Painting an old Cape Cod style house is a lot of work…or a lot of money…or, well, both. We managed to put off taking care of the exterior for years, until this Spring when we were sitting on the front porch with some friends after dinner. I pulled a bit of peeling paint from the wood and it ripped off in a nice big flake. This is easy, I thought. My friend and I peeled about a quarter of the front of the house with our fingers, impressed with how fast the paint came off. No problem! We’ll just strip the old paint off and throw up a few coats of new. We now had a big bald spot on the front of the house, so Hubby and I were committed to finishing the project before the winter weather set in.
Word got around, and we had many friends offer to come over and help us with the house. I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed we are with our Church Family…in no time at all, we had enough people offer to come over and work that we figured we could get the job done in a few weeks…one weekend to chip the paint off, one to paint it. Friends with ladders, painting equipment, experience and huge hearts were all willing to give us their time to help get the job done!
Then we remembered the lead paint warning. It is, after all, an old house! Hubby went out to the paint store and brought home some lead testing kits.
The instructions read that the testing tubes would turn pink if lead were present. Ours turned even pinker than the example on the package! All our paint-party plans came to a screeching halt. What to do now?!? We had a house covered in lead, exposed wood waiting to get damaged with wet weather, and a hazard that needed to be dealt with properly in order to avoid contaminating ourselves and the neighborhood. What we didn’t have was the money to pay a professional to do it!
A friend of mine reminded me of the Lead Free Kids program, a government program designed to help home owners remediate their lead paint safely. The program gives grants to home owners to have the work done at no cost to them! To qualify, you need to be below a certain income bracket and you need to have children living in the home who are six years old or under. The income bracket was quite generous, but our youngest child is seven. I almost didn’t even call, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.
I’m so glad I called! It turns out that the program (at least where we live) will also consider painting your house if you have children under the age of six visiting on a regular basis. We have wonderful little visitors over all the time, and were able to qualify for the program!
Being a government program, it was not a fast process. We begin the application process in the Spring and work didn’t get started on the house until Summer was nearly over, and there was some paperwork, phone-tag, and waiting involved. But what a blessing! The program sends people out to test for lead all through your house and yard, and pays for lead testing for anyone under age six. Then, they send professionals out to bid on the job, and choose a company to work on your house. Finally, professionals come and scrape the damaged paint off the house, completely clean all the chips from the area, seal the remaining old paint with a primer, and paint your home! We even got to choose the color.
The program covers the paint inside and outside your home (we had one small area inside that needed to be painted, but the rest was safe). If the soil is contaminated, they fix that, too. And if you have windows that have lead, they’ll replace them at no cost as well!
We were able to have our house painted…for free…through the Lead Free Kids program. It was well worth the paperwork and waiting, and we are all now safe and sound in a freshly painted house! The program did not, however, cover our rental cottage…so Hubby and I did the work ourselves….following very careful guidelines. Thank goodness the cottage is small, it was a lot of hard work and I don’t know how we could ever have done the whole house ourselves! We are now almost done with the project and the whole family is going to be very happy to finish the last of the Lead Paint Saga, hopefully before the cold weather sets in.
Do you have an older home? Learn from our story….Check for lead before you start a painting project! And if you do have lead and live in the United States, go to this website and see what programs are available in your area!!! If my friend hadn’t known about the program, I would never have known to call. Where we live, they don’t advertise and we would never have known the program existed. It would have been dangerous and very difficult for us to have undertaken the project alone, and the estimates we had on having professionals come and do it ranged from $7,000 to $12,000….and that’s before we knew that the existing paint was lead!
The day we found out that we had lead paint on our house, I had no idea how we would ever manage to fix it. The grant we were given was a huge blessing, and I hope that by sharing our experience other people will be able to benefit from this amazing program, too! Please, pass the word on to anyone you know who might benefit from this!