Lead Abatement and Removal

Parent Q&A

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  • Seeking community input: our lovely Berkeley bungalow is 100 years old and the interior trim is all painted. Some areas are showing wear, and there are some spots where the paint is rubbing off, such as between door and door frames. It’s not a huge surface area but I’m assuming there’s lead paint in the under layers so I’m looking for an interior painter/painting company who will do it right and follow the mitigation safety guidelines (we have a baby and want to take care of it and then deep clean asap). We got an estimate from MB Jessee and I’m wondering if anyone can recommend others for comparison. Also interested in any feedback on MB Jessee, their description of the approach seems thorough and safe, but the estimate came in twice as high as the ballpark figure they shared at the walk-through and it’s not itemized so I’m not feeling as confident. 

    We have used Stahlschmidt Painting and restoration several times for both interior an exterior painting on our 1912 house, and chose them in part due to their lead safety.  They are highly skilled and qualified to deal with lead paint.  Owner Hans is also communicative, listens, and has a great eye for color. The crew has been pretty consistent over the years, too, so I feel like they are probably treated well  They appear to wear appropriate safety equipment (unlike some I've seen around)  

    From their website: "We are one of the few outfits that have the training and expertise to legally handle the work on older pre-70s buildings that have underlying layers of lead paint on their interior and exterior surfaces...."


  • Lead paint removal

    Jan 10, 2024

    Does anyone have referrals or recommendations for removing paint that has lead? I saw some referrals, but the most recent one seems to be from 2011. 

    We're renting a 1930's house and don't have a big budget. But it's a long-term rental (from a family member) and we'd like to paint.  

    The walls of the kitchen have an incredibly slick paint that has never been successfully covered. It's the original paint from the 1930's. Any painting jobs have slowly stripped off of this amazingly long-lasting paint. 

    I know everyone recommends against diy with lead paint. Just wondering if anyone has anyway and has recommendations. Thanks!

    No lead removal recommendations but have you tried a bonding primer?  I've used a product called STIX bonding primer (there are also other brands out there) that adheres to anything and so far holds up really well.  It can then be painted with whatever regular paint you want to use.  Might be worth a shot to avoid sanding.

    Lead paint removal is a huge undertaking, but a good painter can cover lead paint successfully. (You can also consider encapsulation, which is more expensive than just repainting but less expensive than removal.) It sounds like you probably have oil-based paint in your kitchen, and my guess is that people have been trying to cover it with latex paint (which won't work). Oil-based paint has to be properly prepped and primed or modern latex paints will peel right off. You absolutely can learn how to paint it yourself (or, if you want, how to safely strip it) but both are big projects--this is an area where I definitely spend money, even as someone who generally likes to DIY. With painting, prep is everything, and it takes an enormous amount of time to do it properly. If you have the time and energy to take it on yourself, you'll save quite a bit, but just know that it takes a lot of patience. Good luck!

    Contact the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch. They certify folks in abatement and I believe have a list. 

  • Lead paint in rental house

    Feb 21, 2018


    I am a renter in Oakland with a ten-month-old. I did some testing around the house for lead when I was pregnant, but I guess I wasn't very thorough -- my mom was just visiting and did a different test and found lead underneath chipping paint on our windowsills, and it looks like it might be on baseboards, as well. We live in an old house (~1920) and there is also carpeting, which probably contains lead dust from the chipping paint. I am in a bit of a panic and would love suggestions about contractors to use and other things we can do in the meantime. We have contacted our landlord who is usually quite responsive, but any additional support/advice would be appreciated. Thanks! 

    Start here: http://www.achhd.org/contactus.htm

    Once I started a dialog with this department for our issues (contractors working next door in all kinds of violation of lead safe rules, and the presence of lead paint on our own property), they were very, very responsive and helpful. They came down and fined the contractors next door within a couple of days. They answered all of my concerns by phone. Highly recommended.


    I've lived in a number of old houses (2 with my now 2.5 year old) and all of them have had a lead paint disclosure. Most paint was lead-based back before 1971. As long as it's painted over and not chipping (and your 10-month old isn't gumming the walls) it should present no problems. So I would definitely see about getting your landlord to have the house freshly repainted, and fix any doors or windows that might not close cleanly as that can promote further chipping.

    Hope that helps!

    This is a common issue in older homes. One of the cheaper remediation options is to simply paint over the old lead-based paint. Sounds like this was done here as the more expensive options involves the guys in hazmat suits removing all the paint. The best thing you can do is to paint over the windowsills and to vacuum/steam clean the carpets if you're concerned about dust. You'll have to talk to your landlord about fully removing the old paint although it's way more expensive and legally all that's required is to cover it up.

