Q: I have some space behind my garage where I could raise some vegetables, but I was advised not to do this because the garage has crumbling lead paint on it.
My yardman, who is a shipyard painter in his regular job, has told me that he can remove the paint. Would it be unethical to let him do this?
I would like to ask him some pertinent questions about his methods, but his English is limited, and I don’t think he would understand me. He is a very capable person, but I don’t want him to do anything that would endanger his health. Thank you for any help.
A: Lead abatement has been subject to stringent laws for many years throughout the country. In California, removal of lead paint requires a state license requiring the contractor to demonstrate specific knowledge and to take specific precautions in removing and disposing of lead paint.
For more information you can do a general Internet search using the key words “lead abatement” and “California” with your favorite search engine. Also try www.childlead.com. This Web site lists various sources of information about lead abatement including the Department of Health Services located in Oakland, Calif.
We would think twice about planting a vegetable garden in a space that might be contaminated by lead paint chips.
In any event, we definitely would not recommend that you have your yardman remove the paint. In fact, we would suggest that you not remove the paint at all.
Rather, consider this alternative: Re-side the garage wall.
First, encapsulate the peeling paint by applying a couple of coats of thick primer. Let it dry thoroughly and make sure that all the loose chips adhere to the wall. Then apply new siding to the garage wall. Cover the existing siding with building felt (tar paper) and nail the new siding over the old.
Siding can range from hardboard in 4×8-foot plywood sheets to hardboard lap siding to shingles. Even aluminum is available. The important thing is to completely cover the encapsulated peeling paint.
You may have to remove some existing trim. If so, you can either apply new trim boards or you can strip them using semi-paste paint stripper and then re-attach them.
If you choose to strip, use the stripper in a well-ventilated place and make sure to contain the paint residue.
To make the work easier, we’d place the boards on saw horses over a plastic drop cloth, then apply the stripper and scrape the residue onto the plastic. Contact your local garbage company for instructions on where to dispose of the residue and the old boards (if you decide on new trim boards).
As far as a garden goes, we strongly recommend that you have the soil tested for lead contamination. Check with your local agricultural extension for suggestions on where to get testing done.
Bill and Kevin Burnett will attempt to answer your questions although the volume of e-mail sometimes makes this impossible. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.