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paint, architectural history

Taking Care of Your Own Lead Paint Removal

By Cabin Fervor (formerly Thirtyeight20) on Aug 12, 2013

When I first saw this idea, I thought it was ridiculous. A painted runner could be nice, sure, but who would paint just the outer edges and leave the runner exposed? Dumb. But now I'm kind of infatuated with it. I want a stained stair runner! To me it feels unexpected yet real and unpretentious -- but it definitely has to be in the right house. I think ours could be that house.

stairrunner.jpg
Source: Pinterest dead end. Bummer.


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Source: Shootfactory


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Source: Jacqueline's "Historied Home" House Tour on Apartment Therapy

Seriously, I really do want this in my house, but I'm not quite sure if it will work out yet. Ez tells me not to hope, yet I hope...

We have a set of 110-year-old stairs in our kitchen that I insisted we keep despite Ez's objections. History! I said. Convenience! I said. Having lost the original plank floors upstairs and the original fireplace in the kitchen due to structural issues, I wanted to preserve something. Then renovation reality struck again: we had to fix the foundation, jack up the second floor and pour a new concrete kitchen floor. Since we now have a kitchen ceiling height of 8+ feet instead of 7, the stairs had to be moved and partially rebuilt to accommodate the difference. We now have a staircase that is half old, half new and full of regret.

From the top (ignore everything else going on here... lots to do):

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An old photo, from the bottom:

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What a mess, right? To make matters worse, the original stairs are covered in layers of lead paint. UGH! We tested them numerous times over the past couple years, and the tests always came back negative. Then some guy came to give us an estimate on a project and was like, I'm 100% sure that's lead paint. And sure enough, the next test came back off-the-cha rts positive.

Now I wish we'd have just tossed these stairs of death and started over. Oh, regret. The convenience factor of having stairs in the kitchen has proven to be a huge positive, as I suspected, but we'd have been much better off with all new stairs instead of these half new/half poisoned ones. (Fortunately, this would be the last vestige of lead paint in the house since literally everything else -- doors, windows, floors, woodwork -- have been replaced.)


We found this product called "PEEL Away" -- a heavy-duty paint remover that is advertised as environmentally friendly and non-VOC, all the while melting the lead paint right off like butter. It's basically like body waxing -- you apply the product, cover it with the special wax paper, let it cure (12-24 hours) and then peel it off. Layers of ugly and poisonous paint come right off with the paper, minimizing dust and potential contamination. Ez was suspicious when he first started working on this project, because he said the product goes on like "fluff" and there is literally no smell. But within minutes, he could see the paint was already dissolving.

Here was the before, with about five layers of paint:

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And here is the after (sorry -- opposite angle):

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All of that icky paint literally peeled off with the paper, and with zero dust -- not perfect, but amazing, right? There is a fairly intensive cleaning process involved afterward using a citric acid solution, warm water and pH test strips, but it sure beats scraping or paying a ton of money to hire outside help. Unfortunately one bucket of the stuff only did three stairs, so we have to get another bucket to do the remaining four.

I don't know if we'll get them clean enough to stain (it would have to be a pretty dark stain to blend the old stairs with the new anyway...) but we'll see. If not (and don't worry babe, I realize the likelihood is low), then they'll be painted. I guess we'll just have to see where we end up. In the meantime, let's all pray that my family hadn't been breathing tons of lead dust prior to the discovery that this was lead paint all along. (Most houses built before 1978 have it, FYI.) Stupid defective test strips.


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Note: I was not paid or otherwise compensated by anyone for this post.
Another note: Lead paint and PEEL Away are no joke. Keep children away. Always follow instructions closely and take careful precautions to prevent inhaling, ingesting or dispersing lead dust around your home. When in doubt, call a professional.

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