     Here is what I would do if I were you .  I’d give my landlord a heads up .  Buy a sander and a dust mask  and some paint .  Sand down the chipped areas especially the ones in your kids reach And paint over it.  You can’t really get rid of every speck of lead but you can contain it.  And that is safe .  As for your carpet I would think a good vacuuming would do it .  But maybe a shampoo would help you feel better about the whole thing as well. 

    Hi there! When you signed your lease there should have been a disclosure about lead paint. If you signed the lead disclosure then your landlord may not want to mitigate the issue. At the least you could request proper testing of the paint or if testing has been done in the past by the owner then request to see the testing results. Most of the kits you buy over the counter do not detect lead levels very accurately and they do not tell you the actual parts per million (ppm) of the lead content in the paint. You need that information to know if there is a hazard present that is above the EPA regulated lead level. I have kids too and live in an older home. I am also a historic preservation specialist, so I deal with lead paint every day with my job. I know I have lead paint in my home just given its age. My focus is making sure the paint on the abrasion surfaces is sound. That would be the inside jamb of the windows and the window sash itself. So the moving parts of the window that rub against each other and create lead dust. You can just have a painter start with those areas. The other location that tends to be of concern is the window stool. That is the inside window sill piece the sticks out from the wall. It is at the perfect height for chewing toddlers. You may want to focus on striping that surface as well. Other than that I do not worry so much in my house. I do however get my kids tested for lead by our peds doc on a regular basis. 

    Alameda County has a lead abatement and inspection program.  I would start with them.  They can help you evaluate the situation' and make recommendations.   A "Hepa" vacuum will pick up lead dust.   Since 10 month olds put everything into their mouths, that is scary.   Tell your doctor, he or she can test the baby for lead contamination and you will know if you have a problem now.  I don't think lead stays in the blood more than a couple of weeks though.   If you are renting, can you move?   Good luck.  

    I had a similar scare when my son was a baby.  I spoke with someone at the Alameda County Health Department and she was very helpful.  It's been a number of years now, but I do remember she encouraged us to get blood tests, to keep the floors clean, and to eat a diet rich in iron and vitamin-C.  As soon as we got the blood tests (which were clean) it was a huge relief.  We're now in a different old apartment and I assume there's lead here, too, but I don't worry about it.  We continue to clean the floors and make sure our kid gets lots of iron and vitamin C. 

    The County's website has a lot of information: http://www.achhd.org/index.htm

    This booklet in particular is helpful:  http://www.achhd.org/documents/tenantguideenglish.pdf

    Generally, the recommendation I have heard in the past is to just paint again to contain the lead. But you can't paint without sanding. And if you sand, you release the lead into the air. Even tiny amounts of lead can cause serious problems. I would suggest moving before your child becomes mobile. I wouldn't want my kid crawling around on a floor with bits of lead in the dust. 

    Your landlord is required to provide a disclosure about the existence of lead paint, which you likely would have signed when you started renting this house. If the paint is chipping, he is only required to encapsulate it by painting over it. (Full abatement or window replacement is very expensive.) This task must be performed by a painting contractor who is certified by the California Dept of Public Health. A certified painting contractor must follow certain protocols, including using a HEPA vacuum to prevent the spread of lead chips and dust. Don't attempt to sand and paint yourself. There are serious fines if you do so. Your landlord should organize any painting job to encapsulate lead. Many homes in the Bay Area are old and have lead paint, and people have managed to survive all these years without getting lead poisoning. Frequent cleaning of floors and windows would help. However, If you are still concerned about your child being exposed to lead, then you should consider moving to a house constructed after 1978, when lead was banned from paint in California. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Lead paint remediation

Feb 2012

My husband and I are expecting our first child in May, and since we live in an old San Francisco building with a significant amount of peeling paint, we're concerned about lead levels. We spoke to our landlord, who despite some initial balking, asked us to find out what needs to be done to remediate the lead problem (and there definitely is one; the building is pre- 1906) and get him the names of some contractors. We honestly have no idea what lead remediation involves, or how to find the right contractor for the job. Is this a huge job? Will it cost our landlord tens of thousands of dollars? Since we are only renters, the most we can ask him to do is to bring the unit up to SF code. If anyone has experience with anything like this, we'd love to hear from you! Thanks!

