim was removed when the paneling & drop ceilings were installed. The door & window trim was replaced with 1x6 pine & the baseboard molding was replaced with the cheapest they could find.

From what I gathered, the kitchen used to possess tongue & groove wainscoting without plaster & lath behind it. They pulled most of it & used it as a backer for the paneling to bring the studs flush with the plaster before hanging the panels. They even used the tongue & groove as a cabinet backing when they (poorly) constructed the old sink cabinet. (Boy were we surprised when we pulled the paneling & found that the lower 30~ inches of the wall around the entire room gave us a nice view of the old wood siding.)

The few areas of yard that were bare have been seeded for grass. We're picking up a sandbox this week. Hopefully we can remedy this problem soon.

I like our old house. However, the plan was to move across the country in 5 years to live near family. With all the troubles this house seems to possess, I'm not certain we'll be able to sell it when the time comes. I know, I know, one step at a time. It's just a little frustrating, & at times, overwhelming.
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:04 PM   #15
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The only time lead is a problem is when you ingest it.
Dust is an issue as it can land on any and every surface. Surfaces where food is prepped, food is stored, plates, etc... and if my friends' kids are any indication---at that age the hands touch everything and the hands go into the mouth.

So ingestion seems likely when there is dust flying. Inhalation would be an issue too, open some windows or turn on a fan and you're blowing dust around.

Probably worth point out that a consumer "HEPA" vacuum is not even close to the type of HEPA vacuums for lead, asbestos, etc... You're probably better off physically wiping the surfaces with damp clothes to pick up the dust.

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