Paint Lifting Up Under Wallpaper

Old 05-30-08, 10:48 PM
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Paint Lifting Up Under Wallpaper

I live in a 1938 home with a number of walls with wallpaper hung in several rooms. The walls are plaster. A number of rooms have wallpaper, but the amount (and thankfully the colors and patterns) is not overwhelming.

I finally got off my duff and started removing the paper today, starting in the hall. I used a vinegar and water solution, covered the floor and started peeling.

Much to my surprise the paint came right up under the paper, loosened with just the water and vinegar, leaving me with exposed plaster. To lessen the need to smoothing before we paint it, I decided to simply remove the paint that didn't peel up with the paper. The water and vinegar worked just fine.

Only after I got about a quarter of the hall done did it occur to me that the paint I was removing could be lead based paint, and probably so due to the age of the house. It appears to be a layer of primer and color, and that's it.

Lead base paint is/was the superior product, save for those rather significant health risks. (If you'll excuse my facetiousness, what's a little lead when it only takes a single coat and lasts longer?) We don't have kids, but intend to at some point. The research I've done has now scared me, and I'm wondering if I've overly exposed myself. The engineer in me says that I don't work with it every day, the paint came up easier than a lead based paint should, I used a dust reducer during the removal, and don't intend to eat the paint chips.

Anyone have any recommendations for places to get the paint tested? Also, am I scaring myself unnecessarily?
Old 05-31-08, 12:10 AM
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The acidity of the vinegar is likely attacking the calcium in the plaster. There a professional wallpaper remover products available. Most tend to recommend plain hot water for paper removal on plaster.

It is the airborne lead particles that are concern. If you keeping the wall wet and there is no dust, then lead would likely not be a major concern. Sanding and scraping and producing dust can produce dust.

You can order lead test kits on line. You can Google for them. Here's a link:

Lead paint info:

DIY lead paint removal:

Once paper is removed, wash walls with TSP (trisodium phosphate) per label directions. Make surface repairs with joint compound and sand when dry. Apply primer/sealer before painting.
Old 05-31-08, 04:36 AM
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Originally Posted by bluefalling View Post
am I scaring myself unnecessarily?

Probably, not trying to minimalize the health dangers of lead but a 1 time exposure isn't likely to cause harm - especially if it wasn't inhaled or ingested.

As a young man I painted with a lot of lead paint and sprayed a lot of asbestos and while I have a few health problems, non of them are related to those 2 products.

Children are more susceptible to lead poisioning than adults. And due care should always be used when dealing with potentially harmfull products but what's done is done - I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep over it.

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