Ugh, lead paint. We had the same issue (not to mention asbestos!) I'd call a good painter to give you options and speak to your landlord. We used Ken White and he's definitely going to be a good option for you, because he's been doing this forever and your landlord would be hard-pressed to discount anything he tells him, and he's someone who'd be willing to explain his recs to your landlord. (415) 533-0999 leddit

The Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is no longer providing lead paint or soil testing services or test kits. But the Program is continuing to offer free in-home consultations and classes to owners of pre-1978 residential properties in Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland. Financial and technical assistance services are also available for rental properties with low-income tenants. And healthy homes services are available for eligible families with a child with asthma to help reduce asthma triggers in the home. For more information call the public information line at 510-567-8280 or visit www.aclppp.org

Remember, even very small amounts of lead can cause serious long term health effects for your child. Make sure they are tested at 12 and 24 months if you have any reason to suspect they may have been exposed to lead. And learn how to work lead-safe on your home. Call the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 510-567-8280 if you have any questions. Julie

Painter to Remove Lead Based Paint

Aug 2011

I'd like to find a good, yet inexpensive painter trained in the removal of lead paint. I'd like to repaint my windowsills and doors and it seems there is some lead in the existing paint. Toxic Free

My coworker recommended painter Ramon Meza at 510-875-5479 because I needed to fix problems from previous poor work to my Aameda home. I've hired Ramon for inside and outside complete prep and repainting and now I wouldn't hire anyne else. He is trustworthy, professional and reliable. The work is beauiful and will last. My home was built in 1986, so lead paint was not an issue for me, but I know he does excelent work. Good luck! Susan

Dan Prine 510-860-9166 is a great painter that is certified in lead removal. He has done a lot of interior and exterior work for me, and has always done an excellent job. He is clean, reliable and reasonably priced. I highly recommend him. Lisa S.

I live in an old house that was built in the 1920s. We just had our house painted indoors and outdoors by a wonderful painter named Aurel Cimpoaie. He is certified to deal with lead paint removal and he is meticulous in his work. He also keeps his staging areas very neat. His prices are very reasonable for the caliber of work he does, and he finishes projects on time. His phone is 510-303-4691 and License #: 950759. Rachel

Lead abatement - kitchen cabinets & window replacement

Sept 2009

I've got a 1930s house with some big projects. I'm looking for a responsive contractor to do lead abatement & repaint our basement and the drawers/cabinets in our kitchen. One issue is whether it's worth the cost to have someone sand off the original paint from the kitchen drawers & cabinets, or whether we have to replace them. We weren't planning a full remodel quite yet... We are also replacing our old windows, and need to find a contractor who will take out the dry rot and replace the stucco siding. The windows are old, and are likely to have lead issues as well. Any suggestions? We've had trouble finding people who'll follow through on their commitments and make sure the job is done right. Separate recommendations for painting and window replacement companies are fine as well, as are recommendations for women-run businesses. New(ish) Berkeley Hills houseowner

I don't have a specific contractor recommendation for you, as the guy we worked with doesn't really do cabinets. But I highly recommend that you take the *free* class on lead-safe remodeling offered by the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention program. http://www.aclppp.org/homeown.htm This will help you decide exactly what you want done and how, and it will prepare you to interview contractors and oversee the work. The guys from ACLPP will also come out and do a free assessment of your home and give you advice and a kit for testing levels in different areas. They are awesome. As for how to deal with cabinets specifically, it depends mainly on how intact the current paint is. If you just have chipping in a few areas, I would definitely go with minor repairs rather than true abatement. (This will be the recommendation in the class.) Our 1890 house is full of lead, lead, lead, but it's all safely encapsulated & we now know how to deal it when we do have to disturb it. Best of luck to you! Old home here, too

Editor Note: recommendations were also received for Contractors

Someone to do odd jobs who is careful to control the lead dust

April 2009

I am looking for a handyperson for small odd jobs. Can anyone recommend someone who is careful to control the lead dust? careful consumer

You are going to want to use somebody that carries a state Certification as a Lead Abatement Supervisor or Project Monitor. I had great luck with Thousand Oaks Painting. My house had a ton of lead peeling all over it, Thousand Oaks came in and they were very professional. I really can't say enough about the service they provide. It is a family owned and operated company, everyone there was either born or raised in Berkeley/Albany. No Home Depot Joe's. Contact (510) 410-6806 and talk to Bruce, Roland or Mark. You won't be sorry. Be Lead Safe

Best way to remove lead-based paint from trim?

