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Getting the Lead Out – One Paint Chip at a Time

In 2002, when Gretchan Jackson and her husband Kurt purchased a home built in 1957, they were not aware that lead was in the exterior paint.

Gretchan and Kurt suit up and prepare for removing lead paint.

“The house had been newly painted for selling and as new homeowners, painting nor lead wasn’t on our radar,” said Gretchan. “It wasn’t until the paint became degraded did we begin to recall there might be lead in it.”

Lead is a toxic substance that can affect people of any age. It is especially harmful to children, pregnant women and their unborn babies. Scientists have determined that there is no safe level of lead in the body, so even small instances of exposure can pose a significant health hazard.

Gretchan removes lead paint while using the HEPA vacuum.

After attending a Community Energy Project (CEP) workshop and receiving kit materials, Gretchan tested the paint and confirmed that lead was in one of the early paint colors now covered by newer paint. Now with the proper tools in hand, Gretchan is scraping, sanding and sealing the exterior paint on their 60-year-old home.

Gretchan said the HEPA vacuum is the critical tool as it allows her to replace boards on the exterior while scraping paint.

Gretchan offers these tips for other homeowners. “Take time to research the impacts of lead and the presence of lead and come up with a good plan,” said Gretchan. “Use your resources to help with developing the best approach in every situation and take your time. Don’t rush and be thorough during the entire process.”

Gretchan is talking to her neighbors and friends about the presence of lead in paint around the home, about painting early before the surface degrades, and offering her experiences in safely sanding and scraping areas that contain leaded paint.

“If I can help alert someone else that painting early is much easier than dealing with peeling paint, and also demonstrate that lead-safe practices are do-able for the DIY crowd, then our whole community is safer. The Community Energy Project is a valuable resource for any lead-painted project,” says Gretchan. “I couldn’t have done it without their help.”


  1. Hi!
    Could you let me know the safe way to deal with degraded lead paint on the exterior? I rent, and even though I tested and let my landlord know that there is degrading lead paint they are unable or unwilling to deal with it. We are (with the permission of our landlord) painting the trim on the house.

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