Detection and remediation of lead based paint in Washington DC Homes. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint in some areas. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning, but it is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is a hazard and needs immediate attention.

What Is Lead Based Paint?

Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, tiredness and irritability. Children who are lead poisoned may also show no symptoms. Both inside and outside the home, deteriorated lead-paint mixes with household dust and soil and becomes tracked in. Here is important information for DC homeowners:

  • If your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance lead based paint was used;
  • There are tests available to DC lead based paint content in your home at EPA;
  • If results are positive, you’ll need to take special steps to remove or remediate;
  • If you’re selling your home, you’ll have to disclose your knowledge of the presence of lead based paint on your DC real estate disclosure forms.
Removal And Remediation Of Lead Based Paint

There are a number of ways certified professionals can remediate lead based paint in Washington DC homes:

  • Encapsulation of DC lead based paint is favored as the least expensive option for lead based paint remediation in Washington DC, and the one requiring the smallest investment of time and effort. Many DC Metro rehabbers use the encapsulation method and you’ll notice examples of this in period homes throughout the region when you see overpainted baseboards and other trim, window frames and doors carrying multiple layers of paint with old drips and flaws glossed over by a new coat of paint rather than being stripped and sanded. This is likely because the rehabber didn’t want to deal with the expense of lead paint removal. Encapsulation is simply coating the paint with a special sealant that you can roll or brush on. The downside? Sealant can be worn or chipped off over time. There is also an aesthetic downside. You’ll be unable to remove the layers of paint beneath the sealant. Often we see trim and moldings that have many layers of paint built up, some less than perfect (drips, gouges, uneven layers, etc.) and you won’t be able to correct those imperfections. Encapsulation sealants start at about $35 per gallon. The amount you’ll need will depend on the amount of woodwork in the home;
  • Enclosure is also a popular method of dealing with lead-based paint associated with DC real estate. Enclosure involves covering the old material with new, whether drywall or cladding. The downsides to this method are that you’ll lose some small increment of space to the addition of a new surface, curved and ornate surfaces will be difficult or impossible to cover (the encapsulation method can be used for these) and if you remove the new surface, you’ll have to deal with the problem all over again. Cost will depend on the surfaces requiring enclosure in your DC Metro home and the enclosure product you choose;
  • Removal and replacement are the best way to deal with lead based paint, but are also the most expensive options in the short term. In the long term, they become more cost effective since you’ll have to do it only once and removal/replacement will enhance the resale value of your DC real estate. Removal should be performed by a licensed, certified professional familiar with DC real estate. The contractor may employ a variety of methods including wet scraping and wet sanding (which requires specialized sanding equipment), wire brushing and the use of liquid stripping products and tools. There are prohibited methods of removing lead-based paint, such as machine sanding without the proper HEPA sanding equipment, power washing or sand blasting without the appropriate containment equipment and strategies, burning and torching. There are laws that apply to lead-based paint removal and you’ll be required to adhere to them. Replacement involves removal of the contaminated surfaces and installing new ones. There are prescribed methods of doing this, as well.
Monitoring Lead Based Paint
What about DC lead based paint that isn’t chipping, peeling or flaking? Experts say if the lead-based paint surfaces in your home are in good condition, and if there are no children under the age of 6 in the home, you may be able to leave things as they are and monitor the surfaces for changes. If you put your home on the market, you’ll be required to disclose the existence of DC lead-based paint if you know it exists, and lead based paint disclosures are required when selling real estate in the DC Metro region. Learn more about lead-based paint regulations at your regional DC Metro EPA office or online at: EPA Virginia EPA DC EPA “Renovate Right” brochure EPA’s “Protect Your Family From Lead” brochure.
Updates in the District of Columbia
Here’s a link to certified lead paint remediates approved in the District.
DC Lead Disclosure Form Update

The DC Lead Disclosure Form is being updated to reflect a new DC law regarding disclosure of lead in water pipes. Learn more here. The form is currently undergoing stakeholder review and is subject to change. We have updated our library to reflect the most current version of the form on the DC government’s website. Please check dc.gov to ensure that you are using the most recent version of the form. You may also call the DC Department of Energy & Environment at 1-800-855-1000 or email them at [email protected] if you have any questions.