Oct 2008

I have a house built in 1910 and thus that many years of lead based paint. I was wondering if anyone has used the chemical/eco friendly base paint removal system to remove the paint from the trim (RemovAll, Smart strip...)? Did any of these really work? I cannot keep painting over and I have small kids in the house. Thus, I really need paint out of the house and stop chipping. I will have to do this myself since we do not have the funds to have someone else do the painting. Worried Parent

I used 3M Safest Stripper several years ago and had great success. You need alot of rags or paper towels to clean it off and you will likely repeat the process two or three times if you are trying to restore the wood underneath. It strips many layers at once, I just followed the directions on the carton. Remember not to sand or scrape any of it while it is dry, and to dispose of the paper towels/rags as hazardous material. Sue

In our previous house we had some areas with lead paint. I did a lot web research, and thru Alameda County there was a program where they'd give Alameda residents a lead removal kit and info on how to do it yourself. I don't know if the kits are still available (I got mine at thru the Osh Hardware on Ashby), but the same information on how to remove lead paint that was in the kit was on line. The kit had: a disposable coverall, disposable mask, scraper, a spray bottle, and this liquid to dilute in the spray bottle (to spray on the lead paint areas to minimize dust as you scraped). They said to rent a vacum with a HEPA filter (we got one from some industrial rental company on MacCarther, found it in the phone book). The kit said to wear the coverall and mask, and scrape off as much of the flaking lead paint as you could, spraying the area as you went to stabalize any dust, then vacumming everything up with the HEPA vac. Then when all loose material was scraped off, to prime the area then paint over it. That was it. Very simple. If you are painting over lead paint and it is still flaking up, then you may be using the wrong type of paint. For example, if you are painting latex on top of an older oil based paint, then it won't stick. another broke homeowner

We bought a UV heat element that fuses multiple layers of paint together so they can be scraped off in one piece. It is about shoebox size and costs about $500. Replacement elements cost $100 and I did break one. We stripped the exterior of our old house down to redwood. It does not work very well on single layers. If you leave it on the paint for long enough (30secs to 1min) it willl usually separate easily from underlying wood, though ease of removal varies and seems to depend on the condition of the wood/how it was treated prior to painting/how much sun/water exposure it has had. The chunks of paint are collected on heavy plastic drop cloths and discarded as hazardous waste. We used this in conjunction with a heat gun for smaller areas. We bought a variety of good quality scrapers from the hardware store and have used them all.

It is a long process though not unpleasant if you have the time. Don't try to use just a ladder as you need traction to do heavy scraping. If you cannot stand on the ground you'll need scaffolding. Wear reflective safety glasses and the mask that makes you look like a fly and scares the littler kids in the neighborhood (don't turn around when a stroller passes). Kathy

We rent - there is lead paint on the windows

March 2008

We rent an apartment that has lead paint on the windows, which are in disrepair. Our landlord hasn't been helpful and we need to figure out what to do. The first step seems to be getting an EPA certified lead paint assessor. Can anyone recommend someone?

start by calling the alameda county lead poisoning prevention program. they provide a wide array of services free. as a renter though, you may need your owner to make the official request. they can refer you to inspectors if need be. but definitely call them first. 567-8282
public health employee

How can we safely paint old house?

Sept 2006

We have a 75 year old very small stucco bungalow with wood trim in need of painting. The issue is that underneath the current paint on the trim is a layer of lead paint (or part of a layer--house was sanded at that time, I think, about 12 years ago). I know there are all sorts of recommendations about not sanding lead paint but I see homeowners and painters alike working on similar houses all over our neighborhood who seem to sand with abandon. How can we safely repaint while minimizing lead exposure to our two youngsters and also not spend an arm and a leg but still do a decent job repainting (which everyone tells me involves sanding!)? anonymous

I do think your concerns are very valid. We just re-painted the exterior of our house (built in 1940), and my husband scraped the whole thing, and carefully contained the scrapings. He had heard of someone's dog getting very sick from the lead based paints. It's a lot more tedious, but a lot safer. anon

Lead-safe Painters

March 2007

Help! We need to paint our house, inside and out, this year. We're looking for someone who is going to be very conscientious about lead abatement. The people mentioned in the archives are popular and busy, we've called multiple times and haven't heard back. We need some new people to call. Syndallas

I strongly recommend MB Jessee painting. The owner, Matt Jessee has been a painter since he was a kid. His company has worked largely in Piedmont and Montclair. This is a company that is very serious about delivering a top quality service, and really taking care of its customers. You will not find a company with more integrity. They have an account manager who is there to take care of YOU. On the off-chance that a problem arises, they fix it immediately. You will not, I repeat NOT get shoddy work from these guys, they are all about giving the customer quality and VALUE for your money spent. The account manager is Jon - I have his business card - call him at (510) 393-8686. I believe that his policy is to return all calls within 24 hours, but you will probably get a return call the same day, depending upon when you call. Looks like they also have a web-site: www.mbjessee.com.

