Lead paint is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to jump in your pursuit of purchasing a historic home. In the early 20th century, lead was added to paint to accelerate the drying process, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that could cause corrosion. While lead was banned from household paints in the United States in 1978, some older homes still have this toxic substance. This is especially true in Franklin, where most of the homes were built well before that cut-off. The paint is hazardous, especially to children, elderly, and pets, and can cause damage to the nervous system, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development.
If you think your historic home may have lead paint, there are a few things you can do to check. First, you should hire an inspector. Only a specialized tool can test the amount of lead in paint, and so only a professional can confirm your suspicion. That said, there are a few signs you can look for before the inspector arrives.
When lead paint deteriorates, it creates a pattern that looks like scales. Many professionals refer to this phenomenon as alligatoring. Finding this pattern, a series of cracks, along walls can be a great indication of lead in paint. Look inside closets, along baseboards, and window sashes – anywhere painters might overlook a spot.
If you are very worried about lead paint, you can buy an at-home testing kit from your local hardware store. Most tests involve rubbing a solution on the wall. If it turns pink, it means the paint contains lead. That said, this test has limits. If the lead-based paint is covered by newer paint, it won’t work. To really tell if your home has lead-based paint, you’ll need to do a professional test.