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Replacing old plaster coated with lead paint

The plaster and lath in my 100 year old, Seattle house has to go for several reasons. Among other things, it is deteriorating, and I need to rewire and replumb the house to bring it into the 21st century.

My realtor told me to assume that there is lead paint on the walls. My questions are:
1) Can I remove the plaster and lath safely myself?
2) Is having the walls tested for lead really a waste of time (as my realtor suggested)?
3) What precautions do I need to take to avoing contaminating myself and my house with lead dust?

Thank you!

Re: Replacing old plaster coated with lead paint

Here in Oregon, they have some pretty strict rules regarding
the disturbance of lead in older homes. My guess is that
Washington state may have similar rules. I would check with them and see what you as a homeowner need to do to protect yourself and anyone else in the house.

At the very least, it would be a very good idea to set up plaster dust barriers to encapsulate the work area. Wear a good mask
and paper disposable coveralls, and use a HEPA filter vacuum system to mop up the dust. Debris disposal can be another problem, since landfills usually charge more for what they consider hazardous materials.

If you need to change wiring or plumbing, or want to insulate
the walls, then removing the plaster and lath makes sense. Otherwise, the electrician can cut holes to run his wires. You can patch the holes, or just overlay the old plaster - lead and all - with thin sheetrock. With old style trim being about three-quarters thick, you can butt the sheetrock right up to it and not have to disturb it.

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