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How to Know If Your Home Has Lead Paint

Updated on August 9, 2023
Kenna McHugh profile image

I have done extensive research on toxic housing and construction. I value my ability to share the information with others to save lives.

Lead Paint

The problem with having lead paint in older homes is if you need to do repairs, remove wallpaper, or repaint your home, lead paint is considered a toxin that the federal government regulates. Expensive precautions need to be applied to remove the lead paint before improvements are made to the home.

But, I discovered how to save money by doing the lead test myself.

Lead paint is not an issue in newer homes. However, if your house built before 1978, the chances are pretty good, the old paint contains lead. A home with lead-based paint is hard on the home owner's pocketbook.

Homes Built Before 1978

When was lead paint banned?

Lead poisoning in paint is not an issue in newer homes because any home built before 1978 contains lead. Now, don't freak out and think all is doomed, and you need to pay $10,000 for a HAZMAT crew to clean up your poisoning paint.

My house, built in 1954, desperately needed a new coat of paint.

I asked two professional painters to look at my house and let me know how much it would cost to paint it. The first painter said my house likely had lead paint and needed the lead paint test. He had a company he used, and the cost was around $175. The next painter was even worse. The following painter's estimate was even worse. He scared me to death with a $10,000 clean-up bill before my house would ever see new paint. The painter left with the bad news, and my husband and I looked at each other and started arguing about money problems.

I was pointing fingers at each other and finding fault that we're not millionaires. We acted crazy, and I realized the painter's information upset my husband and me. I decided to look at the situation myself, which saved us thousands of dollars.

Lead Paint Testing Kit

So, I took a deep breath and thought to myself, determinedly, "I am going to research this issue with lead paint in older homes. There has to be an alternative."

I needed to know whether my home had any lead in its paint. I didn't have to spend much money, all the better for all of us. With that, I researched and discovered a lead testing kit at Home Depot for only $10.00. It is called the 3M Instant Lead Check Test and comes in 2 swabs or eight swabs packages. The equipment is easy to use. If you are unsure how to use it when you bring it home, Home Depot has a video on its website on how to use the kit. The manufacturer of the test kit produced the video.

I bought the two swabs kit for $10.00 because that is the only size Home Depot had available at the time of purchase. Besides, I figured that if one or two areas are hot (lead in paint), testing other sites is unnecessary. I did the math. I am saving money if neither location comes up hot. Then, I will decide if I should check other areas.

How to Use a Testing Kit

"We still have children suffering from lead's effects, but at least kids no longer convulse and die. If the New York City Board of Health had not banned the sale of lead paint in 1959, we would have experienced more generations of children with lead-caused severe brain damage."

— The Atlantic

What Do You Think

Do you feel confident in using over the counter lead testing kits?

See results

No Lead Paint

I picked two areas to test because they had chipped paint around the exterior. The test results were negative, with no lead. I was happy - it put a smile on my face. But I decided to get another test kit and check two other areas around the house's exterior. Like the first two spots, I know we are relatively safe to prep and paint our home if they prove negative.

I went to our neighborhood hardware store, Hollywood Hardware, and purchased a different lead testing kit, First Alert Lead Testing Kit. Because the store is closer to my home, I thought trying an additional test to ensure my house is lead-free was a good idea. The kit offers four tests for $13.00. Not a bad price compared to the 3M test kit.

Removed Poisoning Paint

I tested two separate areas and, again, no lead. After that, I felt I didn't need to check other exterior sites.

I find it hard to believe that there is no lead paint on the exterior of my home. I can only assume that one of the prior owners most likely removed the lead paint.

Test is a Lesson Learned

It was a great relief for my husband and me not to have lead paint in our 1954 home. If I hadn't investigated the matter alone, the situation would have been more expensive.

I still cannot believe that the one painter tried to scam us for thousands of dollars. He could have told us about the over-the-counter tests. But I know he had dollar signs in his eyes and wasn't thinking about helping us.

I hope this is helpful to you and anyone you know who needs to check for the lead around a house, car, or wherever. These tests are ideal and very helpful.

© 2016 Kenna McHugh


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