Call 920-451-4646
FAX 920-287-7969
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Call 920-451-4646
FAX 920-287-7969
Available M-F from 8 am to 8 pm

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Look Fors … Lead in the Home

Written by Greg Liebig on Wednesday, 11 February 2009. Posted in Look Fors – Helpful Eye Openers

We are all aware that homes built before 1978 have a higher chance for Lead Based Paint to be present. This is a concern especially when there are families with small children particularly when they are 6 years old and younger. What many people don’t realize is that lead paint has an inherent sweet taste. That’s why children are attracted to it. Lead can have some devastating effects including:

  • Brain Damage
  • Height Development
  • Fatigue
  • Symptoms that can contribute to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Severe Poisoning can cause Seizures, Coma and even Death

Lead Poisoning is defined when 10 ?g/dl of lead is found in the blood. That is 10 micro-grams/deciliter. A deciliter is equivalent to about 1/3 cup. The Department of Health and Family Services has the Jurisdiction of all Lead programs in the State of Wisconsin. There are other levels of blood lead levels that are important.

  • 10 mg/dl of lead – Lead Poisoning Level of Concern Doctor Reported Levels in Children
  • 30 mg/dl of lead – Action Level, Medical Surveillance Required
  • 40 mg/dl of lead – Monitoring Required
  • 50 mg/dl of lead – Medical Removal Mandatory

When visiting a home, it is important to know how old the home is. If it was built before 1978, there are some things to look for. First, as you’re walking up to the home, look at the exterior. If there are signs of curling, peeling paint then a problem may exist. If there is a paint chip on the ground, try bending it in half. If it breaks before it bends, then there is a higher probability that the paint is lead based. Latex paint is very flexible. Rubber is based on the natural latex substance. Lead was added to paint to enhance the weather ability of the colored surface. It was also an additive used in varnishes of the past before polyurethane was developed.

If a property has a lead based paint test done, there are some very important numbers to look for. They are called threshold limit values or TLV’s. These values are very unit sensitive. This means to read the report you must pay attention to the units. Units describe the number. An easy way to think about this is if you every watched a space shuttle launch. The speed of the spacecraft reported is usually in the unit feet per second. When we drive our cars, we pay attention to the unit miles per hour. Both numbers describe the speed of the vehicle but the units are significantly different. So for a vehicle driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour (MPH) the equivalent speed is 95.3 feet per second (FPS).

There are standards set for the amount of lead in different areas of the home. Unfortunately, the units are different depending if the sample is taken in the soil or

Below are the Threashold Limit Values that if exceeded could pose health and safety issues for the occupants of the home.

  • 400 mg/g (micro-grams per gram) in areas where children play
  • 1200 mg/g (micro-grams per gram) in other areas of the property
  • 40 mg/ft2 – For Floors
  • 250 mg/ft2 – For Window Sills
  • 400 mg/ft2 – For Window Troughs or Window Wells
  • 15 ppb (Parts per Billion) in Water
  • 0.7 mg/cm2 (milligrams per square centimeter) or 0.06% lead for paint chips in Wisconsin
  • Note: 1 gram of lead spread evenly in 10 rooms of the size 10 x 25 would fail this test.

Whew, enough of the technical stuff. The most important things to look for during your listing visit to the property is the condition of the paint. There are only three things to see. Is the condition of the paint:

Building Component




Exterior components with large surface area 

Entire surface area is intact  Less than or equal to 10 square feet  More than 10 square feet
Interior components with large surface area  Entire surface area is intact  Less than or equal to 2 square feet  More than 2 square feet
Interior and exterior components with small surface areas  Entire surface area is intact  Less than or equal to 10% of the total surface area of component  More than 10% of the total surface area or the component

There are 3 different types of inspections available. The first is a Lead Inspection. It is a surface by surface investigation for the presence of lead. Then there is a Risk Assessment which makes the recommendations to remove the lead. Lastly, there is a Lead Hazard Screen which is a modified Risk Assessment. The screen takes 4 samples of the floors and 4 samples of the window sills. The Threshold limit values are:

  • 25 mg/cm2 (micro-grams per square centimeter) Floor
  • 125 mg/cm2 (micro-grams per square centimeter) Window Sills

There are two ways to remediate problems with a home. And beginning April 2010, all persons that attempt either method must be certified in Safe Lead Work Practices.

Interim Controls (< 20 Years)

Abatement (> 20 Years)
Cleaning  Removal
Painting  Replacement
Reduce Easy Accessibility  Enclose
Exterior Soil Removal  Encapsulate

Typically, in older homes there is a lot of debris that can collect in the window wells also know as window troughs or sills. It’s the area at the bottom of the window. This area should be cleaned using soap and water on a regular basis. The worst thing to use is a standard home vacuum cleaner! These consumer vacuums DO NOT have the appropriate HEPA filter and without this, you can spread small lead particles throughout the home making the situation much worse! Always make sure the areas to be cleaned have been dampened with water. A household spray bottle with water works very well to keep the dust down. NEVER use a dry sander to remove loose paint or varnish. If there is loose paint, wet scraping is the best method to get it off. If there is a lot of deterioration, call a professional who has been trained as a Lead Safe Work practices. There have been many cases reported where well intentioned parents have tried to do the work themselves and have contributed to the lead poisoning of their children.

If you need more information, please contact your local Health Department or 4-Square Home Inspections, LLC.

About the Author

Greg Liebig

Greg Liebig

After graduating from Tri-State University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, my career brought me to Wisconsin. When the companies I worked for started moving out of the State or were sold I became a displaced worker. I turned my search locally for the benefit of my family who made Sheboygan their home.  My wife, a Real Estate Broker, knew my skills and my desire to help people. She suggested I become a Home Inspector.  I went to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) and passed their Home Inspector exam where 60% of the participants fail. I obtained my credentials from the State of Wisconsin and launched our business, 4-Square Home Inspections, LLC on April 25, 2006.

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Greg Liebig, CMI, CIAQT
Certified Master Inspector
B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering
WI License #1955-106

 Call (920)451-4646
Fax (920) 287-7969

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