May 2004

We are searching for a high-quality painter who follows strict guidelines from HUD on lead-safe practices. We just fired our painter mid-job for contaminating our house with lead dust from heavily sanding the exterior without proper precautions (resulting in professional cleanup, much angst, etc.). We are also looking for an incredibly high-quality result. Any recommendations? nancy

Call Hans Stahlschmidt for lead safe painting. He is certified in lead safe paint removal. He and his crew are prompt, neat and professional. They did a great job on our house, showed up early, cleaned up every day, and completed the job a day ahead of schedule. They were very careful around our plants close to the house as well, which is not always the case with contractors. Very high quality work. S Au

Removing lead-based paint

March 2004

We are looking for a good and experienced painter who also is certified to do lead abatement. We have some outside window sills and possible inside windows which need painting and contain lead. We have a 3 year old and don't want lead dust everywhere. We also have a 2 story house and a tile roof so we need someone who can deal difficult to access windows. We'd appreciate a recommendation for a reasonably priced good house painter who is lead certified or at least has taken the class in Alameda County.

Try Stahlschmidt Painting and Restoration. He was recommended by our general contractor, since we, too, wanted someone certified in working with old lead paint. We were very happy with the outcome. He did a GREAT job finding just the colors we wanted, and his crew was very professional. They prepped well, painted, and cleaned up afterwards. Where one minor spot did not take well, they came back and fixed it without any questions. It's been a couple of years now, and it still looks like new. I don't know what they charge, since we just paid our general contractor for a large project; he subbed out the exterior painting. Satisfied customer


Hans Stahlschmidt is a Berkeley painter (510-848-4040) who really does know about the safe way to remove paint. Others may claim to but I've yet to see any painter take the care Hans did. Here's what Hans did for our house: machine sanders had HEPA filters, hand sanding was done with TSP spray (binds with lead and keeps dust down), plastic put on ground each day during prep work and carefully rolled up and disposed of, plastic curtains put between us and neighbors, windows sealed with plastic OUTSIDE AND INSIDE and vacuums with HEPA filters used to clean windows after removing plastic. His workers also wore the right kind of filters, etc. He's got a great sense of color, is very professional, clean & thorough. Two years later he did touch up work for free. He's very expensive but it was worth every penny to not have our property contaminated with lead paint chips or lead paint dust. -- Brenda
(AND he also has sponsored a softball team in the Albany-Berkeley Girls Softball League! - Nancy)

Another approach to removing porch paint is to rent a high pressure washer and blast it off. I was going to do that, but found thru a free visit from the Alameda County Lead Abatement Program (567-8280) that it would be hard to contain the lead. I painted over the ugly paint. The lead abatement program is a great resource, for measuring lead in homes, and supplying information and equipment to take care of -Shirley

Inspection for lead

October 1999

Does anyone know of an agency that will come to your home and assess it for the presence of lead? I live in Albany in a home built in the 1940's and am concerned about the possibility that old coats of paint containing lead may leech into soil or eventually become exposed in areas like window sills that are subject to lots of abrasion. Apparently Berkeley's Health and Human services used to provide this service but now only provides it to low income families. I'm not sure where to look now. Alisa

Alameda County has an excellent lead program. Their number is 510/567-8282.

Lead Paint Evualation: If you are a home owner you can have your home (in and out) and yard tested for lead paint for FREE. We just had it done it this very week was very informative. Call Alameda County Lead Poisioning Prevention Program at 567-8282 for more information. The woman that you want to speak to Josephina Cornejo...she'll let you know if you qualify.

If you own your own a house that was built before 1978 and you live in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland or Emeryville, you are in luck. Your taxes will pay for a full inspection of your home--inside and out, through the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in Oakland. If they find lead during the inspection, they will provide a plan to help you deal with it. This service, if you paid for it yourself, would run around $900. Upon your request, they will send you an application for their services as well as a packet of information. A friend of mine is now dealing with lead poisoning in her 3 year-old. It has had a devastating impact on her child's development, as his hearing, and thus his speech, have been impacted, and she is now dealing with this along with other long-term health issues. The worst effects are in children under the age of six, but lead is a threat to adults as well. The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can be reached by calling 567-8282. Good luck! Sarah