Tyneside: 0191 340 3192

County Durham: 01388 345 530

Teesside: 01642 989 001

How to know if your paint needs to be tested for lead

Home office with warm sky blue paint

Up until the 1960s lead was a common ingredient in paint and it continued in some applications until the 1980s. It was used in obvious places like doors, door frames, windows, bannisters, and skirting boards, but also in less obvious places like loft ladders.

In older houses, it could be present on plaster walls. Commercially it was often used on metalwork including parts of plant, ladders, and lifts.

You can see our guide to the legislation and places to find lead paint on our website here:

Which properties are likely to be affected?

If your paintwork has existed since the 1960s (or 1980s in heritage properties), or earlier, even if repainted, then lead may remain in lower layers. It is likely to be safe however if sealed and unbroken.

The UK government publishes a guide to what you should look out for.

Any instance of paintwork not repainted since the 1960s (or 1980s for heritage properties), for example in an unused property, would be a priority. This would need to be investigated before any work was done on the property, including demolition.

What to look for

The risk becomes serious in instances in which paint is flaking, damaged, or disturbed. That is because the risk is in ‘friable’ material which can become airborne and therefore be inhaled.

If carrying out significant refurbishments then there is a heightened risk of exposure to lead paint by disturbing the lower layers. We have seen examples in demolishing sites or changes of use e.g. dividing a building into smaller units or changing use from retail to residential.

What to do if you suspect lead paint

Contact a professional.

Various things can be done, from a single, low-cost test of an area of paint to a survey of the whole property with multiple tests taken.

Don’t do any refurbishment or building work until the presence of lead is ruled out. Creating dust and fumes from e.g. sanding or removing paint is the last thing you want.

If lead is confirmed in a sample

In a domestic setting, if lead paint is confirmed, you have several options:

  • Remove the item (e.g. a window or door) without any damage to the paintwork.
  • Manage it – paint over the top of it and monitor it to keep it undamaged.
  • Remove it carefully yourself using paint stripper or wet washing. Never use an abrasive material.

There is guidance on how to safely remove paint, and the safety precautions to take in this government leaflet.

Remember to take care with the clothing that you wear during the work, as it might become contaminated with lead dust.

In a commercial setting, a DIY job or work by a general maintenance team is NOT an option. The legal duty not to expose others to lead paint dust and fumes must be taken seriously. This is contained within The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, also known as the L132 (Third edition). There is an associated code of practice and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

You should either make it safe or have the paintwork removed by a trained and competent professional.

How can we help?

We can sample specific areas at a low cost to tell you whether or not there is lead present.

Alternatively, we can carry out a thorough survey of a property or part of a property, taking multiple samples and providing complete assurance.

There are two main types of sampling:

  • Swab testing – lower in cost but giving an indication rather than a completely certain result. The tests contain the chemical sodium rhodizonate which chemically reacts with lead particles and turns red. This Test has a 95% confidence rating.
  • A physical sample tested in a lab. This will give certainty but costs slightly more. The full lab analysis is necessary to be certain. The lab analysis uses Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. This has a much higher confidence plus it will give a reading of lead concentration (mg/kg).

For residential property, our swab sampling exercise starts from £105 for a single sample. A swab sample survey starts from £300 with swab testing and £420 with physical sampling and lab testing.

We can combine this with an asbestos survey for cost efficiency. If you are renovating and need an Asbestos Demolition and Refurbishment Survey, then this is the ideal time to do both.

If you are unsure of any issues related to lead paint or asbestos then feel free to contact us.

Previous ArticleNext Article