Until 1970, lead-based paints were used extensively on Australian homes. Until that time, the health hazards of lead were little understood and most paints contained extremely high levels of the toxic metal — as high as 50% of their entire contents in paints produced prior to 1950. Thousands of these homes are being renovated today. One of the charms of these older homes is their original fittings, such as timber windows. Whilst the windows may have been repainted many times over the years, the original lead-based paint still lurks beneath the surface.
Home renovators today appreciate the beauty of natural timber. the temptation to scrape the paint off of old timber casement windows and timber double hung windows is hard to resist, Before you do, though, it’s important understand the hazards of lead-based paints.
Lead Alert is a publication released by the Australian government designed to teach the public about the dangers of lead-based paint and how to protect yourself when stripping off old paint. The instructions begin with a list of measures you need to take before stripping paint: Some of them include:
- Wearing a particulate or air purifying respirator that meets Australian Standard (AS) 1716.
- Wearing gloves, coveralls and disposable overshoes.
- Covering the head to avoid paint dust or flakes getting into the hair.
- Wearing protective eyewear.
If these measures sound extreme, the booklet goes on to emphasise that even very small amounts of lead can be dangerous if inhaled, ingested or absorbed by the skin.
To give you an idea of how seriously the government takes this problem, allowable lead content in paint was reduced to 1% in 1970, but in 1992, it was reduced further — to just .25%. In 1997, lead content limits were reduced again to a tenth of a percent. Lead Alert recommends testing any paint in older homes (even those built after 1970) for lead content before disturbing the paint for any reason.
If you decide to strip, sand and refinish your old timber windows yourself, we recommend removing them first and doing the work outdoors. If this isn’t possible, make sure you minimise dust and the possibility of releasing lead-based paint dust or flakes into the indoor environment during or after the stripping process:
- Remove curtains and cover the floor and furnishings with plastic drop cloths.
- Wet the surface you are going to strip before you begin.
- Scrape, don’t sand. If you have to sand, use wet-dry sandpaper and clean up as you go.
- Clean up carefully.
- Remove your protective gear outdoors after cleaning up and then bathe.
Will the results of your efforts be worth it? If your timber windows were made out of the same timbers we use at Allkind Joinery Brisbane they will. The reason why our timber windows and doors are in such high demand is because of our selection of timber and meticulous attention to the highest standards of craftsmanship. We’re all for recycling timber and restoring it to its former glory. Just take care. Read more on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website before you begin and work safe with lead-based paints.
Please call us toll free on 1800 757 949 with any questions you may have on timber joinery products, our friendly staff are always happy to help with any advice you need.