Tag Archive for refinishing

3 Steps to a Lead-Free Bathtub

After discovering that the 1960’s avocado-green bathtub had lead in the finish, it was time to decide whether to replace or reglaze it. Time and resources being key, the process took 3 steps:

1. Reglaze or replace? Re-glazing would mean less waste (ie no bathtubs filling up landfills). In considering a new tub, the cost of removal and installation was prohibitive for this project’s budget. Additionally, one of our blog readers found that when shopping for a new tub, none of the large manufacturers would certify their tubs as lead-free. One company even wrote him back to say their tubs still use lead in the glaze. This is an area where bathtub manufacturers need more transparency. So, I decided to go the reglaze route.

2. I asked the re-glazing company for the names of the products they use, and contacted that manufacturer, which confirmed they are lead-free. I also requested the company email the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) of the products, which verify in writing that the primer and finish enamel don’t contain lead.

3. To prepare for the job, I sectioned off the area with plastic sheeting over the doorways after removing items from the work space, and took other steps per EPA home remodeling guidelines. The guidelines are created for DIYers, so they’re fairly easy, and save on cleanup time. Following the EPA steps are perhaps the most important part of any project to ensure the rest of the home stays clean and free of dust. It’s up to the homeowner to take these steps unless the contracting firm has EPA lead-safe certification. Legal requirements apply depending on the job, so it’s always best to check the EPA website for the latest rules.

The resurfacing contractor explained tubs today are not made of the quality produced decades ago. For this project, the avocado-green bathtub went from old and dingy to brand-new white. The re-glazing process delivered a like-new tub in under two hours. It was a cost-effective, quick way to recycle and renew in this bathroom.

Taking the Paint Off

As anyone who’s watched a child knows, kids’ hands go everywhere!  One place they’ll definitely be is the stair bannister, which is why I’m switching out the white-painted finish for natural wood. It will show less wear-and-tear this way, and will eliminate the layers of old paint.

Before starting the Healthy Home Project, I consulted with an environmental testing company.  I’ve used them for two projects before, and they truly deliver on a range of environmental testing services, remediation and expertise.  In any home built before 1978, they advise to err on the side of caution and assume there’s lead-based paint (unless you get it tested and know otherwise). For the Healthy Home Project, we’re using this Precautionary Principle throughout the renovation because it’s a best practice for anytime work is done in an older home (The EPA covers the basics in their “Good Work Practices During Remodeling”. As mentioned in an earlier post, it’s definitely a must-read before starting any home reno project.)

To strip down the bannister to the bare wood, I’m using Ready Strip Pro by a company called Back to Nature, purchased from the local paint store (reviews and tips also at HomeDepot.com). There’s several similar products in this line but the “Pro” formulation is a gel that won’t drip down the bannister  while other products in the line are more liquidy.  The gel changes color when the paint is ready to be scraped off, removing the guesswork.

According to the manufacturer:  “Ready-Strip Pro is non-flammable, biodegradable, virtually odorless and can be cleaned up with water. It does not contain methylene chloride, caustic, flammable chemicals or harmful vapors like many traditional strippers. Ready-Strip Pro avoids the uncertainty associated with other strippers that are ineffective if removed too soon, or dry out and do not work if left on too long.”

As there were so many layers of paint on the bannister (over 100 years worth), it took close to three hours for the product to change color. Overall, the project took three applications, which made this a lengthy process. Though I did learn through professional testing this wood wasn’t painted with lead paint, I used the EPA lead guidelines as a matter of course.  After the scraping and re-applications, it needed some sanding.  I misted the surfaces with a simple spray bottle of water and used a wet sanding sponge to minimize dust, in addition to wearing a face mask and gloves. A few layers of eco-safe poly on the wood will finish it off.

This project was time-consuming and tedious (easily 20 hours), but the final outcome brings the back the natural beauty of this wood bannister to how it was a century ago.