Despite all the recent wintery weather, spring is officially here. With its arrival, homeowners turn their attention to maintenance projects – including exterior painting.
While seemingly harmless, painting a historical home carries a surprising significant risk of damage. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief #10: Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork notes:
Because paint removal is a difficult and painstaking process, a number of costly, regrettable experiences have occurred – and continue to occur – for both the historic building and the building owner. Historic buildings have been set on fire with blow torches; wood irreversibly scarred by sandblasting or by harsh mechanical devices, such as rotary sanders and rotary wire strippers; and layers of historic paint inadvertently and unnecessarily removed. In addition, property owners using techniques that substitute speed for safety have been injured by toxic lead vapors or dust from the paint they were trying to remove, or the misuse of the paint removers themselves.
Consider several factors when choosing an appropriate paint for your historical home:
The temptation to save money by using cheap paint can be alluring. Many contractors, and even homeowners, mistakenly think that paint choices need only match historical colors, but this is not so. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is particularly true for your paint. Investing in quality paint will save you money in the long run.
The key to successful paint application is in knowing what preparation is required for the different types of paint that may already be on your building – each has its own preparation requirements. If you are not sure what type of paint is on your building, you can consult a qualified contractor to obtain a paint analysis providing you with both the chemical and color makeup of your existing paint.
Handling Lead Paint
The health risks of lead exposure are well known – brain and nervous system damage, hearing and vision loss, impaired development of children…but, did you know that lead in dust (such as the dust created while sanding and prepping surfaces for new paint) is the most common route of exposure to lead? To avoid these risks, choose a contractor who is “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling.
Ask yourself these questions before beginning any painting project:
- Does my paint exhibit any peeling, crackling, chalking (powdering), crazing (small, interconnected cracks), mold, mildew, staining, blistering or wrinkling?
- Does my building have an existing paint application that is inappropriate for its historic fabric?
- Do I know what type of paint is currently on my building and what preperation is required before painting over that type of paint?
- If I am using a contractor, are they “Renovation, Repair and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling?
- Does that contractor understand which methods, tools, materials, and chemcials are appropriate for paint removal on my historical building?
Here is a video discussing maintenance and paint options: